London Medical Review Recalls Maimonides’ Career in Healing
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London Medical Review Recalls Maimonides’ Career in Healing

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Although it is the usual thing to dismiss the Middle Ages as the “Dark Ages,” it was during the latter half of this period that the foundations of modern medical science was formulated, an article on Moses Maimonides, appearing in General Practice, quarterly review of British and foreign medical research, points out.

“It is surprising to learn of their knowledge of some of the most modern advancements in medicine,” the writer says. “Though they did not use the term ‘asepsis,’ they at least understood some of the principles, for they used wine as an antiseptic in the dressing of wounds and were decided in their opinions to keep the wound clean and free from ointments and other sources of contamination; and at the end of the Middle Ages their knowledge of anesthesia was not inconsiderable.


“So much contumely has been heaped upon the retrogressive influence of the Church that it is good to be able to point to the immense debt science owes to the noble custody which the monasteries undertook — the preserving of the knowledge of the past from the forces {SPAN}o#{/SPAN} destruction.”

“The Church was the one stable instrument in a world of kaleidoscopic change of this time, Hence, the persistence of the great Greek influence, which in medicine was continued until well on in the Renaissance.

“This custodianship of Greek medicine, aided by the great Jewish scholars, who wandered over the face of the civilized world because of persecution and political unrest, was further nurtured by the conquering Arabs, who had now leisure to become interested in philosophy and science.

“For Arabian medicine has little, if any, original thought, but it is very largely a compilation from the best parts of Hippocrates and Galen.”


It is difficult to realize how much the spread of knowledge during the early Christian centuries is owed to the genius and devotion to medicine of the great, Jewish physicians and scholars, for at all times the Jews have been remarkable for their knowledge of medicine and at no time was this more prominent than during the Middle Ages, the article says. They taught the Arabs in the East and Moors in Spain. Not the least of these great teachers and philosophers was Maimonides.

“At the age of fifty, soon after he took up medicine, he became a very successful physician. In his own words, ‘Jews and Mohammedans, prominent and unimportant, friends and enemies, a varied crowd, but each looking for my medical advice.’

“”There is scarcely time for me to get down from my carriage and wash myself and eat a little (by this time he had been appointed court physician to Saladin, and each morning he went to the palace, which was some way away, to attend to any of the family or retainers who wer ill) and then until night I am constantly occupied so that through sheer exhaustion I must lie down.

“‘Only on the Sabbath day have I had the time to occupy myself with my own people and my studies, and so the day is away from me.’

“It is really extraordinary to think that a man so busy in practice should have had such wide influence over Jewry by his monumental writings and dominant personality. He became the recognized chief in Cairo, which was the center of the Jewish community at the time.

“Of course, his reputation as an author in medicine is secondary to his treatises on philosophy and Talmudic literature. Yet the medicine he practiced, though not original, was founded on sound com-

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