The earliest type of medicine in most cultures was the use of empirical natural resources like plants (herbalism, animal parts and minerals. In all societies, even in Western ones, there were also religious, ritual and magical resources. In aboriginal societies, there is a large scope of medical systems related to religious thinking, cultural experience, and natural resources. The religious ones more known are : animism (the notion of inanimate objects having spirits); spiritualism (here meaning an appeal to gods or communion with ancestor spirits); shamanism (the vesting of an individual with mystic powers); and divination (the supposed obtaining of truth by magic means). The field of medical anthropology studies the various medical systems and their interaction with society.
The practice of medicine developed gradually in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, China, Greece, Persia, the Islamic world, medieval Europe, and elsewhere. Medicine as it is now practiced largely developed during the Middle Ages and early modern period in Persia (Rhazes and Avicenna), Spain (Abulcasis and Avenzoar), Syria/Egypt (Ibn al-Nafis, 13th century), England (William Harvey, 17th century), Germany (Rudolf Virchow, 19th century) and France (Jean-Martin Charcot, Claude Bernard and others). The new “scientific” or “experimental” medicine (where results are testable and repeatable) replaced early Western traditions of medicine, based on herbalism, the Greek “four humours” and other pre-modern theories.
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