Outlines of Greek and Roman Medicine by James Elliott

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James Elliott
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Book review

I was stimulated to write these Outlines of Greek and Roman Medicine by a recent sojourn in the south-eastern part of Europe. The name of the book defines, to some extent, its limitations, for my desire has been to give merely a general outline of the most important stages in the advancement of the healing art in the two Empires to which modern civilization is most deeply indebted. There are a few great works on the history of medicine by continental writers, such, for instance, as those by the German writers, Baas, Sprengel, and Puschmann, but, generally speaking, the subject has been much neglected. I cherish the hope that this little work may appeal to doctors, to medical students, and to those of the public who are interested in a narration of the progress of knowledge, and who realize that the investigation of the body in health and disease has been one of the most important features of human endeavour. The medical profession deserves censure for neglect of its own history, and pity 'tis that so many practitioners know nothing of the story of their art. For this reason many reputed discoveries are only re-discoveries; as Bacon wrote: "Medicine is a science which hath been, as we have said, more professed than laboured, and yet more laboured than advanced; the labour having been, in my judgment, rather in circle than in progression. For I find much iteration, and small progression." Of late years, however, the History of Medicine has been coming into its kingdom. Universities are establishing courses of lectures on the subject, and the Royal Society of Medicine recently instituted a historical section. The material I have used in this book has been gathered from many sources, and, as far as possible, references have been given, but I have sought for, and taken, information wherever it could best be found. As Montaigne wrote: "I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that ties them together."


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