Medicine in golden age, Science


Aristocratic patronage for physicians and surgeons was not wanting, though, perhaps, surgeons did not enjoy a very high status in comparison  to physicians. The Greek  (Unani) system of medicine still widely practised in  India arrived with the Muslims. One would have expected improvement  by  the mutual exchange between  it and the already existing Indian system of Ayurveda. But  the two systems remained separate. Miyan Behwa (about 1500 A.D.) wrote an  important work on medicine Tibbi-i Sikandar Shahi, based on a number of Ayurvedic sources that are explicitly mentioned. Jahangir's favourite surgeon Muqarrab Khan made use of  selections from this book  in his two tracts on medicine.  

The two systems continued to coexist but probably without any great intoraction. Both hakims and vaids were employed by  the Emperor and the nobles. In the list of  physicians at Akbar's court one finds four vaids, i.e. practitioners of  Ayurveda. In surgery, blood letting, and in orthopaedicr, setting right dislocated bones were the known practices. A practice attributed to the surgeons of Kangra was that of  tmting those whose noses had been cut. They could create an artificial nose by a partial skin transplant. However, unlike in contemporary Renaissance Europe, no important systematic  researches in  the field of anatomy or physiology were made. Observations, such as plague spreading through rats, were chance observations. An  interesting technique, which was pursued by  popular practitioners, was smallpox inoculation, since the disease seems to have spread silently all over West Asia and India in  the seventeentheighteenth  centuries. The practice, however, was not safe. Europeans were also employed as  physicians by Mughal nobility but the attempt to make use of  their knowledge remained confined to individuals. For example, Danishmand Khan (a Mughal noble about  1660 A.D.) tried  to understand Harvey's  discovery of blood circulation from the French traveller Bernier who dissected a sheep for demonstration. But such display of interest in European medicine on the part of  Indian scholars was exceptional, and even  the translations of European scientific works prepared on the orders of Danishmand have not survived. On the whole, we  find that the development of  science in  medieval India was at a  rather slow pace. There was no adequate response  to advan~es  in science made in Europe. The lack of endeavour to understand European science  is evident from the fact that an Atlas presented to Jahangir by Thomas Roe was returned to him because Jahangir's scholars were unable to understand it. It is difficult to explain this failure when the European merchants, priests, travellers and physicians were found in most parts of  the country.  

Posted Date: 9/27/2012 8:30:00 AM | Location : United States

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