User:Nicola.georgiou/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge/Seminar group 4/History

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Early medicine[edit]

- Differed between cultures, development came at different times in different places - Witchdoctors - Herbal remedies - Gods/ religion - Trial and error - Alternative medicine - Serious and disabling diseases treated as having supernatural causes. - Ayurveda

Modern medicine - The enlightenment 19th century - Treating science as reason rather than philosophical - Factory working due to industrial revolution – spread of infectious disease - Western medicine. More common in western developed countries.

The emergence of medicine as a specific disciplines came at the time of the enlightenment. The concept of a ‘doctor’ had been around long before, but specific research into medicine, especially in the case of infectious diseases in the development of ‘germ theory’. Louis Pasteur is accredited with groundbreaking research into microbiology. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the discipline of medicine was created. Physicians in the UK in the 18th century were reported to have created their own ‘medical schools’ training students and employing apprentices, beginning the creation of established medical schools in Europe where students could obtain essential practical experience. Following this, a Bachelor of Medicine and Doctor of Medicine degrees were offered at the College of Philadelphia in the late 17th century.

Clearly the focus here is of the development of the Western medical discipline, thus the history of medicine differs both culturally and geographically. Colonial ties between the UK and US allowed the discipline to form similarly in both countries. However, the development of disciplines such as psychology alongside medicine meant that research into mental and physical health has historically been undertaken separately. Whereas pre-19th century, health was looked at more holistically, albeit not scientifically as we know it today, nowadays the various aspects of mental and physical health tend to be treated as distinct. A criticism of this approach is that often mental and physical health can have a direct impact on each other. Thus an interdisciplinary approach into research for both could yield innovative development into improvement of overall health, and furthermore question the way in which the UK’s NHS carries out treatment.

What is truth in medicine?[edit]

•In medicine, the decision on whether or not to treat someone or relieve them of moral responsibility relies on if that person has a disease.

• Health vs disease – sometimes give a more holistic approach especially in modern medicine.

• Basic concepts in Medicine/ words used – diagnosis, prognosis, disease, treatment, drugs.

Scientific Objectivity in Medicine:

Truth is rooted in culture - medicine is a scientific ‘subculture’ Can it obtain objective truth? (Assuming this exists)

Aims for scientific objectivity

Observations —> theories (based on clinical and scientific evidence)

Paradigm: Evidence = truth Theory = inference

• theories and hypotheses guide research and experimentation - do they take away from objectivity?

• Empirical research - positivist approach

• Medicine also considers patient experience - interpretive approach

Mix of positivist and pluralist

• ‘truths’ of basic medical knowledge e.g. systems in the body and how they work

• An incomplete science - doctors look at the best evidence to make a recommendation

Science should explain the world that we experience through our senses ... however “The history of science is a tale of multifarious shiftings of allegiance from theory to theory”

• so does medicine even concern itself with truth?

• Looking for objective truth can limit a holistic approach to health and wellbeing

Sources for History and Truth in Medicine

Fee E. The first American medical school: the formative years. The Lancet [Internet]. 2015;385(9981):1940-1941. Available from:

Grant Gillett, 2006 ‘Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine’, BioMed Central volume 1, Article 13 (15th October core lecture on Truth

(Joint research by Anna Pysander and Charlotte Oglesby)

History in Mental Health[edit]

Mental health is a branch of medicine which rightfully belongs in other disciplines too, notably psychology. The term 'mental health' was coined in the early 1900s when practitioners were engaging with asylum patients in efforts to reduce stigma surrounding the condition[1]. The term 'mental health' replaced the widely contested terms 'madness', 'lunacy' and 'insanity'[1], but in fact it was Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights which served as catalyst for the new terminology.

It was only after the Second World War where mental illness was considered seriously, as charities seemed to gain funding for research. Initial funds into the topic gravitated around treating shell shock of war veterans because in the 1940s, this was the only facet that was free of stigma. Prejudice inducing a ceiling on the research methods for a long time, before a multi-disciplinary psychiatric conference took place in 1950s which spearheaded the movement onwards[2].

