The Evolution of Knowledge in Medicine

by rextirant on October 20, 2016 - 4:08pm

Osteographia Or the Anatomy of the Bones:

    The author of the book examined was William Cheselden, he printed the book “Osteography Or The Anatomy of the Bones” and this book was published back in 1733. At first glance you can notice that the book is very large compared to many of the books we have today in present time. It is estimated that the dimensions of the book are 13’ by 18’, the weight of said book approximated to be 20lbs or maybe even less since the weight was not evenly distrubuted while holding it with one hand. The binding seems to be well preserved, it is coloured red and it is decorated with a pattern as a margin with gold or yellow ink. When you open the book, the first thing you can notice is that it is written in English which is very rare for a book of that time, since everything was usually written in Latin.  As deducted from reading the title, the content of the book is the anatomy of the bones specifically humans but some diagrams of animal bones are shown too.  The font of the book is described as printed and it also has a small resemblance to that of Times New Roman. There is very small amount of writing about description of the bone and from which patient the bone was taken from. Due the high population of illiterate people, there were a couple of noticeable grammatical mistakes and words that were misspelled. The entire book focuses around images of the bones and it has a big empty margin throughout the entire reading.  There are no watermarks on the book which tells us that the book was not used very often by physicians or doctors.

Analysis:

    The vast difference in information portrayed by books today in this decade are much different than books published centuries before. Knowledge developed through the 15th and 16th century were much more based on empiricist knowledge, where what you see is what you know and it was mostly right due to the fact that they were not able to negate their senses. “[...] the science of physic consisted of both theoria and practica. Both rested on the exercise of reason rather than the art of treating disease.” ( Cook 408). Therefore stating the main difference between knowledge represented in modern books which are more into curing diseases and books which are informative in a sense where it told you how you got the disease.

 

    As we progress technologically, the information developed becomes more complex and detailed which further creates a difference in the way knowledge is produced but yet retaining some similarities. Medical knowledge produced back in early centuries were based off empirical views, where what is seen in the patient is what is represented in the book. In the book that my group and I examined in the OSLER library , it was very illustrative of every bone described and it had also given a  brief description of what disease it had. One major difference in knowledge produced today and the early periods, was that most of the medical knowledge was based around the four humours, “each of which combined two of the four qualities: Yellow bile was composed of the dry and hot, black bile of the dry and cold, phlegm of the wet and cold, and blood of the wet and hot” (Cook 410). One important point to bring up is that medical knowledge could not be learned through books but rather experience which is a characteristic shown in the book by William Cheseldon (Cook 411). This could be a difference of how knowledge was honed and how it is practiced in today’s modern medicine where everyone is expected to have experience in the field of medicine.

 

    As a result from early modern medicine, we have learned new ways to improve in treating diseases without the need of blood letting or using herbs. Medicine provided from pharmaceuticals are mostly composed synthetic drugs which are scientifically proven to work most of the times (Cook 412). Although in the early periods it was thought that the body and soul were two different things that had to the treated differently, today the two different classifications is less to none existent in the setting of medicine (Cook 412). From the mid-seventeenth century, the result of incorporating chemistry and biology together allowed further improvements of medicine and how it is treated. Compared to what it was shown in the book, where all information given was solely about the disease and how it was acquired (Cook 430)

 

    To conclude, knowledge acquired in modern standards is more based behind proven research while in the early periods it had more empirical views where you had to trust senses because those exact senses where derived from god. From the new implementations to medicine, medicine in present modern time is more advanced.

References:

  • Harold J. Cook, “Medecine,” in Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston (eds.) The Cambridge History of Science (Cambridge: University Press, 2003): 407-434

  • Cheseldon, William. Osteographia Or Anatomy of the Bones. 1733.