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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 145-147

A brief introduction of Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》 History of Medicine)

Department of Exhibition and Publicity, Shanghai TCM Museum, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Date of Web Publication24-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Lei Xu
Department of Exhibition and Publicity, Shanghai TCM Museum, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_33_19

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The book Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》 History of Medicine) was written and edited by Cecilia Mettler and Fred Mettler couple, published in 1947. The book is about the literature research of systematic introduction to the history of medical development worldwide. The book provides a detailed description of the development of various medical disciplines and subjects through various documents and the authors and publication dates. Especially, Prof. Mettler has introduced the Chinese Yin and Yang (阴阳) and the five element theory (五行学说) and Shen Nung's Materia Medica (神农本草) in this book.

Keywords: Medical subjects, original sources of medicine, Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》》 History of Medicine)

How to cite this article:
Xu L. A brief introduction of Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》 History of Medicine). Chin Med Cult 2019;2:145-7

How to cite this URL:
Xu L. A brief introduction of Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》 History of Medicine). Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Feb 28];2:145-7. Available from: http://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2019/2/3/145/267704

  Preface Top

To complete this article, we refer to the book History of Medicine in the United States: With a Supplemental Chapter on the Discovery of Anesthesia (《美国医学史: 补充章节麻醉的发现》)[1] by Packard and Journal Medieval Panorama: The English Scene from Conquest to Reformation-1955 (《期刊中世纪全景-1955》)[2] by Coulton.

The author of this book Dr. Cecilia Mettler [Figure 1] indicated that her book is intended for physician teachers of medical history and for medical students interested in an introduction to the field of medical history as a whole and from a systematic standpoint. Dr. Cecilia Mettler had organized the material so asto meet the particular needs of specialists who are interested in a single field and medical authors who are concerned witha specific topic.
Figure 1: Image of author of History of Medicine – Cecilia Mettler

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An important aim of this book is to supply the student with an introduction to the principles underlying the development of the fields embraced in the medical curriculum and an opportunity to become familiar with those sages who have contributed to the progress of medical science.

With a view to teaching medical history on a correlative basis, to study the history of each subject at approximately the same time when the student is receiving instruction in that particular field, the text of this book is divided into chapters covering the history of particular subjects studied in the medical curriculum. This division makes it possible for the text to be used in connection with common arrangements of subjects in the medical course. Therefore, this book is indeed a convenient and practical supplementary teaching material for both the medical history teacher and student.

The book Yi Xue Shi (《医学史》 History of Medicine) [Figure 2] was under preparation for over 9 years, during which period of time almost all Dr. Cecilia Mettler's time and attention were devoted to its production. Literally, thousands of reference were examined in the original, and the work had proven to have a useful function for the medical bibliographer and librarian quite apart from its purpose as a historical text. She indefatigably tracked down original sources, did her own translations, and compared these with previously constructed versions. Wherever nothing was to be gained by publishing her own translation, she invariably chose the earliest available good one and carefully accredited it to its source. As Packard, the author of History of Medicine in the United States, has indicated in the foreword of this book, the book presents many original features, most especially important of which are the full translation from from the original source introducing the most important works of the Greek, Latin, and Arabic authors. While the standard medical histories contain references to works done by these ancient fathers of medicine, they are usually simply brief statements and not translations of the original writing of the author. Dr. C. Mettler carried on this method down to modern times, and the value of her word is thereby greatly increased. It shows not only her profound knowledge of the originals from which she quotes but also the insight with which she picked out the most essential features of their labor.
Figure 2: Inside cover of History of Medicine

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The chapter directory of this book is a detailed medical classification outline; Chapter 1 Anatomy and Physiology [Figure 3], to the end of the Middle Age; Chapter 2 Anatomy in the Modern Period [Figure 4]; Chapter 3 Physiology in the Modern Time; Chapter 4 Pharmacology [Figure 5]; Chapter 5 Pathology and Bacteriology; Chapter 6 Physical Diagnosis; Chapter 7 Medicine; Chapter 8 Neurology and Psychiatry; Chapter 9 Venereology; Chapter 10 Dermatology; Chapter 11 Pediatrics; Chapter 12 Surgery; Chapter 13 Obstetrics and Gynecology; Chapter 14 Ophthalmology; and Chapter 15 Otology and Rhinolaryngology. The time segmentation by the author under each subject is roughly the same: Egyptian time; Greek Period; Rome time; Medieval Age; Arabic medical achievement; Byzantine Time; Sixteenth Century; Seventeenth Century; Eighteenth Century, and Nineteenth Century.
Figure 3: Figure of Chapter 1

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Figure 4: Figure of Chapter 2

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Figure 5: Figure of Chapter 4

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In Chapter 7 Medicine, there is a section about Medicine in China; the author raised the view that there is on extremely complicated system of Medicine in China and the Chinese possesses remedial therapies: moxibustion andacupuncture. The authorial description is as follows: The body, according to ancient Chinese writers, was composed of two primitive forces, the male Yang and the female Yin, and five elements (五行); each represented by a special organ (heart: fire; liver: wood; spleen: earth; lung: metal; kidney: water). Diseases were attributed to an imbalance or disturbance in the primitive forces of elements and first manifested itself in the blood or the vital air. About the moxibustion and acupuncture, the author described them as follows: of all the early groups, the Chinese possessed the most extensive pharmacopeia, and while they employed these remedies without stint, they did not underestimate the value of dietary regulation. In addition to this type of therapy, the Chinese used two other remedial measures: moxibustion and acupuncture. Both methods were employed with the idea of making channels or paths for the withdrawal of pathologic influences.

Moreover, in Chapter 4 Pharmacology, there is a description about The Chinese Pharmacology. The Emperor Shen Nung (神农 2735BC) is usually referred to by legend as the “Father of Chinese Materia Medica” and was supposedly the author of an herbal which is now represented by a 40-volume work called the “Pen Tsao (本草).” There are 265 drugs mentioned in the “Pen Tsao,” of which 240 are vegetable substances. The Chinese attached unusual significance to the color and shape of plants and believed in the doctrine of signatures.

There are a lot of mentions in the book with reference to Greek medicine. Dr. Cecilia Mettler had expressed her admiration to Hippocrates (希波克拉底) [Figure 6]; in the Chapter 6 Physical Diagnosis and many other chapters. Without Hippocrates laying the foundation for diagnostics, there would have been no future medical development. Moreover, in many chapters, Dr. Cecilia Mettlerhad described her receiving influence of professional fields from Galen (盖伦) [Figure 7]. Her emphasis is placed on Galen's influence on the entire medieval medicine due to Galen's pioneering experience in anatomy.
Figure 6: Image of Hippocrates

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Figure 7: Image of Galen

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Packard FR. History of Medicine in the United States: With a Supplemental Chapter on the Discovery of Anesthesia. Montana: Kessinger Publishing; 2010. p. 9.  Back to cited text no. 1
Coulton GG. Journal Medieval Panorama: The English Scene from Conquest to Reformation. London Thames: Hudson; 1955.p. 103.  Back to cited text no. 2


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]


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