Medicine; Ancient to present day

Ref: C2226282

Discover the development of medicine and public health through the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 19th and 20th centuries. We will investigate how the impact of the church, beliefs in the four humours and the influence of Claudius Galen prevented progress in medicine despite the Romans positive progress with their public health system. Exploring reactions to the Black Death and the Great Plague will consider whether attitudes and approaches had improved from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Real breakthroughs were made in the 19th Century and by studying discoveries of key individuals and whether these and technological developments affected treatments we will explore why treatment was so slow to improve and death rates were so high. For the 20th century the impact of penicillin, DNA and the creation of the NHS will be assessed. Throughout we will analyse why it took so long to reach the quality of medicine, care and public health that we have today.

Course aim

To provide an introduction to the development of the history of medicine and public health from ancient times to the present day.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the main features of the Roman Public Health system
  • Identify the reasons why continued belief in the teachings of Galen prevented progress in medicine
  • Describe the discovery that Jenner made which led to vaccinations for smallpox
  • Explain the roles of chance and war in the discovery of penicillin
  • Identify the ways in which the creation of the NHS provided better healthcare than was available before it

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • This course links to another course 'From blood loss to gas gangrene- History of Surgery 1845-1918' which will focus on the development of surgery in a similar way to how this course has studied the development of medicine.

Download full course information sheet

Medicine; Ancient to present day


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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