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History of Medicine

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Invention of Medicine

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The invention of medicine is undoubtedly considered the most precious and beneficial in human civilization. The history of medicine shows a remarkable journey of how we humans have approached different illnesses and diseases from the early periods till date. Some of the early medicine traditions come from Babylon, China, Egypt, and India. Though, there isn’t much record of when and how plants were used as a healing agent. But, from ancient drawings discovered worldwide, it is believed that early humans used medicinal plants as healing agents. 

Here, we will study the history of medicine, the History of doctors, and the first medicine to be invented.


Prehistoric Medicine

Early humans were unaware of the various diseases and their medications. Early humans used the trial and error method to discover the medicinal benefits of plants and herbs. They considered common cold and constipation as a part of human existence and treated it with various herbs. The unidentified diseases were believed to be supernatural or cast of spells. There’s a common belief that in the world, the first doctors were sorcerers and magicians.

Magic and religious prayers played an essential role in prehistoric medicine. In ancient Mesopotamia, the people were not able to distinguish between magic and medicine. And if a person suffering from illness came to a doctor, the doctors would prescribe medicinal treatment and magical words to be recited. In the ancient era, the Babylonians, along with Egyptians, implemented diagnosis, physical examinations, and treatments. Early Egyptians were considered the healthiest with a notable healthcare system.

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Traditional Medicine in India, China, and Japan

The Indian civilization was well developed in medicine with herbal treatments. The Atharvaveda, which belongs to the early iron age, throws light on the fact that early Indians used medications and ailments from herbs and other medicinal plants. 

The period from 800 BCE till 1000 BCE is considered the golden age of medicine in India with the introduction of medical treaties by Chakra, a physician, and Sushruta, a surgeon of ancient India. The knowledge of anatomy in ancient India was minimal as the Hindus were not allowed to cut dead bodies. The Indian physicians used all five senses in the diagnosis of diseases. The Indians were known to have identified around 700-800 medicinal plants in ancient times. They were also known for using animal parts for remedies.

On the other hand, Chinese medicine was of great importance in history. The Chinese considered the human body to be made up of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. As the Chinese’s religious beliefs forbade them from tearing the dead bodies, therefore their anatomy knowledge was based on assumptions. According to the ancient Chinese Anatomy, The body contained five organs: heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidney, and the blood vessels contained blood and air.

Japanese medicine, on the other hand, is considered interesting for its slow start and rapid modernization. Japanese medicine took a turn in 608 CE when few Japanese physicians were sent to China for study. The Chinese have a significant influence on the Japanese medical system. 

The oldest Japanese medical work dates back to 983 CE, which Tamba Yasuyori wrote. In his works, he has discussed different kinds of diseases and their treatment. These diseases and treatments are classified according to body parts.  

Speaking of ancient medicine, you must have thought of the world’s first doctor. The first doctor in the world was from the Egyptian civilization. According to the medical information given in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which dates back to 3000 BC, Imhotep is credited with being the first doctor in the world. 

Now you may even ask who discovered medicine or who invented medicine? The answer to this is Hippocrates. Yes, Hippocrates is credited with being the man who invented medicine. He was a Greek physician who wrote the Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of seventy medical works. He is also accredited with the invention of the Hippocratic Oath for physicians.

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Modern Medicine

The Renaissance brought about a significant change in the history of medicine. The period between the 16th and 18th centuries was remarkable for medicine. This period saw a rapid increase in experimental investigations and advanced anatomy. 

Even the first medicine was discovered during this period. The first modern medicine was developed in 1804 by Friedrich Serturner, who was a german scientist. He invented morphine which served as a painkiller in the 18th century. Later in this period, quinine and paracetamol were also invented. 

The practice of medicine took a rapid turn with physicians being more systematic in the diagnosis of diseases. The development and use of antiseptic and anaesthesia also increased in operations. Effective cures to many fatal diseases were discovered during this era. Improvement in public health was given utmost importance, and many hospitals were developed. 

The mid 18th century and early 19th century was the period when medicine was heavily professionalized. With the advancement in medicine, new career options opened up for women as well. They were appointed as nurses and physicians.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1: What do You Mean by Medicine? Who Discovered Medicine?

Answer: Medicine can be defined as the art and practice of the diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, and treatment of different kinds of diseases and injuries. It encompasses the development and practice of healthcare services required for the prevention of public health. Sushruta first developed the concept of diagnosis and prognosis. It is believed that Hippocrates was the person who discovered medicine. He has even written the Hippocratic Corpus, which is a collection of around seventy medical works. According to many historians, Hippocrates is considered the father of modern medicine. The oath that modern-day physicians take before starting their medical career is even said to have been written by Hippocrates.

Q2: Who is the First Doctor in the World? Name the First Modern Medicine to Be Discovered.

Answer: The world’s first doctors were sorcerers and magicians. As people knew less about fatal diseases, they considered them as a cast of spells or magic. So they went to sorcerers to treat them with various charms and prayers. According to the information that was provided by the Egyptian script, Edwin Smith Papyrus, the person named Imhotep, was the world first doctor. 


The first modern medicine was morphine which was developed by a German scientist named Friedrich Serturner. He developed the drug by extracting the main active ingredient from opium. Doctors extensively used morphine for treating severe pain. Later in the late 1800s, medicines like quinine and paracetamol were also invented.