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Medical Practices During the Renaissance
Transcript of Medical Practices During the Renaissance
"Renaissance" means "rebirth" in French.
It was a time when there was an explosion of inspiration in the arts, science, technology, and medicine after the dark Middle Ages. Medical practices during the Renaissance were often bizarre and terrible. Many people could not see a doctor when sick and some even believed that the doctors were evil. Plague and other diseases were common because of the lack of proper sewage systems, hygiene habits or general knowledge of how people got sick. The Plague During the early 1330's, there was an outbreak of a disease known as the bubonic plague, or Black Death. It began in Asia, a main trade route at the time and had soon infected most of Europe. Symptoms of the plague included fever, swollen lymph nodes, and the emergence of spots on the body that turned red, then black, giving the Black Death its name. The disease spread extremely quickly, The Italian writer Boccaccio said,
"[Its victims often] ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise."
People desperately tried to find cures, nearly all of which were ineffective. Cures for the Black Death included
Placing a live hen next to the swelling to draw out the pestilence from the body. Then, to quicken recovery, the patient should drink a glass of their own urine twice a day
Eating organs of frogs
Placing leeches on the patient to draw out the sickness through the blood
Shaving a chicken and placing its bottom on the spots caused by plague
The whipping wasn't such a farfetched idea at the time; many believed that the plague was a punishment from God for sinning and that by suffering, they would be forgiven. The intense religiousness of the general population had caused a setback in the race for a cure. Rather than improving sanitary conditions, many prayed to God for forgiveness for their sins.
Between the years 1347 and 1352, 25 million people were killed by the plague. One third of Europe perished because of the disease and it never really died out until the 1600's. Plague doctors wore long , leather coats, tall boots, protective hats and a large, beak-shaped mask to protect against plague. The beak was filled with strong smelling herbs meant to mask the scent of death which was thought to be the cause of the plague. The Renaissance was a huge time for advancements science and technology as well as other fields. The Renaissance was very important for modern medicine at the time. This is greatly due to the Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. The church was in charge of doctors and their work, choking them by keeping them from doing things like human dissections to learn about the human body, driving them to do it in secret. Scientists or doctors whose ideas opposed that of the church were punished or suppressed. The church went by the word of the Bible and of an ancient Greek physician named Galen, whose theories did not question the church.
However, when a Latin transcript of a document written by Galen regarding his favor of human dissection was published, (thanks to the printing press), the church, already weakened by the Reformation, could not fight back. A Picture of Renaissance Medicine
Doctors believed that the body contained four elements, or humors that, when unbalanced, caused sickness. These humors were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.
Doctors did not perform surgery, barbers did simply because they had the sharpest knives and scissors, they also were regarded as dentists for similar reasons.
A popular cure at the time was leeching or bloodletting because by releasing the blood, people believed they could balance the humors.
People thought that disease was caught by breathing in bad odors or because the person had sinned.
Many people prayed, meditated, or went on pilgrimages to cure sickness, believing it to be a punishment from God.
Anesthesia, painkillers, and antibiotics had yet to be invented.
There was no knowledge of germs or bacteria.
People did not bathe because water was often a carrier of disease and people believed it stripped the body of natural oils. A Medieval Bloodletting Scene Major Medical Concerns During the Renaissance included many things that are now treatable such as:
About half of all children in Europe during the Renaissance died before the age of 5. After the breakthrough in in finding Galen's manuscript, doctors were then free to dissect human corpses for observation and use in medical science, (though it was still frowned upon). Thanks to the studying of the human body, artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci could create more detailed and accurate medical drawings that could be effectively distributed by use of the printing press, an invention of the Renaissance. Hospitals during the Middle Ages and Renaissance were not like hospitals today. They housed not only the sick, but the poor, the blind, the insane, orphans, and travelers. They were run by monasteries and their main purpose was to provide hospitality to whoever needed it; offering food, shelter, and medical attention if required. However, they rarely housed
the sick unless in the case such as that the individual had no home. Monasteries offered medical help and spiritual guidance to people. Hospitals weren't really needed until the Crusades in the 12th century. Hundreds of hospitals were built in the 13th century and still more in the 14th century due to the plague. Hospitals as we know them today were first developed in France for the purpose of separating lepers and plague victims from the public as well as housing pilgrims. Conclusion Medicine and medical practices during the middle ages were revolutionized during the Renaissance with the loosening of the Church's grip on medicine and new inventions and discoveries in the ways of anatomy, medicine, and surgery.
New ideas and theories were introduced and reliance on superstition was no longer used as much in treating illnesses, however, doctors and scientists were still far off from what we know today.
Issues like the plague sparked the invention of modern day hospitals as well as theories as to how illness are spread.
Medical knowledge was primarily controlled by the Church during the Middle Ages but lost power after their beliefs were challenged.
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