MEDICINE AND MYTH
Presidential Address Given to the
Worthing Archaeological Society
Frances Ann Roper.
12th January, 1954.
South Farm Road
(Approximately 5,500 Words),
MEDICINE AND MYTH
Presidential Address Given to the Worthing Archaeological Society
by Frances Ann Roper. 12th January, 1954.
The Art of the Physician is a far older thing than the art of the Surgeon. The ancients could, and did, perform many remarkable surgical operations, as can be seen by the trephined skulls dating as far back as early Egyptian times, and the Early Bronze Age in Britain. But surgery could never be anything more than a drastic treatment, only to be adopted as a last resort, until the discovery of Anaesthetics and Antiseptics only about one hundred years ago. All operations had to be performed while the patient was fully conscious, unless Nature's own merciful anaesthetic of fainting, came to his aid. Even if the patient survived the shock of the operation, in a vast percentage of cases he died subsequently through infection of the wound, and gangrene. It is only very recently in the history of the human race that surgery has been able to develop into the amazing science that it is today.
Medicine, on the other hand, has a history as old as mankind. From the earliest times the Art of the Physician has always been closely associated with religious beliefs, and held in the utmost veneration. For centuries it was known as The Art, and to this day a prescription will sometimes have the letters “s.a.” written at the end. These stand for the words “secundum artem”, i.e., “According to The Art”, and mean that the doctor leaves the compounding of the preparation to the pharmacist, to be made up by him in accordance with the recognized methods.
The earliest records of medicine date from the Sumerian Civilisation, which has been revealed of recent years by excavations on the site of the ancient city of Ur. The Sumerians were a highly civilised people, and there can be no doubt that a Medical profession existed, as clay tablets have been discovered which have a bearing on Medicine, and a seal of a Sumerian physician who lived about 3,000 B.C. is now in the Wellcome Museum. The Sumerian civilisation was overthrown by the Babylonians in about 2,000 B.C., and the centre of culture then passed to Babylon, or Chaldea, as it is called in the Old Testament.
Prayer of Assyrian Physician to Ea, or Oannes, the deity known as “Lord of the Deep”, from an Assyrian Tablet dating from about 2,500 B.C. It reads as follows:
“0, Ea, King of the Deep, see
I am the Magician, am thy slave.
March thou on my right hand,
Assist me on my left,
Add thy pure spell to mine;
Vouchsafe to me pure words
Make fortunate the utterances of my mouth,
Ordain that my decisions be happy,
Let me be blest where’re I tread,
Let the man whom I now touch be blessed."
The Babylonians appear to have had a well-organised medical profession. One of the earliest Kings was named Hammurabi, and to him we owe the most ancient Code of laws in existence. Hammurabi lived about 1948 - 1905 B.C., and among many other subjects, his Code mentions laws relating to medical practice. One of the statements in the Code says:
“If the doctor shall treat a gentleman and shall open an abscess with a bronze knife, and shall preserve the eye of the patient, he shall receive ten shekels of silver. If the patient is a slave, his master shall pay two shekels of silver.”
But it goes on to state that –
“if the doctor shall open an abscess with a bronze knife and shall kill the patient, or shall destroy the sight of the eye, hiss hands shall be cut off.”
In the case of a slave the doctor is not sp heavily penalized:
"He shall replace the slave with another slave.”
The Babylonians were the first people to name the Signs of the Zodiac, also the nearer Planets, and as these had an immensely powerful bearing on the Art of Medicine, continuing right down to about three hundred years ago, it will be helpful to give a brief outline of their beliefs, which developed into the great art of Astrology.
From the beginning of human history down to the time of Copernicus and Galileo, in the 16th Century, it was unquestioningly believed that the earth was the centre of the universe, and that the I sun, moon and planets revolved round it. The early astronomers of Babylon believed that the sun followed a path which passed through twelve constellations in the course of a year. These constellations were named as follows:
The year began in March, at the spring equinox, when the sun entered the constellation Aries. The name Zodiac is derived from the same root as the Greek word ζwσύ an animal. The seven recognised, planets were the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The sign of the Zodiac, and the planet which was in the ascendancy at the time of a person’s birth were believed to have a profound influence upon his character and fate. It was the custom for many centuries that all important persons should have their horoscopes cast, and these horoscopes were most carefully preserved, usually in the temples, so that the individuals could refer to them for guidance throughout their life.
