Elizabethan World View
William Harvey can be credited as one the leading individuals in cardiology within the 17th century. Whereas he had predecessors, much of the discovery of blood circulation is owed to him. Secondly, around 2,500 years ago in Greek medicine it was believed that in order to keep health, people required a level equilibrium of the four body fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Medicine was fundamental; Physicians had no knowledge what led to dreadful illnesses and diseases.
The theories on the causes of diseases were founded on the primeval literature of Aristotle and Hippocrates. Thirdly the Physicians concentrated on patients bodily fluids, referred to as Humors, which clarifies the reason why the sick endured ‘bleeding’. Additional beliefs of the Elizabethan Physicians were founded around Astrology. This paper looks at some of the key medical elements of the Elizabethan time.
Early Elizabethan surgery and medicine
It is with no doubt that surgery in the Middle Ages was rough and blunt and in most cases very hurting! Surgeons had a very minimal understanding of human structure, anesthetics as well as sterile procedures to protect wounds and incisions from disease. It was not a pleasing period to be a patient, however if one valued his or her life, there existed no other option. To ease the pain, one had to be submitted to additional pain, and if one was fortunate enough he/she could get better.
In the early part of the Middle Ages Surgeons were in most cases monks since the best medical literature at the time was accessible to them, mostly written by Arab scholars. However in 1215, the Pope stated that monks had to cease from practicing surgery, so they directed peasants to carry out a range of surgeries. Farmers, scarcely experienced in surgery except in castrating animals, were in high demand to carry out anything ranging from extracting painful tooth abscesses to carrying out eye cataract surgery (Numbers, Ronald & Darrel 85).
However, there were some great achievements. Archeologists in England located the skull of a farmer from around 1100 who had been hit on the head with a weighty, blunt object. Careful examination indicated that the man had been subjected to life-saving surgery known as trepanning, in which a hole was pierced and a section of the skull was raised up, making it possible for the smashed bone segments to be gotten out. The surgery reduced pressure on the brain and the patient got well.
The theory of the Four Humors (early theory of psychology)
“The Four Humors otherwise known as Four Temperaments can be mapped out dependably to prehistoric Greek medicine and philosophy, particularly in the work of Hippocrates (c.460-377/359BC commonly known as the ‘Father of Medicine’) as well as in Plato’s (428-348BC) concepts regarding character and personality. About 2,500 years back in Greek medicine it was known that in order to keep health, people required a level equilibrium of the four body fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. The mentioned four body fluids were associated (in nutty ways by contemporary standards) with particular organs and diseases in addition to representing the Four humors or Four Temperaments (of personality) as they eventually became known.” (Montogomery, 2002 in ODportal, s.d.).
“Humorism, or humoralism, is a disgraced theory of the composition and functioning of the human body embraced by Roman as well as Greek physicians and philosophers. Starting from Hippocrates going forward, the humoral theory was embraced by Greek, Roman in addition to Islamic physicians, and turned out to be the most widely held perception of the human body amongst European physicians up to the emergence of contemporary medical study in the nineteenth century.” (Wikipedia, 2010b, p.1)
William Harvey (theory of the circulation of blood)
During the 17th Century, there emerged a leading figure in cardiology; his name was William Harvey. Whereas there were precursors, the discovery of blood circulation is owed to him. It is widely accepted that Harvey, as “Lumleian lecturer”, had widened the idea of blood circulation in his teachings from 1615. This is evidenced in his 1628, dazzling book Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Living Beings), Harvey’s publicized his finding and, just as surprising, he stated that the heart was more of a pump that drove the blood around the body. In his epic work de Motu Cordis, Harvey “exhibited that all that had been written up to that time on the motion and the function of the heart together with arteries is not concrete enough”( Androutsos et al 6)
It was a memorable opportunity for Harvey to disprove of Erasistratus, Galen and to greet Colombo and Fabricio d’Acquapendente. His discourse innovates by its succinctness, its clearness, and the lack of unclear hypothesis and the technique of experimentation. Chapter I of de Motu Cordis is mostly a repudiation of a number of early and traditional opinions regarding the heart, pulse together with arteries. Harvey emphasizes the inconsistencies and the incoherence in the writings of Galen doubting “how blood, air including sooty vapors could be in pulmonary veins whilst their dissection exposes just blood?” In the 2nd chapter, captioned The movement of the heart after the vivisection, Harvey contests the ancient belief that the diastole or contraction of the heart was the necessary cause of the movement of the blood (Androutsos et al 7).
It is evident from this paper that, Harvey had emphasized the inconsistencies and the incoherence in the writings of Galen doubting “how blood, air including sooty vapors could be in pulmonary veins whilst their dissection exposes just blood? Again it can be seen that, starting from Hippocrates going forward, the humoral theory was embraced by Greek, Roman in addition to Islamic physicians, and turned out to be the most widely held perception of the human body amongst European physicians up to the emergence of contemporary medical study in the nineteenth century.
To allow the monks concentrate on religious matters in 1215, the Pope directed that monks had to cease from practicing surgery, so the peasants were directed to carry out a range of surgeries. Farmers, hardly experienced in surgery except in castrating animals, became very popular in performing anything from extracting painful tooth to carrying out eye cataract surgery. This characterized the Elizabethan period.
Androutsos, G. E. O. R. G. E., Marianna Karamanou, and C. H. R. I. S. T. O. D. O. U. L.O. S. Stefanadis. “William Harvey (1578-1657): discoverer of blood circulation.” Hellenic J Cardiol 53.1 (2012): 6-9.
Numbers, Ronald L, and Darrel W. Amundsen. Caring and Curing: Health and Medicine in the Western Religious Traditions. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Print.
ODportal (s.d.) the four temperaments – aka the four humours/humors [online](accessed 14th March 14, 2015). Accessed via http://www.odportal.com/personality/four-temperaments.htm.
Wikipedia (2010b) Humorism [online](accessed 14th March 14, 2015). Accessed via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_bile.