History of Medicine

The history of medicine is almost as ancient as written records exist. Curiosity about the mysterious and fascinating workings of the human body as well as an endless fighting against disease have been always present whenever there are human beings. Even when societies had the most primitive notions about the inner composition and the workings of the human body, there were already theories and procedures for the preservation of health and the mitigation of diseases.

The documents presented here provide an overall view of the many different facets that medical knowledge and medical activities took along the ages in Europe. Medicine and, more broadly, medical activities, have a very rich history in Europe, not only in what relates to scientific discoveries, but also in the improvement of medical care to the populations and the general health conditions in society.

Some documents in this exhibition are related to remarkable medical discoveries; others have to do with the implementation of measures of public heatlh and the establishment of public health systems; some documents have to do with general hygiene in societies; others are related to the production of medicines and pharmaceutical products; still others are connected to the medical and the social aspects of fighting plagues and other threats to collective health. In their variety these documents reflect essentially two aspects: on the one hand the multitude of tasks and the complexity of the efforts to better understand the human body; on the other hand the efforts to improve the health conditions of the populations in Europe. These two aspects were never independent, of course, and they have historically progressed side by side. There is a long history in Europe of the planning and setting up of measures to protect public health.

Medicine has also been a field of spectacular scientific progress and constant development. Some medical doctors and other researchers working in themes related to the medical sciences are among the most celebrated scientists in Europe. Some of the documents in this Exhibition are related to discoveries that provided great leaps forward in the understanding of the body and the improving of medical treatments. Whether in the discovery and study of brain cells, the identification of pathogenic agents, or the invention of revolutionary new imaging techniques, European scientists have made along the centuries outstanding contributions to the progress of medicine