This book is a treasure of information and deep insights. It has taught me a lot, particularly on the importance of philosophy and politics for medicine.
This book is brilliant and wise, full of unexpected insights, and a delight to read! It is the kind of rare book that only a practicing scientist with a deep awareness of medicine, therapeutics, politics and societies can write. A materialist framework is critical for understanding the history of any science, and this book is the most astute of any book I have read on the history of medicine. The science of physiology and the art of healing are merged in medicine and the author truly grasps the significance of both.
I stand in awe at the author’s encyclopedic knowledge, placing medicine in an economic and social context and ranging over several civilizations even while referring to many movies and their actors, and mentioning the name of the most recent Indian-origin recipient of the Nobel prize. At the same time, Dr. Varma remains true both to this political values and professional calling. The author underlines the explosive power of capitalism for good even as he recognizes its shortcomings. A superb Book!
Dr. Daya Varma’s book is fascinating, full of rich insights into the history, science, political economy, cultural and social aspects of medicine. It is a people’s history of medicine and refreshingly non-Eurocentric view of medical science.
The premises in the book are clearly spelt out, the arguments cogently put across, the style is lucid and examples from many situations familiar to the lay reader makes it a good buy.
There is no such thing as Chinese, Hindu, Islamic or European physics or chemistry. Why then are there distinct schools of medicine (Ayurvedic, Chinesse, Unani, Homeopathic, etc.)?
What has been the role of witchcraft in the history of healing?
What has been the contribution of women in healing and medicine-in antiquity and in the modern World?
Why has the materialist outlook been so important for the development of modern medicine?
Why do other schools of medicine survive in the modern age?
Is ancient Greek medicine the only heritage of modern medicine?
What have been the Islamic contributions to science and medicine?
What has been the political economy of medicine under capitalism?
How did the development of capitalism lead to advance in medicine and health care?
Why does medical research today pay greater attention to diseases of the rich and of the developed countries than to diseases that affect the majority in developing countries?
What is the role of pharmaceutical giants in making health care inaccessible?
Why is the expansion of a universal public health care system so important?
What constitutes medical ethics?
Notwithstanding the views of Joseph Needham (1900-1995) quoted above, there is something unique about medical science. Here too, rivers pay court, but also continue to behave as if each rivulet was as ea. Consequently, there is the modern medicine as well as other schools of medicine like Ayurveda, Chines medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and so on. The journal Natural even talks of “Asian medicine.” (Correspondence, 2012)
Medical historians have dealt with this issue, but their emphasis has been on modern medicine rather than a comparative exposure of different schools of medicine. There are not many narratives of medical history that can help a lay person gain insight into the different schools of medicine and assist them in making a rational choice.
Modern medicine, like all schools of medicine, is a child of spiritual medicine, commonly known as witchcraft. It has made gigantic advances, but not enough to remain unchallenged by other streams of witchcraft. This book is a attempt to analyze how witchcraft unfolded in to its different variants and why modern medicine is its most rational expression.
When I was a medical student at king George’s Medical College, Lucknow, India, during the years 1950-1955, I often visited one Dr, Narendra Gupta, a professor of pathology but no fan of Ayurveda, who, nevertheless, on one occasion remarked that Ayurveda had made a great contribution to medicine by ushering a departure from spiritualistic to of Dr. Gupta’s remarks, and over what socio-political or philosophic factors could have contributed to this switch from one to another phase of medicine. It occurred to methane that, someday, I would make it a complete story. However, this idea remained dormant of over fifty years and would never have materialized into this book some bizarre developments not taken place in India.
In 2006, the followers of Yoga Guru Ramdev attacked the office of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), for criticizing certain practices of his Ayurvedic Divy YOg Pharmacy. This episode received much publicity in the Indian media and provoked me to write an article ‘The Uninterrupted Journey of Medical Science from witchcraft to Allopthy’ (Varma, 2006); there I used the term allopathy a bit loosely because the expected readership is more familiar with this term than with any other definition of modern medicine. IN this book, the terms “medicine” and “modern medicine” are used for what commonly and erroneously is called allopath. This book is an expanded version of those articles in the Indian journal.
Here I endeavour to show that witchcraft, or spiritual medicine, is medical expression of a gathering and hunting society, Ayurveda, Chinese and Greek medicine of an agricultural society and modern medicine o a capitalist society.
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