Western medicine traces its roots back to ancient Greece, won this page Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine, made significant contributions. Alongside him, Roman physician Galen also played a crucial role in shaping Western health and medicine. Over time, the understanding of medicine evolved from attributing illnesses to black magic to embracing science-based knowledge and modern medical practices.


During the Roman era, physician Dioscorides published the first medical paper, De Materia Medica, which remained influential among European doctors for centuries. Galen’s theories regarding imbalances in the body’s black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood dominated Western health and medicine until the mid-19th century. Meanwhile, the Romans and Greeks introduced the concept that diseases were caused by external factors, challenging the prevailing belief that illness resulted from immoral behavior or black magic. Hippocrates contributed to this understanding by describing herbal remedies and naming various illnesses, while Galen made notable advancements as a surgeon and pharmaceutical developer.


The Romans recognized the importance of good hygiene for maintaining health, evidenced by their establishment of plumbing infrastructure and public baths throughout their empire. They may have also set up early hospitals in Europe. However, with the decline of the Roman Empire, the practice of medicine was largely influenced by the Catholic Church, which relied on faith healing and prayer. It was during the Crusades that Romanesque medical ideas were reintroduced to Europe, leading to the flourishing of apothecaries and medical universities in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Renaissance marked a resurgence of the ideas put forth by Hippocrates and Galen.


In the late 18th century, further advancements in Western medicine emerged. Edward Jenner, an English physician, developed the first-ever vaccine against smallpox, a groundbreaking achievement. However, some of Galen’s practices, such as enemas, bloodletting, and the administration of drugs to induce sweating or vomiting, gained popularity despite their ineffectiveness and potential harm to patients. The late 19th century witnessed a decline in such practices as new accurate and effective medical concepts were introduced. Louis Pasteur demonstrated the germ theory, establishing the link between germs and disease. Government sanitation projects and the widespread use of vaccines led to improvements in personal hygiene and health. Nursing became a recognized medical profession, and doctors began advocating for exercise, fresh air, a healthy diet, and sunlight.


The 20th century brought remarkable advancements in Western medicine. Safe and effective pain relievers, blood transfusion methods, penicillin, and medical equipment revolutionized medical care. Vaccines for diseases like tuberculosis and tetanus were developed, and insulin became a crucial treatment for diabetes. Today, physicians have access to a wide range of treatments, investments, and state-of-the-art medical equipment, enabling them to provide an unprecedented standard of medical care.