Time’s Influence on Medical Knowledge
by euphoricnightmares on October 26, 2017 - 8:10pm
Time is a measurement in which cripples the forms of allowing for the evolution towards what is true, basing present knowledge on previous beliefs and perceptions. The 16th-century novel, Sea Diseases or, A Treatise of their Nature, Caufs, and Cure. Also an Essay on Bleeding in Fevers; Shewing The Quantities of Blood to be Let in Any of Their Periods. The Third Edition, by William Cockburn being a 8” by 5” weighing approximately at half a pound was not in the best physical condition, given that when settled on the foam holder there was a residue of brown dust. As the book was then handled, the crescent was noticeably worn out to the extent that the hardcover could have been detached with very minimal force applied. Though the outlook of the novel resembled high sensitivity, the pages held inside where kept in good condition, with solemnly the yellowing of pages due to the process of oxidation. In regards to the odour of Cockburn’s novel, it maintained a distinguished scent, such as those of old preserved books. Upon further examination, this medical book had very few notations in its borders. It was clear that this Cockburn piece was manhandled thoroughly and abruptly as the state of the book’s cover edges was in poor condition to the extent of causing pieces from the leather tile looking material to shed when a particular touch was to be applied. The state of this novel shows the possibility of this piece of informative literature to be a large source of medical information at the time. The font used also increased the demand for this piece as its easy legibility seemingly being in times new roman font allowed for literate individuals to gain Cockburn’s enlightenment towards medicine, in effect illustrating that it is a relatively recent novel. This didactic rare book entails vital understandings of medicine as a cure for diseases emerged from voyages to altered atmospheric regions as well as the belief of bleedings being linked to the cure of fevers, “[…]enabl[ing] […] surgeons to judge what is proper to be done in various other ca[s]ses[...](Cockburn 116).
When the knowledge of a disease’s cure is unknown many hypothesize different remedies in order to isolate the cure. In the past, many went on voyages to distant lands with the intentions to discover the unknown, though in doing so the rise of diseases in these voyagers developed. “Everyone who has been at sea, for any con[s]iderable time, mu[s]t be [s]en[s]ible of the u[s]efulne[s]s of this undertaking[…]”(B). In the past, the body was seen as a system containing four humours, yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm (89). The disruption of any of the four humours through the pores was said to cause diseases and sicknesses to the individuals whose humours were affected. The cause for the disease was known to “[…] arise from blockages to [the] flow[s], or else from atmospheres [being] poisoned or imbalanced in terms of humidity and temperature”(89). As a result, the very reason voyagers where developing diseases was linked to the change in the atmosphere throughout their travels. It was very common for voyagers to have diarrhoea, as it was one beneficial symptom caused by the body refraining from getting infected by voyaging sicknesses.
`Living in a period where the cure of diseases where unknown, the ability to extract this remedy was constant for every illness as it was reliable in terms of determining if the individual bodies maintained the proper balance of health. This process was a system of medicine in which concluded results of the four humours determining one’s health stability. Purging was a common reaction for those with humours that of which are “too strong or [that] had become corrupt”(Lecture12slide9). This extraction of harmful substances in the body is done through bleedings, as well as for vomiting and diarrhoea. In this time the extortion of large quantities of blood was done by a controversial physicist - Dr Benjamin Rush – whose methods were described as “aggressive bloodletting and vigorous purging”(“The History of Bloodletting”). This method was thought to “[…]strangle fever, imparts strength to the body, [and apart from many others,] renders the pulse more frequent when it is preternaturally slow[…](“The History of Bloodletting”). There where different means of bloodletting, cupping, the use of leeches and, most common, the median cubital vein at the elbow. Lastly, “ if someone was melancholic, they suffered from an excessive black bile; if they were manic, it was either too much blood or yellow bile that was the problem. Balancing one’s lifestyle, therefore, was central to one’s emotional well-being”(“Balancing Your Humours”).
Ultimately, in a period where experimentation was the only means to determine cures to illness, the acknowledgement of atmospheric change and excessive or lack of a particular humour struck the revolution of medicine! Upon further research, these reasonings for the cause of diseases is no different than it is today. Apart from the more advanced approach physicians would take, such as for the reasoning for the atmospheric change affecting diseases can now be seen as a common seasickness due to the “[…] disagreement exist[ing] between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement”(“Motion sickness”). Like organisms, information does not develop overnight, past information on medicine was developed and still to this day continues this never-ending process.
“Bloodletting.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodletting.
“Motion Sickness.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_sickness.
Smith, Matthew. “Balancing Your Humors.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2 Nov. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/short-history-mental-health/201311/balancin....
“The History of Bloodletting.” BC Medical Journal, www.bcmj.org/premise/history-bloodletting.
"Slides_History of Medicine"Lecture_12_early_modern_me.pptx,16Oct.2017
Cockburn William.“Sea Diseases or, A Treatise of their Nature, Caufs, and Cure. Also an Essay on Bleeding in Fevers; Shewing The Quantities of Blood to be Let in Any of Their Periods. The Third Edition”.Cornhill.G.Strahan.1736. Print