Over the past decades, mental health has grown in public awareness with approximately 1 in 4 people suffering in the UK alone[3]. It would seem that there is an ongoing issue to address the mental well-being of people today.

History in Neuroscience (Written by Maria Blackburn, Manca Rakun and Iris Perigaud-Grünfeld)[edit]

Neuroscience came from various disciplines such as neurology, biology, physiology, psychology and philosophy. It focuses on understanding the brain and its evolution. It studies different parts of the brain and their structure and function, in order to, for example, understand how memory works and cure diseases.

The study of the brain began in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians had a custom of embalming their deads and in the process, they removed most of internal organs, including brain,which helped them to gain knowledge about human anatomy and its function.

In 1664, T. Willis, in his book Anatomy of the Brain, used the term "neuroscience" for the first time.

In the second part of the 19th century and in the beginning of 20th century, scientists made a lot of improvement in the understanding of the nervous system - these discoveries consequently led to the development of neuroscience.

In 1837, J.E. Purkinje is the first man to describe a neurone. S. Ramon y Cajal wrote History of the Nervous System which is still a reference to explain the nervous system and understand the structure of the brain.

Neuroscience was recognised as a distinct discipline in the 1960s. New technologies like MRI (Magnetic Reasonance Imaging) had a real impact on the development of discipline. For example, in 1992, with an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), the activities of the brain were mapped for the first time.

Neuroscience underwent a paradigm shift in the discovery of the link between the gut microbiome[4] and the brain[5]. Previously, gut microbes have been studied extensively in relation to digestion and immune systems but had not linked to psychiatry or neurological research. The shift came after the old 'normal' paradigm could no longer account for anomalies such as Toxoplasmosis gondii optimising reproduction by attacking a host's defensive and sexual brain function[6], and suspected altered gut microbiota being related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD)[7]. The paradigm shift/scientific revolution of the characterisation of the gut macrobiotic and the many new possibilities of research between neuroscience and gut bacteria will make clinical neuroscience more holistic, using a complex systems thinking approach as previously separate systems are now shown to be interlinked.


Critical Neuroscience: A Handbook of the Social and Cultural Contexts of Neuroscience, Steven Rose

House PK, Vyas A, Sapolsky R. Predator cat odors activate sexual arousal pathways in brains of Toxoplasma gondii infected rats. PLoS One. 2011;6:e23277. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023277.

Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014;34(46):15490–15496. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014

Mayer EA, Padua D, Tillisch K. Altered brain-gut axis in autism: comorbidity or causative mechanisms? Bioessays. 2014a;36:933–939. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400075.

Shakespeare: using relative and absolute historical truth[edit]

There has been a paradigm shift in how Shakespeare’s works are experienced over time. Instead of being enjoyed, as it was historically both for the lewd jokes by the uneducated and for the grandeur by the monarchy as they were at the time of writing, Shakespeare’s works now command reverence and respect which holds many people back from interaction and enjoyment with Shakespeare.

In modern interpretations of Shakespeare, theatre companies employ a range of techniques to nod to the historical context. One is adding modern references and technology to his plays to give the audience the same relative experience of inclusivity and modernity that the original audience enjoyed. For example, witchcraft was King James I’s biggest fear, so the opening of the Macbeth involving three witches would have terrified the original audiences. Nowadays, fears often centre around Artificial Intelligence, so some theatre companies decide to keep the historical feeling of fear rather than the literal historical witches in their modern adaptations. There are also modern moves towards going back to the literal original performances by using original pronunciation, an accent combining many regional accents thought to be the accent used by Shakespearian actors and audiences, rather than received pronunciation. Original pronunciation speeds the speech up and gives a clearer overall understanding of the works, increasing the understanding and accessibility to all audiences.

Modern Shakespeare adaptations use history in different ways: relative continuity and absolute historical truth in the original performance style.

Crystal, B. Shakespeare on Toast

The British Library. (2019). Character analysis: The Witches in Macbeth. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019]. (2019). What happens when AI meets Shakespeare? | TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

History of Physics[edit]

The origin of Physics: We think that the laws of physics first appeared after the big bang event which occured around 13.8 billion years ago. Physics of particles first appeared when the first protons, electrons and neutrons were formed and started to create atomic nucleus and atoms. Then, physical matter expanded with the formation of the first stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters.

