What difference did the Renaissance make to medicine? The discoveries of the Renaissance didn’t make a significant difference to medicine for many reasons. The main reasons for this are that the discoveries made were primarily about anatomy and physiology, not about cures and treatments, and that even though people had proven Galen to be wrong about several things, they still wouldn’t let the four humours theory go. This meant that when King Charles II became ill even the best physicians in the country couldn’t save him which just shows that medicine didn’t advance very much from the renaissance.
The main reason that the renaissance didn’t make a significant difference to medicine was that the discoveries made were primarily about anatomy, not about treatments and cures. For example, Vesalius dissected bodies and produced a book including pictures of the body drawn by renaissance artists. By doing these dissections and producing his book, he realised that Galen was wrong about several things. He proved that we only have one jaw bone, not two as Galen said, he corrected the scale of our skeleton and he proved that there were no holes in the centre of the heart and therefore Galen’s theory about the heart was wrong.
Although Vesalius did all this, he had still only improved the anatomical knowledge; he hadn’t discovered any cures/treatments or anything about our physiology, just that Galen was wrong with his ideas about the heart. William Harvey also did a bit of dissection to prove his theory. He focused on the distribution of blood around the body. He discovered that blood flows only one way around the body, and that blood is reused and not constantly produced by the liver as Galen had suggested.
He used many complex diagrams which, when combined with the invention of the printing press, became quickly distributed throughout the world in the form of a book entitled ‘An anatomical account of the motion of the heart and blood in animals’. Although this was an important discovery, it is still just about anatomy and physiology. Harvey didn’t come up with any new treatments or cures during the Renaissance. As well as this, because they didn’t have very good technology at the time, Harvey had no way of proving that we have capillaries and so some people still didn’t believe what he said.
Even though both Vesalius and Harvey had proven Galen to be wrong several times, the people still believed in the four humours theory which was really the underlying problem and the reason that renaissance didn’t make a significant difference, and why medicine didn’t develop during the renaissance. It’s easy to see that medicine hadn’t advanced very much and that the renaissance hadn’t made a significant difference when you look at how they handle the plague and King Charles II’s illness.
When the plague returned in 1665, they still had no idea that it was carried by fleas. They also still had no real treatments that worked against the plague. All they knew was that it was contagious. Although this was an improvement on their knowledge from the last plague in 1348, it was still not a significant advancement to medicine. Another example that the renaissance hadn’t really made a difference was when King Charles II fell ill. It is thought, from the symptoms of the King, that he had suffered a stroke.
The best doctors and physicians in the country tried to save him with treatments of Bezoars stones, blister agents over his head as well as bloodletting, purging and vomiting – based on the four humours theory. The king died within 4days after being treated by these doctors. It’s thought that it probably would have been better if they had simply left the King alone because it seems that he suffered a stroke. This shows just how bad medicine still was and just how little difference the renaissance had made to medicine as the best doctors in the country couldn’t save their King.
In Conclusion, the discoveries of the Renaissance didn’t make a significant difference to medicine for many reasons. The main reasons for this are that the discoveries made were primarily about anatomy and physiology, not about cures and treatments, and that even though people had proven Galen to be wrong about several things, they still wouldn’t let the four humours theory go. This meant that when King Charles II became ill even the best physicians in the country couldn’t save him which just shows that medicine didn’t advance very much from the renaissance.
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