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Renaissance Medicine


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Early Renaissance and Medieval medicine.

Early Renaissance and Medieval medicine.

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  • 1. By: CorrinBowman
    Period 6
    Renaissance Medicine
  • 2. Beginning of Medical Research
    • During the Renaissance, Christians firmly believed that illness was God’s punishment for sins; thus, trying to heal illness was considered an unjust interference with God’s will.
    • 3. Meanwhile, Arabs steadily progressed in their medical research, publishing many informative books, allowing English physicians to study anatomy in a
    broader, scientific way.
    • Building on knowledge of herbs and minerals
    taken from Arabic writings, Renaissance
    pharmacists experimented with new plants
    developing treatments for several diseases.
    • By relentless opposition, the Church began to
    lose its political and secular power that had
    for so long limited physicians in their medical
  • 4. Black Death
    • Medical progress was spurred on by the appearance of the Black Death, a deadly plague that killed nearly a third of Europe’s population.
    • 5. The plague was unknown to even the most well-known pharmacists like Claudius Galen, forcing Renaissance doctors to experiment if they wanted to find treatments.
    • 6. They were unsuccessful in halting the Black Death, but a German physician, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim discovered in 1503 that drinking mercury was an effective cure for syphilis, also a deadly disease.
    Corrin/ Art and Civilization: The Renaissance,
  • 7. Herbal Medicine
    • Explorers like Christopher Columbus brought many new herbs and plants from distant lands for pharmacists to experiment with.
    • 8. Pharmacists used the bark of the Quina tree which contained
    an ingredient called quinine to treat malaria.
    • Laudanum, an opium-based painkiller, was prescribed for
    many disorders.
    • It was thought that the leaves of tobacco plants had
    medicinal properties, however pharmacists realized that
    they were in fact responsible for an enormous amount of
    • Aloe juice was considered good for wounds, for the
    stomach, and for preventing hair from falling out.
  • 9. Human Anatomy
    • The Church did not permit the dissection of “God fearing bodies,”
    so anatomists negotiated by using the bodies of criminals or
    • Leonardo da Vinci made remarkably accurate anatomical
    drawings based on dissection of human corpses by Anreas
    • In 1543, Anreas Vesalius published his book De Humani Corporis
    Fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body) containing
    hundreds of observations he made while dissecting the human
    body. Vesalius’ book contradicted many of Galen’s earlier
    anatomical discoveries.
    • Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings and Anreas Vesalius’ observations
    allowed anatomists like Gabriel Fallopius and Michael Servetus
    to study more intimately certain parts of the body.
  • 10. Surgery
    • Most surgery performed was quite daring and could
    in fact be fatal.
    • During the Renaissance, some common surgical
    procedures included lancing a boil, setting a broken
    bone, dressing an ulcer or sore, blood-letting, cleaning
    and suturing a wound, rescuing a dislocated joint, and
    cautery (application of hot irons to various parts of the
    body creating ulcers that unwanted fluids could drain).
    • Each procedure was performed with the slightest
    amount of anesthetics or sedatives causing the patient
    extreme pain.
    • As seen in the picture to the right, the operation of
    removing a cataract included inserting a sharp
    instrument through the cornea and forcing the lens of
    the eye out of its capsule and down to the bottom of the
  • 11. Menstruation
    • Menstruation was often an uncomfortable topic for Renaissance physicians. Not only did regular menstruation indicate fertility, but if women's excess humors and buildup of bodily wastes were not flushed by regular monthly courses, the wastes would build up and cause illness.
    • 12. It was thought that the excess humors and wastes were able to  poison men, children, and others with whom one had come into contact with.
    • 13. Women who did not menstruate might have had a misplaced uterus, which could cause pain in other parts of the body and even cause shortage of breath. This was treated with drinks, steam-baths, and manual manipulation.
    • 14. Disorders of menstruation in young women were generally treated by marriage or sexual intercourse.
  • 15. Pregnancy
    • Women played a prominent role in caring for each other during pregnancy. Physicians were consulted for a variety of advice, but midwives or maids were employed to do any manual examination.
    • 16. V-shaped chairs were sometimes used to support the
    legs while giving space for the maid to work.
    • Covering the belly and vulva, especially the
    perineum, with oils was practiced to reduce tearing.
    • Prolapsed uterus, hemorrhaging, and dead children
    retained in the womb were common complications.
    • Intentional abortion was illegal, however some doctors
    practiced it, warning women that the procedure was
    generally dangerous and ineffective.
  • 17. Hospitals
    • Hospitals were beginning to multiply under the control of both laity and clergy.
    • 18. In 1423, Venice transformed the island of Santa Maria diNazaret into a hospital to keep contagious persons from infecting others. This was the
    first institution of its kind known in Europe.
    • By the fifteenth century, Florence had thirty-five hospitals.
    Public and private donations helped support several of
    these hospitals and institutions.
    • Hospitals were notable for various reasons; some, like the
    Ospedale Maggiore, were known for its architecture while
    others were known for adorning their halls with inspiring
    works of art.
    Corrin/ The Renaissance: The Story of Civilization V,
  • 19. Citations
    Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. History of Medicine.
    5 Dec. 2009 <>.
    Blackwell, Elizabeth. “Herbarium Blackwellianum.” No date. Online image.
    Ursi'sEso Garden. 6 Dec. 2009. <>.
    Borsheim, R.L. Christianity and Knowledge.
    5 Dec. 2009 <>.
    Da Vinci, Leonardo. “Dissection of the Arms and Shoulders.” No date. Online image.
    Leonardo Da Vinci Anatomy Drawing. 6 Dec. 2009. <>.
    Da Vinci, Leonardo. “Dissection of the Principal Organs of a Woman.” 1510. Online image.
    The Life, Art, Inventions and Anatomical Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. 6 Dec. 2009.
    Durant, Will. The Renaissance: The Story of Civilizations.
    New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1953.
    Dürer, Albrecht. “Christ Among the Doctors.” 1519. Online image.
    Albrecht Dürer. 5 Dec. 2009. <>.
    Heise, Jennifer A. Women and Medicine in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
    6 Dec. 2009 <>.
    Hill, Wendy. “Renaissance Girl.” 6 Oct. 2008. Online image.
    Fineart America. 6 Dec. 2009. <
  • 20. Citations
    Matthews, Rupert. Art and Civilization: The Renaissance.
    New York, NY: Peter Bedrick Books, 2000.
    Rösslin, Eucharius. “Birthing Chair.” 1513. Online image.
    Women and Medicine in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 6 Dec. 2009.
    Rösslin, Eucharius. “Childbirth.” 1513. Online image.
    Women and Medicine in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 6 Dec. 2009.
    Toggenburg Bible. “Black Death.” 1411. Online image.
    Road to the Isle XIII: 1349: We’re Not Dead Yet. 6 Dec. 2009. < >.
    Unknown artist. “A Physician Visiting the Sick in a Hospital.” 1682. Online image.
    Hospitals. 7 Dec. 2009.
    Unknown artist. “Surgery Being Preformed on the Eye.” No date. Online image.
    Medicine Through Time. 6 Dec. 2009.
    World Almanac Education Group. The History Channel.
    6 Dec. 2009 <>.
    Yousif, Jason. The Progress of Ancient Medicine.
    6 Dec. 2009 <>.