Author(s): William Osler
OF equally great importance in the evolution of medicine was the practically contemporary civilization in Mesopotamia. Science here reached a much higher stage then in the valley of the Nile. An elaborate scheme of the universe was devised, a system growing out of the Divine Will, and a recognition for the first time of a law guiding and controlling heaven and earth alike. Here, too, we find medicine ancillary to religion. Disease was due to evil spirits or demons. "These 'demons'--invisible to the naked eye were the precursors of the modern 'germs' and 'microbes,' while the incantations recited by the priests are the early equivalents of the physician's prescriptions. There were different incantations for different diseases; and they were as mysterious to the masses as are the mystic formulas of the modern physician to the bewildered, yet trusting, patient. Indeed, their mysterious character added to the power supposed to reside in the incantations for driving the demons away. Medicinal remedies accompanied the recital of the incantations, but despite the considerable progress made by such nations of hoary antiquity as the Egyptians and Babylonians in the diagnosis and treatment of common diseases, leading in time to the development of an extensive pharmacology, so long as the cure of disease rested with the priests, the recital of sacred formulas, together with rites that may be conveniently grouped under the head of sympathetic magic, was regarded as equally essential with the taking of the prescribed remedies."