Show Summary Details
Page of

Science in medicine: when, how, and what 

Science in medicine: when, how, and what
Science in medicine: when, how, and what

W.F. Bynum


February 27, 2014: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD MEDICINE ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Medicine Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 19 September 2021

Science has always been part of Western medicine, although what counts as scientific has changed over the centuries, as have the content of medical knowledge, the tools of medical investigation, and the details of medical treatments. This brief overview develops a historical typology of medicine since antiquity. It divides the ‘kinds’ of medicine into five: bedside, library, hospital, social, and laboratory. These categories are still principal headings in modern health budgets, but they also have specific historical resonances. (1) Bedside medicine, developed by the Hippocratic doctors in classical times, has its modern counterpart in primary care. (2) Library medicine, associated with the scholastic mentality of the Middle Ages, still surfaces in the problems of information storage and retrieval in the computer age. (3) Hospital medicine, central to French medicine of the early 19th century, placed the diagnostic and therapeutic functions of the modern hospital centre stage in care and teaching. (4) Social medicine is about prevention, both communal and individual, and is especially visible in our notion of ‘lifestyle’ and its impact on health. (5) Laboratory medicine has its natural home in the research establishment and is a critical site for the creation of medical knowledge, setting the standards for both medical science and scientific medicine. François Magendie (1773–1855) was probably the first truly ‘modern’ medical scientist: he had little sense of medical tradition; instead, he sought to establish medicine on new, scientific foundations....

Access to the complete content on Oxford Medicine Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.