The Art and Science of Medicine
Science and Well-tested Experience
The art of medicine is about making proper use of available knowledge. In the past this knowledge came from folk medicine, that is, customs involving how to prevent and deal with diseases. Hippocrates (c. 460–370 B.C.E) is regarded as “the father of medicine.”
From Hippocrates’ writings we learn that for the art of healing to advance we need knowledge of “what human beings are,” as he puts it. He also states the precept for the work of doctors that still applies today: “ …to prevent, cure, relieve, and console.”
The art of medicine entails a knowledge of diseases and injuries and their cure, and it is based on so-called empirical research. Diagnosis and treatment are guided by what is called “science and well-tested experience.” The research sets up an assumption (theory, hypothesis) and by gathering appropriate information (data, observations) you can either reject the hypothesis as invalid or support it as compelling. The amount of data must be sufficiently large, and there are certain rules when it comes to establishing a cause-and-effect relationship. There are also ethical rules for how research on humans and animals can be carried out. Besides the systematic quest for knowledge, there is another important consideration. We need to be willing to question previous findings. The growth of knowledge can lead to a new way of viewing the cause and treatment of specific disorders.
- Make proper use of available knowledge
- Understand bodily and mental functions
- Attain new knowledge
- Be prepared to change the conventional view of the cause and treatment of specific diseases
– is how we view the art of medicine today.
In the following we will take up what the preconditions were for the art and science of medicine in the 18th century and how Linnaeus made use of these conditions as a medical practitioner and researcher.