Medicine and Disease

Ancient Medicine

Were there hospitals before the Middle Ages?

Public hospitals emerged during the Middles Ages (500–1350), as Christianity spread and religious orders set up the facilities to serve the poor. Still, most people received a doctor’s care in the privacy of their own homes. The concept of a public health care facility originated in India as early as the third century B.C. when Buddhists established hospital-like installations.

The Middle Ages saw the establishment of facilities more closely resembling modern hospital including Paris’s Hotel Dieu (founded in the seventh century); today it is the oldest hospital still in operation. In 970 a hospital in Baghdad (in present-day Iraq) divided physicians into the equivalent of modern-day interns and externs. Its pharmacy disseminated drugs (as well as spices deemed to have medicinal value) from all over the known world.


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