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Influence of Snobbery on the Practice of Medicine

Nature volume 149, page 529 (09 May 1942) | Download Citation



THE lecture entitled “The Hand in Healing: a Study in Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Ramazzini”, delivered before the Royal Institution on December 4 by Prof. B. Farrington, professor of classics at University College, Swansea, has now been published by the Institution. In it Prof. Farrington discusses three topics: (1) the decline of anatomy and surgery after Galen; (2) the limitation of ancient medicine to the rich and the professional classes; (3) the invasion of medical science by a priori philosophical concepts. His object is to show that the decline in social status of the manual labourer (a) prevented the development of physics and chemistry, and (6) caused a gradual deterioration of anatomy and surgery. That chemistry and physics, in the modern sense, were practically unknown, that surgery after Galen was separated from medicine and rapidly declined, are admitted truths; the novelty in Farrington's paper is his finding -the cause of these phenomena in the Greek dislike of what were called ''banausic"occupations. This is a most ingenious suggestion, almost certainly containing an element of truth. The evidence, however, should be closely examined before the hypothesis is accepted; in a few places Prof. Farrington appears to have misunderstood it.

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