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History of medicine

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Learning from the past

Primitive humans called upon supernatural spirits to heal their sick while modern medicine relies on science. DNA and research has replaced spirits and shaman.

Looking at the history of medicine shows how ideas have developed over the centuries. Medieval barbers were the forerunners of today's skilled surgeons and the ancient Greeks set the foundations for modern diagnostic techniques. Leonardo da Vinci was amongst the first to dissect the human body to learn how it works. Medical students still learn about anatomy in the same way.

Today's medicine has evolved over thousands of years as each generation built on the knowledge of earlier times. This will continue to happen. Our understanding of the human genome will lead to fresh treatments and new discoveries may open the door to unimagined advances in medicine.

You can use the interactive timeline or the links below to look at the following periods of time: