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 :
it is necessity, it is the instinct of preservation. Again, if we are asked, what has inspired the same men to aversion for pain, the fear of disease and death, the desire to prevent sickness, not only for themselves, but also for all those that are dear to them ; we should again promptly and readily answer, it is a natural, irresistible instinct, which is realized by the savage of the wilderness, as well as by the inhabitants of cities ; by the poor, as well as by the rich-by the philosopher and ignorant ; in the frozen regions of the north, as well as under the burning heats of the tropics. There is but one step between this instinct and the invention of Medicine ; and we shall proceed to see how this has been achieved. This will be comparatively an easy task, as we possess one of the most ancient books, which furnishes on this subject, very positive and explicit testimony ; it will be sufficient to make a textual extract.
"Necessity itself," says the author, "forced men to seek the invention of the Medical Art, for they saw as well as we do now, that the regimen proper in health, is injurious in sickness. Moreover, in going back into past ages, I think that the kind of life and nutrition in vogue now-a-days, would not have been discovered, if man, for his drink and food, could have employed that which is used by the ox, the horse, and all other animals of an inferior order, namely, the simple productions of the earth, fruits, herbs and grass. Animals are nourished by these, and grow and live without any inconvenience. Doubtless in the earliest times, man had no other nourishment, and that which he employs at present, seems to be an invention that has been elaborated during a long course of years ; for rude and coarse diet must have caused much violent suffering, just as is realized now, from a similar nutrition. Those who make use of such crude and indigestible materials for food, are subject to pains, diseases and sudden death. But the people of those times, being habituated to it, doubtless suffered less than we suffer ; nevertheless, the evil was great, even for them ; and many, especially those of a feeble constitution, must have perished. Such, it seems to me, was the cause of men seeking food, more in harmony with our nature ; which led to the discovery of that which is now employed.
" The men who sought and discovered the Art of Medicine, having the same ideas as those of whom I have spoken above, did I presume, when not feeling well, withdraw something from their accustomed food; and in place of a full diet, directed the sick to cat less. It happened that this regimen was sufficient to arrest diseases in some persons, not in all, however ; for some of them, were in such a state, that they could not be relieved, even by the use of a smaller quantity of their usual food. Then it was suggested to prescribe a weaker diet, and soup was invented, in which a small quantity of solid substance, is mingled with much
water, and well diffused by boiling. Finally, those who could not even support soup, were supplied with simple drinks ; care being taken to give them neither too much nor too little.
" Did not he then, who in the opinion of all was called a physician, who discovered the dietary of the sick, follow precisely the same course, as he who changed the savage and brutal manner of living of the earliest men, by substituting a diet more like ours ? In my opinion their method was the same and the discoveries identical."( Works of Hippocrates, translation by M. Littre. Traité de l'Ancienne Médecine)
This explanation, of remarkable simplicity and exactness, shows us how men were gradually led to lay the foundations of Medicine. It sufficed them to observe that certain things were good, and others bad, so that the former might be employed, but the latter abstained from. Thus, as the application of a hot cataplasm on the side soothes the pain of pleurodynia, in Thrasimenus ; it was naturally supposed that the same remedy would relieve Eurimedon of a similar trouble; so a venesection, having cured the daughter of Damatia, deprived of consciousness by a fall from the roof, it was concluded that all similar cases should be treated in a like manner. The reasoning under these circumstances was very simple ; no inquiry was made as to the mode of cure by the remedy, it was sufficient to show that they were cured, in order to feel authorized to apply the same treatment to analogous cases. Observation and memory then, which constitute experience, were the principal faculties put in exercise ; reason entered very little into their therapeutical considerations. Such was the first step of the human mind, in the Medical career; it consisted in substituting the lights of experience for the brute suggestions of instinct, a substitution rational and advantageous, as we shall demonstrate hereafter.
from History of Medicine by P.V.Renouard M.D.