Evolution of Medicine

by PmPm on October 20, 2016 - 12:35am

Empirical Observations

The “Anatomy of the Bones Muscles and Joints”, written by John Bell, is a vintage book with a worn out snakeskin-like pattern on the front and back covers. Just the musty smell of this book gives you and idea of how old it is. Despite the fading cover and the binding that has been replaced, the book is in fairly good condition for having been published in 1792. The pages don't appear to be damaged nor do the texts and beautiful illustrations. It is written in English and has no notes or marks on the margins.This book is divided into three sections: the bones, muscles, and joints. Within each of the three divisions are intricate anatomical illustrations which catches the eye. Every drawing corresponds to its respective part of the book. Following the drawing is a text that explains each part of the structure depicted and its function. Not only does this book present anatomical features in great detail, but also depicts these images from the perspective of a surgeon during a dissection. This book is a true work of art.


The role of a physician has evolved throughout the years. When considering the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the study of nature was the main focus. This was called the study of “physic”, which is very different from the form of physics we see in today’s educational system. Even if the duty of physicians was different than modern days doctors, which is to diagnose and treat patients, a high level of schooling was required. Author Harold J. Cook, in the book “Medicine”, states physicians “ were educated in one of the three higher university faculties that awarded a doctorate”(1). We can see that physicians had a long road of schooling, but also didn't have many choices of schools choose from. Nowadays, aspiring doctors have a variety of options.

Knowledge began to grow at the end of the seventeenth century. Physician Samuel Garth stirred up an “active hunt for new and deeper knowledge” after expressing his opinions to his colleagues(2). Just as innovation is encouraged in today’s society, many scientists during the sixteenth and seventeenth century strived to discover new knowledge. The “prevention of health and remediation of disease” was introduced during this period(2). With this shift came the four humours: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood. These were the four liquids that were believed to make up the body. Any fluctuation of these four basic elements was seen to be unnatural. Health was based on the consistent ratio between these components. Despite the fact that the understanding of the human body in this time period was not accurate nor aligned with contemporary knowledge, the aspect of balance was present as it is today. The concept of equilibrium is seen to be the pinnacle of health.

Anatomy was introduced to the medical world in the late middle ages by Andreas Vesalius through the dissection of bodies. This new concept was “ one of the deepest expressions [for] the search of knowledge of self through witnessing the body”(3). “Anatomy of the Bones Muscles and Joints”, written by John Bell, was published in 1792 which is after the late middle ages (beginning of anatomy). We can see how the book “Anatomy of the Bones Muscles and Joints” greatly corresponds to “Medicine” through detailed illustrations of the body and depictions of corpses ready to be dissected. Since the date of the book on anatomy was published a while after the start of dissections, it must have contained more accurate information concerning the human body as suppose to a book published in the 1600s.

At the end of the seventeenth century, most physicians saw the body as “a closely knit structure of fine vessels and glands through which fluids moved (no longer the classical humours) , being transformed into one substance or another through chemical processes”(11). In “Anatomy of the Bones Muscles and Joints”, there is no reference to any of the four humours and modern terms such as abdominal muscles, obliques, vertebrae and ligaments are used in the book. These terms were not known before dissection. This is another example of the significance between the information in “ Medicine” and the anatomical book.

The science of nature evolved into a field that aims to better the health of others. Throughout this scientific advancement were pieces of information that held water and those that didn’t. Through innovation and deeper study, the wrong aspects were corrected while others built on one another in order thoroughly understand one of the most complex systems in our universe.


Works Cited

Bell, John. Anatomy of the Bones Muscles and Joints. First edition. 1794.

J.Cook, Harold. Medecine. The Cambridge History of Science: Cambridge University Printing Press. 2003. 



Evolution of medecine