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Medicine and Health Facts

"Wherever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm." —Hippocrates

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While the use of antibiotics did not begin until the 20th century, early folk medicine included the use of mouldy foods or soil for infections. In ancient Egypt, for example, infections were treated with mouldy bread.

View more facts about: Ancient Egypt
[Hippocrates]
Hippocrates.

Hippocrates did not introduce the Hippocratic Oath; it was created after his death. Due to Hippocrates' legendary status, the oath was attributed to him to lend more weight to it. (source)

[Galen]
The physician Galen.

Seven of the twelve major nerves in the head—the cranial nerves—were discovered by the Greek physician Galen in the second century A.D. However, because of Galen's talent in medicine, for 1,400 years after his death, physiological research and neurological knowledge remained fairly static.

[Hammurabi]
Hammurabi.

In the code of laws of Hammurabi (1792–1750 B.C.), which is one of the first law codes in history and among the greatest ancient codes, the penalty for medical malpractice was for the doctor's hands to be cut off. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient People | Laws and Customs

According to Herodotus, the Babylonians did not have many doctors; the treatment of illness was left to the general public. An individual who was sick would be placed in the city square. All passersby were required to inquire about the ailment and, if they had suffered from the same ailment, or had seen it treated, give advice on how to become cured.

Plastic surgery first took place in India around 600 B.C. It was first used to reconstruct the noses of criminals, which had been amputated as punishment, using skin from the forehead. (source)

View more facts about: India

The Chinese physician Hua T'o, born sometime between 140 and 150 A.D., was the first doctor known to perform surgery under general anaesthetic. A mixture of hemp and strong wine called ma fei san was used to render his patients unconscious. Before the communist revolution, his birth was commemorated by a national holiday.

View more facts about: China | Holidays and Observances

The plague that swept through much of the civilized world in 542–543 A.D. was said by Procopius (who, admittedly, wasn't always a reliable witness) to have killed up to 10,000 people daily in Constantinople alone at its height. One of those who caught the plague was Emperor Justinian, but he recovered. (source)

View more facts about: Roman Empire

Some Mayan medical knowledge may be superior to that of conventional western medicine. For example, the Mayan herb used to treat athlete's foot can kill the bacteria completely, while the modern medicine reduces the discomfort and reduces the bacteria count.

View more facts about: Pre-Columbian America

Sir Walter Scott had the first recorded case of polio, when he was eighteen months old, in 1773.

View more facts about: Firsts

The first successful corneal transplant was performed as early as 1835 by a British army surgeon in India whose pet antelope, who had only one eye, had a badly scarred cornea. He removed a cornea from a recently killed antelope and transplanted it into his pet's eye. The operation was a success, and the pet was able to see. (source)

View more facts about: Animals | India
[Marie Curie]
Marie Curie.

Marie Curie, co-discoverer of radium, was the first person known to have died of radiation poisoning. Until Curie's death it was not known that radiation was dangerous.

View more facts about: Firsts

It was not until the 1910s when, on average, one's life expectancy would increase by getting medical treatment for an ailment than by not doing so.

King Gustavus III (1746–1792) of Sweden was convinced that coffee was toxic. In an attempt to prove it, he performed an unusual experiment. The experiment's subjects were two condemned prisoners, one of whom was given only coffee to drink, the other only tea. Two physicians monitored the two men. Gustavus believed that the coffee drinker would shortly die of acute poisoning, but the first person to die was one of the doctors, followed shortly by the other doctor. Then Gustavus was assassinated. Both of the prisoners survived for several years longer, with the tea drinker dying first. (source)

King George V of England died on January 26, 1936, at 11:55 P.M. It was revealed in 1986 that the King's doctor, Lord Dawson, had given him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine. Dawson wanted the King to die before midnight so that his death could be announced in the morning Times instead of in a less prestigious afternoon paper.

View more facts about: Royalty

More antibiotics are used on animals than on humans.

The word "abracadabra" originated in Roman times as part of a prayer to the god Abraxas, found in a medical work by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus around 250 A.D. Sammonicus is also known for writing his medical works in verse.

View more facts about: English Words

In humans, the gene for six fingers is dominant over the gene for five fingers.

In 1743, Dr. John Cohausen, in his book Hermippus Redivivus, "proved" that one could live to the age of 115 by inhaling the breath of young girls. He gave the following prescription: Take one pound of gum olibani, two ounces of styrae, myrrh, and several other herbs, mix, burn and inhale while at the same time imbibing the exhalations of the nearest little girl. (source)

A wheezing man covered in smelly brown dust came to the emergency room of Tuscaloosa Hospital in Alabama in 1975. He mentioned to physicians that he worked at the manufacturing plant for Ulcer RX, an ulcer medicine, in nearby Browns. The plant turned out to be an unventilated concrete blockhouse where he worked filling phials with powdered manure from large sacks. The Alabama attorney general ordered the operation shut down. (source)

In the mid-1960s, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. Similar technology is now used by doctors and hospitals on images of organs in the human body. (source)

View more facts about: Technology and Inventions

For every 100,000 girls, 223 will become doctors and 17,475 will become nurses.

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

Heart attacks generally do not kill people. It is the complications from heart attacks, such as scarring of the heart tissues, that kill people. (source)

View more facts about: Misconceptions

One's lifetime risk of dying due to living with a smoker is 1 in 4,200. (source)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

In the human body, blood that is travelling through veins back to the heart and lungs is coloured blue, not red. However, blood always appears red when the skin is cut because, upon contact with the oxygen-rich atmosphere, it turns red. (source)

A Canadian neurologist ran an electroencephalogram (EEG) test on lime Jell-O in 1976 and found the dessert to have brain waves, which are often accepted as an indicator of life. He ran the experiment in the intensive care unit of McMaster University Hospital, in Hamilton, Ontario, and explained the EEG reading as being caused by stray electrical impulses from nearby surgical equipment, paging systems, and the like. (source)

Patients of a doctor in Stromness in the Orkney Islands with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are surprised when the prescription they receive is for tubs of herring, which the doctor keeps in his fridge in his surgery. He dispenses these as an alternative to drugs such as beta blockers and cholesterol reducing tablets. The Orkney Health Board backs the oily fish prescription.

The oldest known repair surgery dates back to 49 B.C., when the Hindu surgeon Susruta carried out an operation to treat intestinal perforations and obstructions by joining together the damaged parts of the intestine after cutting into the abdomen. He sutured the segments by placing the freshly-cut heads of giant black ants on the edges of the opposing sections, demonstrating knowledge of the antiseptic properties of the formic acid that is secreted by the ant heads. (source)

View more facts about: India

Electrical shocks given by torpedo fish were used for medicinal purposes by the ancient Greeks and Romans. From the fifth century B.C. the Greeks applied torpedo fish on the thorax of sick people in order to stimulate their vital reflexes, and the Roman doctor Scribonius Largus mentioned the efficacy of the fish's shocks in treating chronic diseases. (source)

Nowadays politically neutral doctors such as those of the Red Cross are well-known. The first politically neutral doctors appeared during the third Crusade. After Saladin's victory in 1187, he stipulated that the doctors on the battlefield would come to the aid of all wounded, regardless of whether they were Muslim or Christian. He also organised doctors to visit the camps of prisoners and allowed foreign doctors, such as Richard the Lion-Hearted's doctor, Ranulphe Besace, to visit prisoners. (source)

View more facts about: Crusades
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