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Michael McVaugh

Abstract

We should not assume that medieval physicians did not take pains to found their practice upon evidence. Academic physicians at Montpellier ca. 1300 were cautious about accepting textbook claims for the powers of drugs, and tried to verify each drug's physiological effects before using it; yet they were also flexible, ready to believe that powerful new medicines might be discovered empirically that were unknown to their authorities or superficially inconsistent with existing knowledge. Likewise, physicians were careful to observe their patients closely and to try to identify the condition from which each was suffering, and when they were unsure of the nature of an illness, they feared to administer medicines lest their known effects might be harmful to the patient. Anticipating today's "evidence-based medicine," the physician's practice involved the conscientious use of current best evidence.

Michael McVaugh

Abstract

In the first half of the fourteenth century, Niccolò da Reggio translated more than fifty works by Galen from Greek into Latin, and by mid-century most if not all of them had reached the papal court at Avignon, where Guy de Chauliac praised their accuracy and cited them regularly in his Great Surgery of 1363. Yet contemporary physicians at nearby Montpellier almost never referred to them, ordinarily preferring to quote from the older Arabic-Latin translations. Examining a particular context, the ways in which urological conditions were described in the old and new versions of Galen, suggests that medical teachers and commentators may have found it difficult to give up the familiarity of the traditional language in favor of Niccolò's new terminology.