The practice of Astrology was very widespread, and prevailed throughout all the ancient civilisations of the East from the very dawn of history. It is known in countries as widely separated as Babylon, Egypt, India and China, and passed from Babylon and Egypt to Greece, Rome, and westwards through Europe to Britain. So strongly was it established that in later times the planets were believed to have an affinity with plants and herbs and precious stones. In this way arose the system of medicine which prevailed almost unchanged down to the 17th century in England, and which still persists in strange folk-memories in country districts today. In a debased and garbled form Astrology still exists, as may be seen from the columns of many popular papers; it also exists in “lucky birth stones” and the charms and brooches, bearing the signs of the Zodiac, or their pictorial equivalent, which can be purchased at most stores.
It must be borne in mind that Astrology was an extremely serious science to the ancient peoples, and though today their system of Medicine is completely discredited, it held absolute sway over the greatest minds in the world for over four thousand years. It is not for us to jeer at them.
The Babylonians, or Chaldeans, were so famous for their powers of Astrology, that they held great authority in other nations, and were well known in Egypt and highly respected at the courts of the Pharaohs. From the Babylonians the knowledge passed to the Egyptians and was welded on their own theology.
Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, represented with the head of an ibis, is said to have been the author of treatises on medicine. He is believed to have written thirty-two books, known as the Hermetic Books, of which six dealt with medicine. These books were kept in the temples for reference, and carried in processions, and regarded with the utmost veneration. All are now lost, but all the surviving Egyptian medical literature appears to have been compiled from these lost Hermetic Books. They were so highly esteemed that no physician was blamed for a patient's death as long as he had adhered strictly to their teachings. If, however, the physician departed in the slightest degree from those teachings, and the patient died, the physician's own life was forfeited.
The Ebers papyrus is the best known of medical papyri. It was found in a tomb at Thebes in 1862 by Professor Georg Ebers, and is the oldest complete medical book in existence. It is also believed to be the oldest existing book of any kind. It consists of 110 pages, and contains about 900 recipes or prescriptions. As it is in almost perfect condition, and has a calendar written at the back of the M.S. the date of its writing may be fairly accurately fixed at about 1,500 B.C. There are marginal notes made by its original owner, such as “Good. I have often used it,” or ".An excellent remedy". The directions for use were to repeat while taking the mixture such words as "Welcome, remedy! Welcome! that dost drive away that which is in this my heart and in these my limbs". Castor oil and hartshorn are two drugs mentioned in the Ebers papyrus which are still in use today.
Horus was the Egyptian god of health. While engaged in a fight with Set, the god of evil, Horus lost an eye, which was restored by miraculous means. Representations of the Eye of Horus came to be regarded as the most potent of amulets, and is believed to be the original of the PX which appears at the top of all prescriptions down to the present day. In Roman times this amulet came to be merged with the sign of Jupiter . Still later it came to be understood as the initial letter of the word "Recipe" meaning "Take thou", being directions to the compounder of the following mixture. The "R" however, always has a line through the tail, and it is strange to think that the National Health Service is unwittingly invoking the aid of Horus and Jupiter by printing the PX at the head of their official prescription forms.
The earliest physician whose name is known is Sekhet'enanach who was chief physician to one of the Pharaohs about 3,000 B.C. All that is known of him is that "he healed the King's nostrils" The second name, and one much better known, is that of Im-Hotep, which means, "he who cometh in peace." He flourished about 2,980 B.C. and was a famous politician and architect, as well as physician. He was the architect and designer of the Step Pyramid of Sakkarah. Little is known of Im-Hotep as physician, but he must have been very distinguished, for he was worshipped for many centuries after his death as the god of medicine. In later centuries he was identified by the Greeks with their own god AEsculapius.
The torch of Medicine now passes to Greece. AEsculapius is believed to have had two daughters, Hygeia and Panacea. Hygeia became the goddess of Health, and her name is still remembered in our word "hygiene". The name of Panacea is still used to indicate any preparation which is believed to cure all ills.
