The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Jul 31, 2008 - Medical - 169 pages
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Against the backdrop of unprecedented concern for the future of health care, this Very Short Introduction surveys the history of medicine from classical times, through the scholastic medieval tradition and the Enlightenment to the present day. Taking a thematic rather than strictly chronological approach, W.F. Bynum, explores the key turning points in the history of Western medicine-such as the first surgical procedures, the advent of hospitals, the introduction of anesthesia, X-Rays, vaccinations, and many other innovations, as well as the rise of experimental medicine. The book also explores Western medicine's encounters with Chinese and Indian medicine, as well as nontraditional treatments such as homeopathy, chiropractic, and other alternative medicines. Covering a vast amount of information, this Very Short Introduction sheds new light on medicine's past, while at the same time engaging with contemporary issues, discoveries, and controversies, such as the spiraling costs of health care, lack of health insurance for millions, breakthrough treatments, and much more. For readers who wish to understand the how we have arrived at our current state of medical practice and knowledge, this book is essential reading.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Medicine is one of those things that most of us give little thought until we get sick. And then we only think of it in terms of practical considerations - which doctor to go to, how to deal with the medical condition that we have. However, as both a practical and intellectual discipline medicine has a very long tradition. The western medicine, which is the main subject of this very short introduction, is usually considered to begin with Hippocrates. Hippocrates, however, was not a single individual, but probably the founder of the school of medicine to which many have contributed their works over the course of couple of centuries. This book starts with those contributions and continues to explore major advances in medicine up to the present times. It covers all main branches of medicine, and shows how they became increasingly interdependent over the course of history. The book is very informative and its greatest strength is the elucidation of the great improvements in medicine that most of us take for granted now. Just a generation ago, for instance, bacterial infection was a major source of debilitating illness or even death. Today we are largely free of those fears, although with the advent of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" those fearful days may come back again.
One of the books biggest strengths and weaknesses at the same time is the lack of exposure to some of the most promising recent developments in medicine. On one hand there could be more that could be said about the huge promise of genetically based medicine, but on the other hand it is to book's credit that it omits whole fields in which medical professionals have found themselves which traditionally had nothing to do with medicine. Overall, however, this is a well thought out and an incredibly readable treatment of the history of medicine.


Medicine in the library
Medicine in the hospital
Medicine in the community

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About the author (2008)

William Bynum is Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at University College, London, and was for many years Head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He edited the scholarly journal iMedical History/i from 1980 to 2001, and has written on many aspects of the history of medicine and its basic sciences. His previous publications include iScience and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century/i (CUP); iThe Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine/i (2 vols., edited with Roy Porter, Routledge); iThe Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations/i (with Roy Porter, Oxford); and iThe Dictionary of Medical Biography/i (5 vols., with Helen Bynum, Greenwood).

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