Age of foundation of the history of medicine
Extending from the origin of society to the end of the second century of the christian era.
Under the name of Indians, we comprise all those tribes that inhabit that vast extent of country, bounded on the east by China, on the west by Persia, on the north by little Thibet, and on the south by the sea. Though now divided into many kingdoms or principalities, the inhabit- ants of these countries appear to have had in antiquity, a common origin, the same religion, and similar institutions. The mildness of the climate, and the fertility of the soil, which produced abundantly the necessities of life, must have invited early the occupation of man ; and authentic monuments attest that India possessed the blessings of civilization, while Europe was still plunged in the darkness of barbarism. Some writers even go so far, as to pretend that the torch of civilization, was transported from the banks of the Ganges, to the banks of the Nile; but this is only a simple conjecture, devoid of proof, while the contrary view is at least as probable.
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Those who boast of the certainty and perspicacity of instinct - those who wish that man, in imitation of animals, followed only his appetites in health and disease ; have never
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The Sacred History says, positively, that Moses, having been rescued from the river by one of the daughters of Pharaoh, was reared in the court of that Prince, and instructed in all the knowledge of the Egyptian priesthood, in which he became a proficient. On this account, when he presented himself before his sovereign, to demand, in the name of the God of Israel, the freedom of his brethren, who were reduced to an unjust and cruel servitude, he was not at all embarrassed by the prestiges of the magicians and savans that Pharaoh so frequently sum- moned to meet him in the palace. He proved the legitimacy of his mission, in confounding the pride of the magicians by prodigies more wonderful than theirs, and finally overcame the interested obstinacy of the king, and had the glory of delivering his brethren from the yoke that had pressed so heavily upon them for nearly two hundred years. All are familiar with the great obstacles he overcame in leading them back to the land of their forefathers, and how well he availed himself of long and weary wanderings in the wilderness, to give to them the moral and political laws inspired by God.
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During the space of about seven hundred years, which this period embraces, Medicine underwent, in Greece, a first transformation ; from having been domestic and popular, it became sacerdotal, and wrapt itself in a mysterious habit. Until that time, the world
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The Chinese offer to our observation the unique spectacle, in the records of the human race, of a people who have preserved, for more than four thousand years, their manners, laws, religion, literature, language, name, and territory. This remarkable phenomenon is certainly related to a concourse of extraordinary circumstances, well worthy the attention of the philosopher and statesman ; but we can not dwell on this subject especially, as we do not possess the documents necessary thereto.
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We have said that one of the greatest difficulties, perhaps the greatest that is encountered in the use of a fundamental axiom in therapeutics, comes from the impossibility of applying, rigorously, a past fact in treatment to a case in hand ; in other words, whatever precision may be obtained in diagnosis, whatever may be the degree of similarity that exists between two pathological states, as there is never identity between them, it follows, that a course of medication which has succeeded perfectly in one case, may, strictly speaking, fail in another.
It is not less evident, that the best means of avoiding, or rather of diminishing this permanent cause of mistakes, consists in
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If we should be asked, what has taught men to provide themselves with things indispensable to life ; to prepare their food and clothing, and habitations against the inclemencies of the seasons, etc.; our unembarrassed and prompt reply would be :
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We have heretofore said that the physicians of primitive times reasoned very little on morbid phenomena, or the effects of remedies ; that they contented themselves to observe which were the remedies that would heal certain diseases, and to employ thereafter the same means in like cases.
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