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Little Practical Difference to Medical Treatment Between 1500-1700

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  • Category: Medicine

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Why did the discoveries of the Renaissance make little practical difference to medical treatment between c1500-c1700?

During the renaissance there were 3 significant figures, who were Andreas Vesalius who was famous for his knowledge in anatomy, Ambroise Paré who was famous for his advances in surgery, and William Harvey who was famous for working out how the body worked (physiology). These three made extremely big and definitely important discoveries, but for different reasons never really at the time came about to have an importance.

Andreas Vesalius published a book entitled “The Fabric of the Human Body” which was published around the time that printing first came about. His specialism was anatomy, and in the book that he published he made a detailed sketch of the human anatomy. One of the reasons why his work was never really that well established and well known was that at the time that he published his book on his findings, printing had only really just started to develop across the world, and this made a limited impact because of the fact that books at the time were very expensive (as are most new things), which meant that only the rich could really get their hands on them.

Ambroise Paré published the book named “Works on Surgery” and this was published shortly after the book written by Vesalius. This book contained his new discoveries about surgery i.e. how to sufficiently heal a wound using herbal remedies, and also how to stop bleeding by using stitches. His ideas most definitely changed surgery and his concepts are still used today. His ideas made a limited impact because at the time people were still very in to Galen’s work from the middle ages, which meant that most people did not want to accept the possibility of change, and furthermore it was so different to what they had before that it just seemed crazy to them, and wanted to stick to their family traditions and this had a limited impact because they didn’t experiment and most importantly respected the ancient doctors, and accepted the traditional ideas although they didn’t work most of the time.

William Harvey published the book called “An Anatomical Account of the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals” which was officially published a fair time after the other two’s books. He proved that the heart acts as a pump by recirculating the blood, and showed that the blood flows around the body and is carried away by the arteries and is carried back into the heart by the veins. This had a limited impact because likewise to Vesalius, it did not make anyone healthier at the time, and it made more of a long term impact on medicine. He had not found a way to practically cure people because he had just made a book to further people’s knowledge on how the body works. Although his book is very useful for us nowadays, at the time people would not know how to approach it, and really wouldn’t make much of an impact on the people’s health.

In conclusion, the main reason that I believe is the answer to not having much of a change in the Renaissance is the people’s attitude to change. For example, even though they knew deep down that something wasn’t working, they would still go ahead and use it because of the fact that it was what they were used to. The great discoveries that were made by Vesalius, Paré and Harvey did not improve people’s health day to day, but instead made a serious impact in the general history of medicine. They showed that the only persons attitude that was going to change was those of the rich and the educated.

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