We have given a glance of the views which the Asclepiadae had acquired on the structure and functions of different parts of the human body, as well as of means employed to maintain their integrity of function. We now proceed to say something on the ideas they had touching the disorders of
these functions, and the means employed to restore them to their normal state. These last two branches of medicine are designated by the names of Pathology and Therapeutics, each of them to be subdivided in different ways, according to the views of authors and the extent of the knowledge of their age.
One of the most ancient divisions of pathology and therapeutics consisted in dividing diseases and modes of treatment into two classes, one called internal or medical, the other, external or chirurgical. We shall preserve this distribution ; not that it is so philosophic, but because the greater part of writers whose labors we must examine have followed it, and because it yet exists in science, notwithstanding its evident defects.
I will make only one prefatory remark, the truth of which will stand out more and more in the course of this history ; it is, that a scientific classification is nothing else than an artificial arrangement of the facts and ideas that constitute a science. Now, as new facts and ideas were added each day by the ancients, it follows that the same arrangement would not always be suitable. For example, a pathological classification which may have been satisfactory in the time of Hippocrates, would to-day be very defective. The Nosology of Sauvages, so celebrated in the last century, has already become superannuated. To pretend to trace a systematic and an immovable list which should include all the ideas and discoveries of future generations, would in some sort be like digging a pit, out of which the genius of man could never emerge. Some have attempted this, but no one has ever succeeded. The merit of a methodic repartition consists, as I think, in embracing as far ay possible the totality of the materials of which science is composed at a given period, and presenting them in lucid order, so as to aid the memory and the judgment ; but it is plain that such a plan must vary with the different phases of science.
During the philosophic period the animal economy was considered as a whole, nearly indivisible ; the morbid phenomena being regarded as the expression of a general derangement of the organism, rather than as the index of the derangement of any part. Consequently, the symptoms, their progress, gravity, and indications, were often studied without regard to any particular species of disease. It was said, for example, "The physician should find his patient lying on the right or left side, having the arms, the neck, and the legs a little flexed, and the entire body moist ; for so the greater part of men in good health repose on their beds, and the most favorable position in a patient is that which is assumed in a state of health. To lie on the back, with the arms and legs extended, is less favorable. The tendency to sink in the bed and slide down to the foot is still more unfavorable." (Prognostics)
This study of symptoms, considered in a general and abstract manner was pushed very far in the school of Cos. It gave birth to a branch of Pathology which is termed Semeiotics, which we will now first consider.
From History of Medicine by P.V.Renouard M.D.