Serpents have always been connected with the Art of Medicine, and there is a vast amount of literature dealing with the cult of the Serpent. The most obvious reason for the ancient belief is that the serpent casts its skin, and reappears apparently rejuvenated. This led to the belief that serpents had the power of renewing their youth and health, and from the most ancient times they have been looked upon as the symbol of healing. A gold and ivory statuette of a Minoan Priestess holding two serpents, has been found, dating from an extremely early period. Serpents came to be connected with this name AEsculapius, and still appears in the badge of the Royal Army Medical Core.
In the year 460 B.C. in the little island of Cos near the coast of Asia Minor, was born one of the greatest men the world has ever known - Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. He is said to have been a direct descendant of AEscupapius.
Until the time of Hippocrates the study of Medicine had been entirely empirical, and without any scientific basis whatever. All sickness and disease was believed to be the work of devils or malevolent gods, for many centuries had yet to pass before the discovery of germs. All treatments were strictly in accordance with the accepted codes, and the nature of the diseases was not studied at all. Many of the standard treatments were determined by the study of the stars and their corresponding herbs. Hippocrates however, originated an entirely different school of thought. He based his teachings upon careful and intensive study of the patient, and set a high standard for all who wished to follow what he called The Art. He set the pattern of ethical conduct, insistence on prognosis, accuracy of observation and clarity in recording of cases which has remained unsurpassed to this day. He wrote many works on the Art of Medicine, some of which were used. as textbooks till the beginning of the nineteenth century. His famous "Aphorisms" or short definitions and advice to students, are as true and fresh today as when he wrote them nearly two thousand years ago. The famous Oath of Hippocrates has been adopted as a pattern by medical men throughout the ages, and in one form or another has been taken by thousands of doctors when achieving their qualification. In this noble code of ethics the student is shown the dignity and responsibility of his calling, and there is urged upon him the duty of respect to his school or university, of making any new discovery freely available, of 'maintaining professional secrecy and refraining from gossip, and of taking no mean advantage of the position of medical advisor. Upon this has been based the high standards which have characterised the medical profession to this day.
Extracts from one of the renderings of The Oath of Hippocrates
"I swear by Apollo the Physician, by AEsculapius, by Hygeia,
by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out according to my ability and judgement, this oath and this indenture. . . . . . I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgement, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. . . . . But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all wrongdoing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets. Now if I carry out this oath and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me."
Extracts from the "Precepts of Hippocrates."
“I urge you not to be too grasping, but to consider carefully your patient's means. Sometimes give your services for nothing… and if there be an opportunity of serving one who is a stranger in financial straits, give full assistance to all such. For where there is the love of man, there is also love of the art.”
Hippocrates has made little use of drugs. His method was to watch the course of the disease and to assist nature’s own power of recuperation. Unlike the vast majority of early medical writers he had the wisdom and humility to record his failures as well as his successes, and so well and accurately did he record his cases that the diseases are easily recognizable today. Cases of malaria, meningitis, and the laboured breathing known as Cheyne-Stokes respiration can be recognized among others. Hippocrates lived to a great age, and is believed to have died in 355 B.C.
If the medical world had followed and developed the wide and sane teachings of Hippocrates, knowledge would have advanced far more rapidly than it did, and thousands of sufferers throughout the centuries would have been spared untold miseries. But Hippocrates lived before his time, and his teachings were far too advanced for the world in its then state. After his death the medical world quickly relapsed into the old condition of superstition and magical beliefs, and wildly inaccurate guess-work from which Hippocrates had done so much to raise it.
As the Grecian Culture declined, so the Roman culture arose. Great Medical Schools were founded in various places, the most famous of which was at Alexandria. There were many teachers of medicine during the next four and a half centuries, but after Hippocrates the man who left the greatest mark on the world of medicine was Galen. He was born in Asia Minor in 131 A.D. and studied at Alexandria. He was a very different type from Hippocrates, and it is mainly due to his self-opinionated and didactic temperament and methods of teaching, that he attained the enormous influence which he wielded throughout the medical world for the next 1,300 years. Galen was extremely active and contentious, and though he had no definite followers nor did he establish any school, his reputation during his lifetime was prodigious, and he left a voluminous collection of writings. On his death in 200 A.D. all active research ceased absolutely. A black curtain descends upon the world of medicine, the great Library of Alexandria was destroyed, the Dark Ages of Medicine began, and the works and teachings of Galen became fossilised and venerated, till they loomed over the minds of men as a lowering monolith, which none might question on pain of death. To this day certain standard preparations are still known as “Galenicals”.
