Arabs had an insight into chemistry, and, though they pursued their researches in the interests of alchemy and in the hope of finding the "elixir of life" or means of transmuting metals, they made, nevertheless, valuable chemical discoveries and in this way aided the art of pharmacy.
We therefore enter the sixteenth century of the christian era with little or nothing added during 2,000 years to Hippocrates's methods of exact observation in clinical medicine and surgery, with no decisive contribution to anatomy or experimental physiology for 1,300 years and with the beginnings of chemistry as applied to medicine and pharmacy removed by 600 years.
But despite this absence of real progress, a thin thread of learning and practise connected the medicine of Galen with the dawn of science in the middle ages. This is evident in the story of medicine in the monasteries and in the schools at Salerno and Montpellier in the twelfth century, but it is a medicine of the Roman period tinctured with magic and superstition and with no advance in theory or practise and certainly no increase in science.
The medicine associated with the revival of learning had its beginnings in the translation of Greek treatises on medicine through the Arabic; and in the early universities, especially those of Padua and Bologna and this revival of the exact methods of Hippocrates and Galen, gave to medicine a basis more substantial than the traditions of monastic medicine which had been perpetuated through ten centuries, and upon which were founded those widely scattered, but epoch-making advances which medicine reckons as its share in the general revival of literature, art and the sciences. With the name of Luther, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, Copernicus, Columbus and Galileo we place those of Vesalius, Paré and Harvey. These names represent the period of the Renaissance, to which we look back with pride and satisfaction, but seldom with a thought of the conditions of home and community life. We are concerned usually with its deeds and achievements rather than with its social and hygiene conditions. But it is to the latter that I wish here briefly to direct attention.