Medicine in the later Middle Ages, that is, from the tenth to the middle of the fifteenth centuries, was greatly influenced by the medical schools which arose in Italy and the West of Europe during this period. These were organized mainly in connection with universities, Salerno, Montpellier, Bologna, Paris, Padua, in the order of their foundations, so far as they can be ascertained. These university medical schools represented serious scientific teaching in medicine, and certainly were not more prone to accept absurdities of therapeutics and other phases of supposed medical knowledge than have been the universities of any other corresponding period of time. Five centuries represent a very long interval in the history of humanity, and provide opportunities for a great many curious developments and ups and downs of interest, all of which must not be considered as representing any particular generation or even century in the history of that time. The absurdities came and went quite as in more modern times; but all the while there was an undercurrent of solid medical knowledge, founded on observation and definite clinical research, superadded to the information obtained from the classics of medicine.
Even as early as the tenth century the thoroughly conservative teaching of Salerno in medicine made itself felt, and above all counteracted the Oriental tendencies to over-refinement of drugging, which had led to the so-called calendar prescription. This was the most noteworthy element in the medical practice of the later Middle Ages, but its significance has been dwelt on in the chapter on Salerno and the Beginnings of Medical History. While Arabic polypharmacy is the most striking feature of Mohammedan influence on medicine at this time, there were a number of Arabian and Jewish physicians who made a deep impression on the medicine of the later Middle Ages—that is, subsequent to the tenth century. Their work was felt not only in their own time, but for many subsequent centuries even down to and beyond the Renaissance, and they therefore must find a place in medieval medical history. This influence was exerted ever so much more outside of Italy than in the Italian peninsula, where the tradition of their contact with the original Greek authors still remained, and where they were making medicine and surgery for themselves quite apart from Arabian influence.
The more one knows about the conditions in Italian medicine the less question is there of Arabian contributions to it. De Renzi in his History of Italian Medicine makes it very clear that the Arabs exercised no significant influence either at Salerno or elsewhere. The Benedictines and Cassiodorus afford evidence of the study of the Greek medical classics in Latin translations. Muratori cites a manuscript which he had consulted in the Medicean Library at Florence, and which, though written between the eighth and ninth centuries, says not a word of the Arabs and bears the title of " Abstracts from Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, Heliodorus, Asclepiades, Archigenes, Dioclis, Amyntas, Apollonius, Nymphiodorus, Ruffius, Ephesinus, Soranus, ^Egineta, and Palla-dius." These and not the Arabs were the masters of the Italians, and it was fortunate, for the world was thus saved many Arabian mistakes and their tendency to neglect surgery. Before Salerno began to exert its real influence, some of the Arabian physicians came to occupy places of prominence in the medicine of the time.
The most important of these was Avicenna, born toward the end of the tenth century in the Persian province of Chorasan, at the height of Arabian influence. He is sometimes spoken of as the Arabian Galen. His famous book, 44 The Canon," was the most consulted medical book throughout Europe for centuries. There are very few subjects in medicine that did not receive suggestive treatment at his hands. He has definite information with regard to Bubonic plague and the filaria medinensis. He has special chapters with regard to obesity, emaciation, and general constitutional conditions. He has chapters on cosmetics and on affections of the hair and nails that are interesting reading. The Renaissance scholars wrote many commentaries on his work, and for long after the introduction of printing his influence was felt widely.
His Arabic colleague in the West was Avenzoar, to call him by the transformation of his Arabic family name, Ibn-Zohr. He was born near Seville, and probably died there, in 1162, well past ninety years of age. He was the teacher of Averroes, who always speaks of him with great respect. He is interesting as probably the first to suggest nutrition per rectum. His apparatus for the purpose consisted of the bladder of a goat with a silver cannula fastened into its neck. Having first carefully washed out the rectum with cleansing and purifying clysters, he injected the nutriment— eggs, milk, and gruel—into the gut. His idea was that the intestine would take this and, as he said, suck it up, carrying it back to the stomach, where it would be digested.
The bladders of animals were very commonly used by these Moorish physicians and by their disciples, and the profession generally, for generations, for a great many purposes for which we now use rubber bags. Abulcasis, for instance, used a sheep's bladder introduced into the vagina and filled with air as a colpeurynter for supporting the organs in the neighbourhood, and also in fractures of the pubic arch.
Avenzoar suggested feeding per rectum in cases of stricture of the oesophagus, but he also treated the cesophagecil stricture directly. He inserted a cannula of silver through the mouth until its head met an obstruction. This was pushed firmly, but withdrawn whenever there was a vomiting movement, until it became engaged in the stricture. Through it then freshly milked milk, or gruel made from farina or barley, was to be poured. He had evidently seen cases improve this way, and therefore must have had experience with functional stricture of the oesophagus. He adds that some physicians believe that nutrition may be absorbed through the pores of the whole body, and that therefore in these cases the patient might be put in a warm milk or gruel bath; but he has not very much faith in the procedure, and says that the reasons urged for it are weak and rather frivolous. It is easy to understand that a man who could recommend manipulative modes of treatment of such kinds, and discuss questions of nutrition so sensibly, knew his medicine very practically and wrote of it judiciously.