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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

CHAPTER 7
MEDICINE
ži. Introductory
IN classical times the Egyptians had a great reputation for their
medical knowledge. In the Odyssey it is said that the physicians
of Egypt were skilled beyond all others, and Herodotus several
times mentions the medical practitioners of Egypt, each of
whom, he says, was a specialist, applying himself to the study
of one particular branch. The same writer relates that Cyrus
sent to Egypt for an oculist and that Darius held that the
Egyptians enjoyed the highest reputation for their medical
skill: elsewhere similar references are to be found. The 'wisdom
of the Egyptians' is indeed proverbial, and although they were
incapable of true philosophy and abstract thought, there is no
doubt that they were a highly gifted people, with a great
capacity for practical achievement. That the foundations of
medical science were laid in Egypt more than fifty centuries
ago there can no longer be any reasonable doubt. Although many
modern writers have credited the Egyptians with scientific
medical knowledge of profound extent, others have denied this
claim almost to the point of asserting the non-existence of any
such knowledge. But the truth lies, as always, between these
two extremes; and, indeed, a nation which had evolved suffi-
cient knowledge and skill to plan and accomplish feats of
architecture and engineering as early as the fourth millenium
before Christ, and whose mathematical knowledge, whilst
wholly practical in aim, involved the principles of cubic cap-
acity, angles, fractional notation, and the square-root, must
clearly have been far ahead of its contemporaries in intellectual
capacity. Time has spared for our admiration not only the
tangible proofs of what the Egyptians could do but, in addition,