Pioneers of Medicine Throughout the Ages

By Raiyyan Ahmed

Modern medicine can be attributed to the technological advancements, experimentation and research made centuries ago; in this article, I will be exploring just a few of the pioneers behind the formation of modern medicine as it is today.

Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (854 AD-925 AD)

The idea of a control group can be accredited to an esteemed Persian doctor, Al-Razi, recognised for his meticulous scientific approach to medicine. When researching the causes and available treatments of meningitis, he introduced a control group of whom treatment was not administered. Now thought of as one of the fundamentals of research, control groups eliminate the possibility of bias. 

Ibn Sina (980 AD-1037)

Ibn Sina, more commonly known as Avicenna, was a distinguished doctor and philosopher who sprung to prominence during the *Islamic Golden Age; he is often deemed as one of the founding fathers of medicine because of his medical encyclopaedia ‘The Canon of Medicine’ once used as the standard medical textbook in both Islamic and European universities until the 18th century. Its publication led to a more holistic approach to medicine, accounting for the use of psychological, physical and dietary treatments. 

  *The Islamic Golden Age was a period between the 9th and 14th centuries during which a plethora of medical, scientific, and philosophical advancements were made.

John Snow (1813-1858)

Snow is often regarded as the father of epidemiology, which refers to the study of distribution of disease within a population; this is because of his groundbreaking investigations into cholera epidemics within England – these investigations entailed mapping cases and identifying clusters. Snow’s work is still used today to reduce the transmission of disease, this is demonstrated through the current ‘track and trace’ system used in the UK to identify COVID-19 cases. 

Snow’s Cholera map of Soho

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

 In 1849, Blackwell become the first woman in America to graduate with a medical degree after being told by her dying friend that her situation would have been better had she been treated by a female doctor. After her graduation, Blackwell continued to support medical education for women, helping start the careers of many others. Through the launch of The New York Infirmary for Women and Children she offered practical solutions in the form of training to women rejected from internships at other establishments but still wished to develop their skills as doctors. She also authored numerous books regarding the issue of women in medicine, paving the way for future female doctors.   

“It’s not easy to be a pioneer- but, oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.” – Elizabeth Blackwell

To conclude, medicine is a rapidly expanding field, in which development is fundamental in order to reduce inequality of all forms within society; this has been demonstrated by the contributions of the doctors and scientists listed above.