During the succeeding centuries the teachings of Galen became more and more overgrown with superstition and myth. The ancient beliefs of Astrology reared their heads once more, till at last by the beginning of the fourteenth century the Medical world was in a state of chaos. During those dark centuries the only points of light in the western world were the Monasteries and other Church Institutions. The monks became considerably skilled in the use of herbs and simple remedies, and grew many of the medicinal plants in the Monastic gardens. These medicinal herbs and plants are still found growing wild on the sites and among the ruins of ancient Abbeys and Monasteries. Belladonna has been found in the ruins of Kinross Abbey, and at Valle Crusis Abbey, Llangollen. Henbane and Datura Stramonium have also been found quite recently, and are obviously the descendants of the medicinal herb gardens of the monks.
Numbers of the herbal drugs used by the Mediaeval physician are still in use. The common fox-glove, broom, dandelion, monkshood (aconite), chamomile, peppermint, horseradish, belladonna, colchicum (autumn crocus), hyoscyamus (henbane), fern root, witch hazel, linseed, are all indigenous plants which have been used for centuries, and are still in use today. Some are falling out of use due to the discovery of new synthetic drugs, but many are in common use and have no substitutes.
One of the strange beliefs which came down from very
early times was that of the “Doctrine of Signatures”. Briefly this meant that
certain signs, forms and shapes existed in plants and animals, which indicated
their powers and virtues in the healing of diseases. It was an ingenious
system for discovering from certain marks and appearances in the various
portions of a plant's structure, the medicinal properties it possessed. It is
probable that this doctrine was evolved from the curious resemblances to be
observed between the leaves, flowers and roots of certain plants and various
parts of the human body. The most potent plant in this category was considered
in ancient times to be the mandrake, on account of the bifurcated root, which
bears some resemblance to the human body. Many superstitions arose concerning
the mandrake, it was believed to be so nearly human that it screamed when
pulled out of the ground, and the person who pulled it up was in great danger
of insanity or even death. The mandrake does actually contain a certain amount
of a known poison (probably Scopolamine) and it induced hallucinations and
temporary mental derangement. In order to obtain the root, and yet to escape
the dangers attendant upon actually pulling it up, the ingenious method was
devised by which a dog was tied to the loosened root, so that the attendant
disasters should fall upon the dog, and not upon the person concerned. The
Herbarium of Apuleius (5th cent. A.D.) gives the following
directions for gathering Mandrake:
“When thou seest its hands and its feet, then tie thou it up. Take the other end and. tie it to a dog’s neck, so that the hound be hungry; next cast meat before him, so that he may not reach it, except he jerk up the wort with him.”.
There are many Mediaeval illustrations showing a dog tethered to the mandrake root.
Shakespeare often refers to mandragora and its effects.
“Give me to drink mandragora. . .
That I might sleep out this great gap of time my Antony is away”.
(Antony and Cleopatra I v.4.)
“And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth
that living mortals hearing them, run mad.”
(Romeo and .Juliet IV iii. 47).
The plant cyclamen was used for ear complaints, because the leaf resembles the human ear. Spotted plants were administered to cure spots, and scaly plants to remove scaly disorders of the skin. The little blue speedwell, which resembles a bright blue eye, was also known as “eye-bright” and was used for disorders of the eyes. The flowers of the Canterbury bell, which look like an open throat, were used for bronchitis. The list may be continued to a great length, but it is safe to say that every plant which has a common name which includes some part of the body, such as liver-wart, lung-wort, hound’s-tongue, hart’s-tongue etc., was used in ancient times for the part of the body named.
Another strange belief was that of Healing by Sympathy. It appears by present standards to be a most wild and fantastic theory, but it was widely held and accredited even down to the seventeenth century, and advocated by intellectual people such as Sir Kenelm Digby and Madame de Sevigne, among many others. The basis of the idea was that certain ills of the body, chiefly wounds, could be cured by applying the remedy to the object which caused the injury, and not to the injury itself. Thus if a person were wounded by a dagger, the dagger was bound up with unguents and drugs, while the actual wound was merely treated by being washed and wrapped up in clean linen. The cures which were attributed to this treatment obviously had nothing to do with the drugs used, but it was an excellent method of treatment in as far as the wound was kept clean and left to Nature, without the application of the weird, and often appalling, medicaments of the time, which almost invariably did far more harm than good.
