Medieval Medicine & Western + Chinese Expansion in the 15 Century
Terms (who, what, when, where, why, how)
Galen - (129 - 199/217 CE) Iconic roman physician and philosopher in Turkey who was responsible for
early expression and writing about medieval medicine. He created the basis for medieval treatment
protocols by logically diagnosing the humors. Galen is important because he created a logical foundation
for medical practice to advance.
Opium - an effective, yet addictive drug prescribed or administered by medieval physicians that could
provide patients with immediate relief for symptoms. The drug was in high demand by sick patients,
however it didn't have a high abuse problem. Opium was centrally controlled like laxatives among
doctors and was backed by market force. Opium was important because it was one of the first drugs
that could relieve a wide variety of symptoms.
The Humors - An association of four common bodily fluids with the four seasons and the four elements
that were the basis for early medical theory. The four humors were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and
black bile (which didn't actually exist). Humoral symptoms could be observed through complexion,
pulse, uroscopy, and questioning. The humors were important because they served as the fundamental
understanding of balances in the body that early medical practice relied on.
Couching of Cataracts - one of the most ancient surgical procedures in the medieval ages to treat the
calcium build up over the eyes called cataracts. In order to couch the cataracts, the surgeon took a thick
needle and pierced the empty space in the eye to move the lens out of the way, repeating this until the
lens stayed out of the way. Light would finally be able to come through, but without the lens, the patient
had trouble focusing. This surgical procedure was important because it set a precedent for early surgical
Bleeding - method used by medieval physicians to alleviate an imbalance of the blood humor. A
physician would cut a patient on the hand or elbow, believing that blood would flow from the head and
down the spine and out through the hand, to remove excessive heat from the body. This technique was
crude and unhealthy, but was effective in lowering a fever. Bleeding was important for the basic
understanding of medieval medical treatment because the loss of blood caused the body to cool down. The non-naturals - Galen's six categories that created a kind of hygiene or regimen to keep an individual
healthy and to prevent disease. The categories, which were taught to physicians in early medical
schools, were air and light, food and drink, exercise and rest, sleep and waking, excreting and retaining,
and emotions and mood. The non-naturals were very important because physicians could inform a
patient on the necessities to living a healthy life.
Zheng He - Chinese naval admiral who led seven voyages that took place between 1409-1433 and during
the reign of Emperor Yongle in China. Zheng He led "the fleet" and "treasure ships," which carried tens
of thousands of men to display the power of China. Emperor Yongle decided to end the voyages of
Zheng He after the Tribute weakened and support for expedition phased out. Zheng He is important
because he is the largest icon for Chinese naval expedition during the period of western imperialism and
The Yongle emperor - Emperor of China from 1402-1424 who allowed Zheng He to embark on naval
expeditions to display the power of China. Emperor Yongle was an authoritative figure with little interest
in the expansion of Chinese territory or valuables in foreign territory. However, he welcomed gifts that
recognized China's power. Emperor Yongle was important for Chinese exploration because he served as
a restrictive force for Chinese exploration.
Treasure Ships - group of 62 large luxury ships led by Zheng He. These ships carried more than 27,000
men and sailed as far as East Africa. After support died for Zheng He's voyages, these ships were
decommissioned and rotted in the harbors. The treasure ships were important because of their size and
display of power.
Caravel - a light sailing ship used during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries in Europe. The caravel was
designed by the Portuguese for exploring the coast of Africa. Columbus made his historic voyage to
America in 1492 on two caravels, the Nina and Pinta. The caravel was important to European expansion
because it was capable of reaching high speeds and had high capacity for sailing windward.
Columbus - an Italian navigator trained in Portugal in the later fifteenth century. He incorrectly
calculated the circumference of the globe to be about 12,000 miles, found sponsorship for an expedition
from the monarchy of Spain, and, sailing eastward, landed in the Caribbean in 1492. He is important
because his voyages opened up the Western hemisphere to European exploration and settlement. Pigafetta - Italian scholar from Venice who traveled with Magellan and his crew by order of King Charles
of Spain on their voyage to the Indies. Pigafetta served as a close assistant to Magellan and was one of
the 18 men out of 240 to return to Spain after navigating around the world. Pigafetta is important
because his historical journals and accounts give us insight on the travels of Magellan's fleet.
Portmanteau Biota - used by Alfred Crosby to describe the biological package that Europeans brought
with them when they migrated to new parts of the world. These "carry-on critters" and plants brought
disease and aggression to the newly migrated territory. Europe's biological and geographical position
served as an aggressive environment for creatures to evolve. When these were brought to the Americas,
they flourished and imposed on the biology already there. This phrase is important because it describes
Crosby's explanation for Western dominance in the Americas.
Confucian bureaucracy -mandarin bureaucracy where the most educated students are selected to run
the Chinese empire. These students were forced to take a number of standardized tests before having
influence in government. However, these bureaucrats had to fight for attention from the emperor, and
were considered inferior to Chinese eunuchs. The Confucian bureaucracy was important because of the
two groups (bureaucrats and eunuchs) having influence in Chinese exploration.
Chinese tribute system - served as a system for trade regulation and authority in China. The tribute was
an important part of the Confucian system where China is assumed as culturally and materially superior
to all other