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.
Until now, we have groped our way, having to guide us in the obscurity of remote ages only feeble lights, scattered here and there at long intervals. But now we have reached an epoch, where science is striped of its mystic vail, and reveals her secrets in open day. The priests who had so long been in possession of the doctrine of the people, yield now the grasp of the scientific scepter to the philosophers: they retained only the exclusive control of sacred rites, the monopoly oi religious ceremonies. Never was a happier revolution accomplished with less effusion of blood ; the mind rests with satisfaction on the circumstances which prepared and accompanied it.
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This theory, one of the most simple that can be imagined, is regarded as being anterior to Hippocrates. It is predominant in two treatises, viz., those on the Regions in Man, and on the Glands. A few extracts from these two books will give us a sufficient idea of the doctrine.
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There remains to us of the memorials of antiquity, concerning that doctrine, but a single, very incomplete, and very obscure fragment. It is a collection of sentences, which are attributed to Lysis, a Pythagorian philosopher, and the friend and preceptor of Epaminondas ; but it would be impossible for us to avail ourselves of the doctrines of this precious document, without the able commentary of M. Fabre d' Olivet. Thanks to this skillful interpreter, we are able to lift a corner of the veil that covers the famous dogmas of the philosopher of Samos.(Vers Dores de Pythagore, explained and translated into French verse, by M. d'Olivet. Paris, 1813)
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The four elementary forms of matter described in the chapter before the last, are so well determined, and so constantly referred to in all these works, that it would be impossible to mistake them ; beside, no ancient author has attempted to deny their existence ; but some have assumed that only two of them are primitive elements, or even one alone, the others being regarded as secondary.
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When the storm of persecution had dissolved the Pythagorian societies, the members that composed it were scattered in different parts of Greece. Being no longer held by the bond of the community, many of them revealed in whole or in part the secrets of their doctrine, and to this circumstance we owe the little light that we possess on the subject.
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After the theory of coction and crisis, that which prevails the most in the Hippocratic books, is the doctrine of the four elements, or the four elementary qualities, heat, cold, dryness and moisture, and the four cardinal humors, blood, bile, atrabile and phlegm. This doctrine was supposed to be an invention of the father of Greek medicine. Such is the opinion of all the commentators and historiographers, among others Galen, who extended and perfected it in his manner, and it reigned, exclusively, after him. The theory of four elements and four humors, harmonizes very well with
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The first of these theories, that of coction and crisis, is founded on the capital observation that there exists in the organized body an intrinsic force, diffused in all its parts, creating a mutual sympathy, and harmonizing their various functions for a common end, by a kind of instinct. One of the most distinct characters of this force is its
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The theory which prevails the most universally in the Hippocratic works, is that of coction and crisis. It is met with at every step, sometimes isolated, sometimes combined with others ; but especially is it united to the system of four elements and four humors. It forms an integral part and is the most characteristic trait of the ancient Dogmatism, and it is retained even in our time, while all its cotemporaneous doctrines have been abandoned.
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We have seen, in the preceding chapter, synthesis pushed to its utmost limit, and all the phenomena of the animal economy assimilated to each other, and united by the bond of a common cause, notwithstanding their infinite variety and enormous differences. But in order to arrive at that, to perceive in the formation of man, in the development of his parts and the exercise of his faculties, only the various modifications of one single agent, such as air or fire, it was necessary to clothe this material agent with imaginary faculties - to suppose it possessed of instinct,
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Now, after having considered the state of Medicine under the Asclepiadae, in the isle of Cos, in an exclusively practical manner, and, in some sort, material also, it remains for us to examine it in a theoretical point of view to seek the invisible bond that unites all parts of their doctrines, and connects them to a common principle, as the branches of the same tree.
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The physiologists who see in the animal economy only one element, do not pretend to say, by this, that man is formed of a unique substance, diversely modified, but they wish to inculcate, that among the elements that enter into the constitution of man, there is one which predominates over the rest, by its energy or its activity, and concurs in a preponderating, if not exclusive manner, to the production of physiological and pathological phenomena. To establish the unity of the active forces of nature, has been the dream of many physiologists and physicians ; but up to this time, all the hypotheses conceived to this end, have been Utopian.
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I will terminate this succinct review of the Hippocratic collection, by the examination of a work which was intended as a recapitulation of all that is set forth in the others. I mean the collection of Aphorisms, in seven of his books. No medical work of antiquity has had a more colossal reputation
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