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Friday, 29 April 2016

Medical School

The earliest known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BC. Alcmaeon, author of the first anatomical compilation, worked at this school, and it was here that the practice of observing patients was established.

The Greek physician Hippocrates taught frequently at a medical school under a plane tree on the Greek island of Kos where his students were told to be thoughtful when examining their patients, make no assumptions when recording their symptoms and sensitive when treating them.

The Schola Medica Salernitana situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea in the south Italian city of Salerno was the first medical school in medieval times. The school, which found its original base in the dispensary of a monastery founded in the 9th century, was the most important source of medical knowledge in Western Europe between the tenth and thirteenth centuries.


A miniature depicting the Schola Medica Salernitana from a copy of Avicenna's Canons

Universities in the Arab world ensured the tradition of Greek medicine continued and the first Islamic medical schools opened in Turkey in the thirteenth century. The study of anatomy, however, was bound by Islamic doctrine, which forbids dissection of the human body.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine became the first  medical school in the thirteen American colonies when, in the fall of 1765, students enrolled for "anatomical lectures" and a course on "the theory and practice of physik."

Medical Hall and College Hall of the University of Pennsylvania in 1842

One of the staff members at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine was Benjamin Rush, who controversially persisted in teaching the harmful practice of bleeding.

After the founding of the Pennsylvania General Hospital's medical training facilities, a number of medical schools were set up in America. However the education generally only lasted for two years and the second year was very much a repeat of the lectures of the previous year. The training tended to be theoretical with little opportunity to see patients.

Fifty years before women were allowed to enroll into medical school, Margaret Ann Bulkley dressed as a man to study medicine and become her alter-ego, Dr James Barry. She obtained a medical degree from the University of Edinburgh Medical School, then served first in Cape Town, South Africa and subsequently in many parts of the British Empire. It was only when she died on July 27, 1865 that her secret was exposed after 46 years working as an army medical officer.

Photograph of Dr James Barry; approx late 1840s

The missionary and explorer David Livingstone was a student at the Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London from 1838–40; Livingstone's courses covered medical practice, midwifery, and botany.

The first medical school for women, The Boston Female Medical School opened in 1848. It later merged with the Boston University School of Medicine.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to qualify as a doctor of medicine in America when she was awarded her M.D. by the Geneva Medical College of Geneva, New York on January 23, 1849.


Rebecca Lee became the first black woman to receive an American medical degree in 1864, from the New England Female Medical College in Boston.

In 1870 Elizabeth Garrett became the first woman to be awarded a medical degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris, two years after France decided to allow women to become doctors.

Garrett before the Faculty of Medicine, Paris

The beautician Helena Rubenstein attended medical school in Cracow, Poland for two years before moving in the 1890s to Australia.

France lost so many workers during its failed attempt to dig the Panama Canal in the early 20th century, that for a time their project's main source of income was selling the corpses (pickled in brine water) to medical schools all over the world as cadavers.

After taking top scores in the qualifying examinations for medical school, Alexander Fleming enrolled at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in Paddington, London in 1903. He'd had a choice of three to choose between. Knowing little about them, Fleming chose St. Mary's because he had played water polo against them.

The Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani attended medical school for two years, 

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