Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999


1.2.1 The Evolution of Scientific Medicine

A study of the history of "scientific" or Western medical practice suggests a continuity in certain aspects of the medical paradigm292 even since ancient times -- as for instance the basic precepts of observation and diagnosis, followed by treatment -- but reveals changes in attitudes, techniques, and instrumentalities, and a gradual evolution in the epistemology and ontology of medical logic. Figure 1.1 presents a simple model of this historical progression, the details of which will soon become clear. Note that 2010 is marked as a possible date for the first applications of nanomedicine. These will most likely be ex vivo applications only in vivo nanomedical treatments may come much later.

Another important reason to study the history of medicine3192 is to gain a deeper appreciation of the long, hard struggle to improve human health, a struggle that is expected finally culminate in victory in the 21st century. If the ~10 billion people that have ever lived survived an average of 40 years and spent 5% of their lives in sickness or physical misery from disease, then ~200 trillion man-hours of suffering have been paid to achieve this remarkable result, a not inconsiderable price.

There is no pretense to completeness here. For example, Chinese, Indian and Islamic contributions are omitted, not because they are unimportant, but because they did not significantly alter the evolutionary pathway of the Western medical paradigm. A great deal of physiology, pathology, neurology, systematics, and many other important medical-related disciplines are also neglected in the interest of brevity. Much of the following discussion, including most of the anecdotal quotations, is liberally and appreciatively drawn from comprehensive works by W.J. Bishop,2158 Roy Porter,2204,2205 William H. McNeill,2206 and the Cecil Textbook of Medicine.2207


Last updated on 5 February 2003