The origin of Physics as a discipline: One of the earliest forms of Physics/Natural Sciences as a field of study was Astronomy, which was explored even before 3000BC by early civilizations for example in Mesopotamia. The planets were seen as representatives of gods by some early civilizations and therefore particularly interesting to study. A very basic and predictive knowledge of position and motion of stars was developed. Lack evidence but lay foundation for later study.

History of Chemistry[edit]

The discipline of Chemistry can be defined as the scientific study of matter an of its interactions. The roots of chemistry can be traced back at a very early age, as far as the prehistoric times. From the prehistoric times to the beginning of the Christian era, Natural philosophers like Democritus and Aristotle, tried to explain natural laws of the environment by using deductive reasoning. Democritus claimed that atoms were the smallest and simplest unit of matter. According to Democritus, atoms could differ in shape and sizes, were indestructible and always in motion. In addition, he claimed that atoms existed in an infinite number and that empty space lied between them. On the other hand, Aristotle elaborated the for elements theory which stated that all matter is composed of fire, air water and earth. Aristotle also proclaimed that matter has for properties; it can be either hot, cold, dry or wet. From the beginning of the Christian era, around 300 BC, to the 17th century, alchemists that were deeply influenced by Aristotle’s ideas, used experimental methods to attempt to convert matter. For example, alchemists tried to convert metals into gold. One could claim that modern chemistry emerged from both of these early disciplines, natural philosophy and Alchemy.

The discipline of modern chemistry, as we know it today, developed in the 17th century with the beginning of the scientific method. The scientific method emerged from the combination of experimental and deductive reasoning. In 1605, Francis Bacon published The Providence and Advancement of Learning with provides a description of this new reasoning method. The scientific method involves an initial observation, an hypothesis based on the observation and an experiment. Based on the results of the experiment, the hypothesis can be accepted, refined or eliminated.

Since the 17th century many scientific discoveries were made using the scientific method. In 1778, Antoine Lavoisier, known as “the father of modern chemistry” discovered that combustion involved the combination of dioxygen with another substance. Lavoisier also published the Traité Elemetaire de la Chime, the first modern chemistry text book, in which he defined the law of conservation of mass. In 1808, John Dalton published the New System of Chemical Philosophy which provides the first modern scientific description of the atomic theory, which states that matter is composed by atoms. This text also provides a description of the law of multiple proportions, which state that elements combine in the ration of small whole numbers. In 1869, Mendeleev established its periodic table which contains 63 out of the 118 elements known today. Mendeleev arranged the elements on the basis of their atomic mass.

The discoveries of electron, nucleus, proton and neutron where made between 1897 and 1932. In 1897, the electron was discovered by J. J. Thomson. Thomson made the discovery of the negatively charged particles with the Cathode Ray Tube experiment. He measured the value of the charge by mass ratio (e/m= 1.76×108 ). In 1909, Robert Millikan determined the charge of an electron (-1.60×10^-19−Coulombs), with the oil drop experiment. He was then able to calculate the mass of an electron (9.1×10^-28 g) with Thomson’s e/m ratio. In 1909, Rutherford discovers the nucleus and the proton with the Gold Foil Experiment. Based on his observations, Rutherford concluded that most of the volume of an atom was empty space and that the number of electrons of an atom was the same as its number of protons in order to have an overall electoral neutrality. In 1913, Niels Bohr introduced the Bohr model of the atom where electrons move around the nucleus in strictly defined orbits. 1932 Chadwick discovers the neutron, a particle in the nucleus with no charge and the same mass as protons.

In 1934, Irene Curie and Frederic Curie discovered that radioactive elements could be artificially created with the bombardment of alpha particles on certain elements.

