5 Surprising Facts About the History of Medicine

The world of medicine is a fascinating one and it’s constantly improving. It wasn’t that long ago that we thought that leeches would cure what ailed us and that smoking was good for our health. Because of this, there are a lot of weird and surprising facts about the world of medicine. Let’s take a look at some of those shocking stats which range from the hospitals we use to the fields we study, and even some soft drink science.

The First Physician

Many people know the name Imhotep from Ancient Egypt, but may only know that name from “The Mummy” film series. Not only was Imhotep a real person, but he is credited as being the first-ever recognized physician. While the tales of his life weren’t revealed until hundreds of years after his death. Imhotep was a physician on top of being a sculptor, carpenter, priest, and even a magician.

You can add physician to that list, though, as Imhotep was truly a man of all trades. It’s unclear exactly what his medicinal practices were like, but he was referred to as the God of medicine and healing. Some researchers have said that Imhotep treated a long list of ailments, though, which include appendicitis and gout. We do know that Imhotep performed surgeries, but his success rate is unclear.

Virology Is Not That Old

When we think of viruses, we think of plagues that have haunted humans throughout history, including smallpox, which wiped out millions of people for centuries, including hundreds of thousands per year in the 17th century. With the number of people in human history who have died because of a virus, you’d think that we would have learned about how they work far earlier than the end of the 19th century.

However, it wasn’t until Dmitri Ivanovsky used a filter underneath a microscope to look at a diseased tobacco plant. That was how virology came to be as scientists wanted to study Ivanovsky’s findings even further. What’s even more interesting is that vaccines actually predate virology, so people were aware that diseases could occur, but 

Pepsi Was a Medicine

While the end of the 19th century saw the invention of virology, there were also a ton of medicinal moments which ended up being blunders. Among them was the invention of what we now know as Pepsi, a refreshing cola that we deem to be poor for our health. When it was founded by Caleb Bradham in North Carolina in 1893, though, it was called Brad’s Drink and a cure for stomach ailments.

Bradham sold the drink at his drugstore with the promise of boosting energy and digestion. In fact, the name Pepsi-Cola (which was adopted in 1898, five years after its invention), was in reference to pepsin, an enzyme that promotes digestion. It didn’t take long until we found out that the sugary drink was only for taste, but not until the world was introduced to a delicious beverage.

The Oldest American Hospital is Still Standing

The first hospital on record was established in Baghdad, Iraq in 805 CE. You have to go nearly a millennia into the future to find the first hospital in the United States. Of course, America is a much younger area, and it wasn’t until colonial times that a hospital made its way to the area. That hospital was a two-story brick building in what is now City Hall Park in New York City in 1736 known as Bellevue Hospital.

While most of the hospitals that were built afterward were completely torn down, replaced, or went out of business, that hasn’t been the case for Bellevue. Officially known as NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue these days, Bellevue is still one of the best hospitals in New York City, but in more modern times has the stigma of being for the mentally ill due to a psychiatric ward, but it’s much more than that. The next oldest hospital still running in the United States is 15 years younger than Bellevue.

The History of Alcoholism Treatment

Throughout time, addiction is something that has made people suffer from the highest-ranking nobles to the most common man. Alcoholism is the most common form of addiction in the world, and it has been that way for centuries. Because of this, there have been many different attempts at finding a cure for alcoholism, but we still haven’t found one that’s 100 percent effective.

One of the oldest forms of treatment was the Amanita muscaria mushroom, which is a hallucinogenic that was used as the most common form of treatment for several millenniums. Treatments since then have included opium, lotus flowers, hashish, and even heroin. These days, most treatments come in the form of mental support, but there are some medicines which can help to reduce the symptoms of withdrawals.

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