Medical history is another purpose for this blog and so I will include a few items here for consideration. The earliest medical texts are scrolls found in Egypt.
The Edwin Smith papyrus is considered the oldest. It contains accounts of the treatment of wounds and is considered the “surgical papyrus”.
The other great Egyptian medical papyrus is the Ebers papyrus which is considered the “medical papyrus.” It contains much magical material such as incantations and it is enormous, comprising 110 scrolls. The page shown is a section on treatment of cancer.
The Egyptians must have learned anatomy from their practice of embalming the dead. The body was emptied of its organs which were preserved in a pot or vase. We know that tuberculosus existed in Egypt because the lesions of Pott’s Disease of the spine have been found. Likewise, smallpox existed because the mummy of a Pharaoh had lesions typical of smallpox on his face. Tuberculosus is a disease associated with agriculture as it has reservoirs in the animals typical of farming, such as cattle and elephants. Smallpox requires large populations and so is a disease of civilization. Since it infects everyone exposed, and since all infected either die or become immune, it requires large populations to sustain itself. It was eradicated in the last century. Tuberculosus is becoming more of a problem as it acquires resistence to the antibiotics typically used and it has animal reservoirs beyond the reach of epidemiologists. Smallpox had no animal host. There were pox viruses of animals, one of which led to a preventive innoculation, but they did not affect man or the infection was quite benign. The observation by Jenner that coxpox conferred immunity, was the origin of vaccination and control of the disease.