Linnaeus’ Importance to the Art and Science of Medicine
Health Care in the 18th Century
In an age of such advanced health and medical care as the reader lives in, it might be easy to forget what the situation was 250–300 years ago. In those days there were no vaccines or antibiotics for contagious diseases. There were no X-ray, much less magnetic-camera, examinations or analyses of blood chemistry to assist physicians in their diagnoses. Medicines were primitive. They involved extracts from plant parts that contained a number of active substances, some of which could have the impact intended, while others might have troublesome side effects. It was also difficult to find the right dosage, as the content of active compounds varied. The knowledge of what caused diseases and how medicines worked was poor. Regarding hygiene and health care there were rules that were based on tradition and custom rather than on medical knowledge. This was not least true when it came to dealing with contagion via water, sewage, and latrines. This was against this background that Linnaeus worked as a physician.