Views & Reviews Review of the week

Celebrating the medical past, again

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 15 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:587
  1. Balaji Ravichandran, editor, studentBMJ (

    Do we need another 400 minute radio series on the history of medicine, excellent though it is, asks Balaji Ravichandran

    The history of medicine, it seems, must always be progressive and be celebrated. Recently, though, it has become fashionable to write accusatory histories—consider, for example, Bad Medicine by David Wootton (review BMJ 2006;333:606 doi: 10.1136/bmj.333.7568.606). Yet the common thread of progressivism binds them all, and Andrew Cunningham's radio series is another case in point.

    Modern medicine, the argument usually goes, is scientific. For most of human history, it wasn't: from the days of Hippocrates and Galen, the patient centred approach to medicine was more of an art than a science, and this viewpoint dominated medical thinking till the late 18th century. But in the aftermath of the French Revolution scientific discoveries, particularly microbiological ones, were slowly yet systematically adopted by practitioners of Western medicine. Medicine, therefore, has moved from strength to strength, and is likely to move on …

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