Among the many strange beliefs which arose during the long period of darkness and superstition, one of the strongest was that of “Touching for the King’s Evil”. Early chroniclers declare that the healing touch was a prerogative peculiar to the sovereigns of England. The first records are by William of Malmesbury, who states that Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) was the first ruler to practice it, and the power descended by hereditary right to all succeeding sovereigns. The power was believed to be vested in one of the jewels in Edward the Confessor’s Crown, and to pass to each successive rightful wearer. The disease with which the healing was chiefly associated was Scrofula, which was very common in England from the Middle Ages down to the seventeenth century, and was mainly due to malnutrition. This came to be known as “The King’s Evil”. The power of healing was the sole right of the English sovereigns, though certain of the French Kings claimed the right, which gave rise to bitter controversy in former times. English chroniclers maintained that the French Kings only derived their power from their alliance to the English Royal line, though the French Kings continued to exercise the rite down to 1776.
A special form of religious service was instituted in the reign of Henry VII and was included in the English Prayer Book till 1719. Queen Elizabeth I disliked the practice, but she is reputed to have touched a great number of people. The Stuart sovereigns practised the healing touch, and Charles I is said by contemporary writers to have excelled all his predecessors in the exercise of the Divine gift. After the Restoration, multitudes of people flocked to London to be healed by the Royal Touch, and Charles II was indefatigable in his performance of the rite. This may have been due to the suspension of the rite during the commonwealth, although it is stated by a contemporary writer that “that method had been tried by the late usurper Cromwell, but without success”.
Charles II touched several thousands of suffers every year, and in 1682 he preformed the rite on 8,500 people. Registers were kept of every person who had been touched, and the whole thing became a well-organised public ceremony. Between the years 1660 to 1664 the total of persons touched was 23,601, and from 1667 to 1684 the numbers had increased to 68,506. So great was the increase in the number of applicants that metal tokens of copper or brass were issued by way of “tickets”, and when applying for these tokens the patients had to produce certificates signed and sealed by their ministers or church-wardens, declaring that they had never previously been touched by the King. The performance of the ceremony was preceded by a Royal Proclamation, and usually took place on Good Friday, at the Palace of Westminster. The two great diarists, Pepys and Evelyn, both mention the ceremony, and give careful and interesting descriptions. It would seem that history has made a great deal of the faults of Charles 11, and not enough of his kind-heartedness and obvious sympathy with his suffering subjects, for it must have been an extremely unpleasant matter for the sovereign to have to touch the loathsome sores which were presented to him in such numbers. It is also recorded by the great contemporary scholar, Elias Ashmole, that
“a man named Evans, who was in such a loathsome condition that none could be found willing to recommend him for a certificate, placed himself in St. James’ Park where he knew the King walked. Upon his approach he fell on his knees exclaiming, ‘God bless your Majesty’. Whereupon the King gave him his hand to kiss, upon which Evans availed himself of the opportunity to apply it to his dreadfully ulcerated nose, which from that time improved and ultimately recovered.”
William of Orange considered the rite a “silly superstition” and could only be persuaded to perform the ceremony once, when he remarked to the patients “God give you better health and more sense.” Queen Anne revived the practice, and performed the rite in London and Oxford. One of those touched by her was Samuel Johnson when about two or three years of age. The original token, or touch-piece given to him by the Queen is now in the British Museum. The Hanoverian monarchs discontinued the ancient rite, though the Young Pretender Charles Edward, and his brother, the Cardinal of York, both continued it, and special silver touch-pieces were struck for them.
Another strange power with which British Sovereigns were accredited was that of Hallowing the Rings. From the earliest times rings of all kinds have been used as amulets for the cure of all kinds of diseases, but those hallowed by British Monarchs were believed to be particularly efficacious against Cramp and Epilepsy. These rings were made of any kind of metal not necessarily of gold though many which were hallowed for foreign rulers or wealthy persons were of gold or silver. The majority were of iron, lead or bronze, and rings made of nails from coffins that had been buried and exhumed, were considered particularly potent. The earliest record of a British monarch hallowing Cramp rings is of Edward II (1307-1327), and there are many records thereafter down to the 16th century. The Hallowing of the Rings was a very solemn ceremony, conducted with-a set form of Prayer. The rings to be hallowed were placed in dishes before the Crucifix, and the sovereign consecrated them by passing them to and fro between his hands, so that the Royal Virtue might impregnate them. These consecrated rings were in very great demand in all countries, for though the French kings claimed the power of Touching, no person in the world was credited with the power of Hallowing the Rings other than the reigning Sovereign of England. Very few of these Cramp Rings are now in existence, though there are frequent allusions to them in chronicles and records from widely separated sources.
