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History

Medieval doctors

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Medieval doctors retained some medical knowledge from the Greek and Roman eras, despite the fact that much was lost during the Dark Ages. Unfortunately these doctors accepted the ideas of the ancients without question, and held many superstitious beliefs. This meant that patients often got worse, rather than better, under their care.

Overview

Medieval doctors flattered to deceive, although there were developments that gave the appearance of progress:

  • Schools of medicine were set up in Universities such as Bologna and Salerno, and there were lectures in anatomy.
  • New writings of Muslim doctors (such as Rhazes) became available.
  • Doctors debated the best methods of treating disease.
  • Padua University (alone) insisted that doctors visited the sick during their training.
French manuscript illumination showing body being dissected

A French manuscript illumination from Guy de Chauliac's 'Chirurgia Magna' of 1363, showing a dissection at the Faculty of Montpellier

These signs, however, were deceiving . For example:

  • The anatomy 'lectures' consisted only of the doctor reading from a book while a prosector pointed to parts of the body.
  • The ancients were held unquestioningly as the true authorities, any debates was seen merely as an opportunity to practice the art of arguing.
  • Doctors had a terrible reputation. During the Black Death, "...doctors were useless and indeed shameful as they dared not visit the sick for fear of becoming infected" wrote Guy de Chauliac.

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