Sources: (2019). Chemistry History. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019]. (2019). Structure of atom: Discovery of electrons, protons and neutrons – Open Teaching Project. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

History of Cinema[edit]

Cinema is the art or technique of making motion pictures dedicated to the public. Cinema appeared at the end of the nineteenth century, more precisely in 1891, date at which the first camera was fabricated. The Edison Company in the United States successfully demonstrated a prototype of the kinetoscope, which is a great invention, allowing one person at a time to watch moving pictures. However, cinema is most of the time related to the Lumiere brothers'. Indeed, they inaugurated the cinematograph in 1897, which is both a camera and a spotlight. It is an important improvement of the kinetoscope of Thomas Edison and William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. It enabled audiences to watch together a movie projected on a wall.

After that, seeing a movie became popular. Until 1914, when the World War I started, film industry rose greatly. American, European, Russian industries etc. were producing and distributing more and more movies for the general public. Going to the movies was a common activity and generated huge revenue. There was a great improvement with longer and narrative movies.

However, during World War I, movies were clearly limited in Europe, which allowed the American industry to grow.

Then, sounds were add to movies. At first, they used phonographic cylinders or discs to add sounds to the motion pictures. However, it was then replaced by an optical density soundtrack to have synchronized sound. This was one of the biggest change that cinema knew and it completely revolutionized this field. The other improvement of movies was the appearance of colors. Indeed, the first cartoon in colors was in 1932 for the Silly Symphony, Flowers and Trees of Walt Disney. After that, Becky Sharp was the first full-length feature in 1935.

At that time (from 1930's to the 1940's), and due to this revolutions, the people occupied their spare time by going to the cinema, with family or friends. The popularity of this activity is shown by the fact that more than 31 million people went to watch a movie every week in 1946 in Great Britain. It was the cinema's 'Golden Age'.

But, when the television set has massively entered the homes, the cinema believed to be able to keep its specificity of collective show, which he did not. Indeed, television was more watched as people did not have to move from home and could have many programs at the same time. In the 1950's, cinema was clearly declining because of the popularity of television.

Nowadays, internet displace both the cinema and the television. However, when talking about cinema, it is related to movies, which still have the same success in any platforms.

History in German Childrens' Books[edit]

Childrens' books involve several disciplines, as they use language and literature (and often illustrations) in order to educate children. Because they are often considered educational for children, they are also of interest to disciplines like psychology. Looking back in history, the approach on how to do this has changed greatly, one famous example being German children's books.

One of the most famous German children's books is Heinrich Hoffmann's "Der Struwwelpeter" ("Shaggy Peter") written in 1845. The book consists of ten stories, each with their own moral. The ways of conveying these morals, however, are rather violent and brutal: a child who doesn't stop playing with matches after being warned burns to death, and another who doesn't stop sucking his thumb after being warned gets his thumb chopped off. The book became quite famous very quickly, and stayed a classic to be read to children for a long time. The stories shaped the childhoods of many German-speaking children by scaring them away from behaving in certain ways.

With time, views on parenting have greatly changed within the culture of German-speaking countries. The book that was written for 3 to 6 year olds is still considered a great part of German culture/literature, but in most cases would no longer be read to children that young for educational reasons. Now, books like Marcus Pfister's "Der Regenbogenfisch" ("The Rainbowfish") from 1992, with more positive approaches on learning, are considered more suitable.

This shows that as ideas of ideal parenting and education change, so does literature and any art involved in conveying this education. However, literature of the past like "Struwwelpeter" is still remembered and treasured culturally, and has great influence on literature and film today all over the world.

Laskow, S. (2017). The 19th-Century Book of Horrors That Scared German Kids Into Behaving. [online] Atlas Obscura. Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2019].

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  2. Our history and future: 70 years of the Mental Health Foundation [Internet]. Mental Health Foundation. 2019 [cited 8 December 2019]. Available from:
  3. How common are mental health problems? | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems [Internet]. 2019 [cited 8 December 2019]. Available from:
  4. Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature. 2012;486:207–214. doi: 10.1038/nature11234.
  5. Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014;34(46):15490–15496. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014
  6. House PK, Vyas A, Sapolsky R. Predator cat odors activate sexual arousal pathways in brains of Toxoplasma gondii infected rats. PLoS One. 2011;6:e23277. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023277.
  7. Mayer EA, Padua D, Tillisch K. Altered brain-gut axis in autism: comorbidity or causative mechanisms? Bioessays. 2014a;36:933–939. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400075.