Western medicine is credited to the ancient Greeks, specifically Hippocrates, who is dubbed the father of Western medicine. Hippocrates and Roman physician Galen had a profound influence on Western medicine. Western health and medicine evolved from the idea that black magic caused illness to a science-based knowledge of health and modern medical practices.

The Roman physician Dioscorides published the first medical paper, De Materia Medica, a treatise widely used among European doctors for about 1,500 years. Galen, one of the influential early doctors, believed that diseases were caused by imbalances in the body’s black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. His beliefs would dominate Western health and medicine until the mid-19th century.


  1. The Greeks and Romans

The late 19th century and 20th century brought about important medical advancements, including the invention of effective antibiotics and the widespread use of vaccines. It was also during this era that principles of hygiene embraced by the Romans were practiced.

Many people thought that illness resulted from immoral behavior or black magic until the advent of Greek medical philosophy. The Romans and Greeks advanced the idea that disease was caused by external factors. Hippocrates is credited with describing and naming a number of herbal remedies and illnesses. On the other hand, Galen is known for being one of the first surgeons and for concocting some of the first pharmaceuticals.


  1. Good hygiene, health, and the fall of the Roman Empire

Historians believe that the Romans acknowledged the link between good hygiene to health, and it was for this reason that they installed plumbing infrastructure and put up public baths throughout the kingdom. The Romans may have also set up some of the first hospitals around Europe.

With the Roman Empire’s fall, however, the practice of medicine is thought to have fallen to a huge degree under the command of the Catholic Church. Catholic physicians are believed to have relied on faith healing and prayer. The Crusades are believed to have re-introduced Romanesque medical ideas to Europe. Apothecaries and medical universities flourished on the continent during the 13th and 14th centuries. It is also concluded that the Europeans made a full return to the ideas of Hippocrates and Galen during the era of the Renaissance.


  1.  World’s first vaccine

The late 18th century has ushered in further investments and developments in Western medicine. At the end of the century, Edward Jenner, an English physician, developed the first-ever vaccine that protected against smallpox. During this time, however, Galen’s practices of enemas, bloodletting, and administering drugs to induce sweating or vomiting have become increasingly popular, though it’s now suspected that these techniques were very ineffective and may have killed numerous patients.

The late 19th century saw a reduction in these practices as several ideas still considered to be accurate and effective by medical practitioners today were introduced. Louis Pasteur proved his theory and established evidence that germs cause disease. Personal hygiene and health began to improve during this era, primarily encouraged and influenced by government sanitation projects. The extensive use of vaccines to prevent diseases such as the plague and Diptheria started. Nursing became an accredited medical profession, and many doctors began espousing the health virtues of exercise, fresh air, a healthy diet, and sunlight.


  1. The 20thcentury

The 20th century saw the invention of safe and effective pain relievers, methods for blood transfusion, penicillin, as well as advances in medical equipment. It was also during this century when vaccines for tuberculosis and tetanus were developed. Insulin was also used to treat diabetes beginning in the early 1920s. Today, physicians have a wide range of treatments, investments, and medical equipment at their disposal, allowing for a historically unrivaled standard of medical care.