Jewels and precious stones have always ranked very nigh among the objects employed for their believed powers of healing. Each of the planets was believed to rule and influence its own precious stones in the same way that it influenced its own plants. Good spirits were supposed to reside in certain stones and to exert their beneficent powers upon the wearer. Jewels were frequently worn as amulets, and were also powdered and given internally as medicines. The wide-spread belief during the Middle Ages in the healing powers and curative action of precious stones is shown in the medical formularies and Pharmacopoeias of the period, many of which continued in use till as recently as 1798. A compound called “Hungary Powder” of that period was renowned as a remedy for smallpox and measles, and was given in doses of 20-30 grains. Among a number of other ingredients it contained powdered emeralds, rubies, sapphires, jacinths, pearls, red and white coral, and gold leaf. The great cost of the gems used in these compounds led naturally to the apothecaries substituting artificial stones for genuine ones, so during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries these costly ingredients gradually went out of use. The belief that toads carried a jewel in their heads is a very ancient one, but its origin is lost in myth and legend. The “jewel” was believed to have immense therapeutic value for all kinds of ailments, and the method of obtaining it from the living toad is carefully recorded. It was necessary to get an old, male toad, and place it on a piece of scarlet material. This colour so pleased the toad, that it would stretch itself out, wriggling with delight, and open its mouth and eject the jewel. It was, however, very important that the observer should watch the toad very closely, as directly it had ejected the jewel, it would appear to realise the enormity of its action, and, unless the jewel were snatched away immediately, the toad would at once “sup it up” again, and refuse ever after to relinquish it.
The influence of the Renaissance was as potent in the world of Medicine as in every other sphere of life, but it was very largely due to the activities of that strange, paradoxical, yet brilliant and original thinker, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, self-styled Paracelsus (1490-1541) that the centuries-old bondage of Galen began to break. The Medical world had become ossified and petrified, bound down and shackled under a mountainous and stifling welter of theory and legend, whose foundation was the immutable teaching of Galen. Paracelsus whirled into the hidebound theorists of his period like a tornado, and naturally drew down upon his head all the weight of disapproval and denunciation of which they were capable. He needed every ounce of his natural self-confidence and braggadocio to withstand the furious onslaughts of the established members of the profession. For many years Paracelsus has been decried as a charlatan, a mere drunken quack, and a disreputable braggart, and it is quite probable that he fully merited those terms. But it is only of recent years that students have begun to appraise him at his real worth. He was a born Iconoclast, and the whole subsequent development of the Medical Profession is deeply indebted to him for his brilliant work in blazing the trail which has led to the marvels of modern Medical knowledge.
With Paracelsus and the Renaissance the structure of modern Medicine can be said to have begun. In following the trail so violently blazed by Paracelsus, Medicine has found that the trail leads back unerringly to that greatest of all Physicians, Hippocrates. With the advance of modern Medicine Hippocrates has, after nearly 2,500 years, at last come into his own. His precepts are as true and fresh today as they were when he first taught them, and his is the abiding and underlying spirit which imbues and irradiates the whole profession, however encrusted it may become with technicalities, or dehumanised by the Welfare State.
The old mediaeval beliefs died hard, and even today many queer beliefs still linger as mere whispers of folk memories in out-of-the-way districts. Many of the names of drugs and preparations in the British Pharmacopoeia are still traceable to those early times, and many others still crop up in common parlance, frequently to the headache and annoyance of the youthful pharmacist. Certain popular items may have as many as three or four different names, apart from their official name, and the names may vary in different parts of the country. But despite the inconvenience to the trained professional, these names are of the very stuff and substance of our history, and to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, they echo back to those far-off days when the Art of the Physician was indeed a mystery, and inspired by God.
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