The best possible proof that Pope John XXII. was not opposed in any way to the development of science nor to the study of sciences at the universities is to be found in his establishment of this medical school at Perugia. We may say at once that this is not the only medical school with whose encouragement he was concerned since the erection of the University of Cahors, his birthplace, and the establishment of a medical school there, as well as the provision of funds for certain medical chairs in the University at Rome, shows the reality and the breadth of his interest in medicine. It must be remembered that under the term medicine at this time most of the physical sciences as we know them now were included. It is the custom sometimes to think that the students of medicine in the Middle Ages knew very little about medicine itself or the sciences related to medicine. This thought was excusable some years ago when the old medical text-books of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had not as yet been printed.

At the present time, such a mistake would be unpardonable for any scholar who pretends to first-hand knowledge of this period. In the chapter on Science at the Medieval Universities I call special attention to the fact that medicine and surgery developed in such a wonderful way at the medical schools of the universities of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, that many presumed discoveries of much later times were marvelously anticipated. A short catalogue of them here may not be out of place, though the reader is referred to other chapters for further details. In the medical schools which Pope John XXII. was then fostering, they taught the ligature of arteries, the prevention of bleeding by pressure, the danger of wounds of the neck, the relation of dropsy to hardening of the kidneys, the true origins of the venereal diseases, the methods of treating joint diseases, the suture of divided nerves, the use of the knife rather than the cautery because it made a cleaner wound which healed more readily, and even, wonder of wonders, healing by first intention. Anyone who was fostering this kind of education in medicine was advancing the cause of one of the applied sciences in a very wonderful way.

If we add that, at this same time the proper use of opium in medicine was a feature of medical teaching which had just been introduced by a Papal physician, while a form of anaesthesia was being practically developed and very generally employed, the question will be why we, in the twentieth century, do not know ever so much more than we actually do, rather than why these earnest students of the thirteenth century knew so little, which is the absurd thought that most authorities in education seem to entertain at the present time with regard to our forbears of early university history. The student of medicine during the thirteenth century had to devote himself very nearly to the same department of science as those which occupy his colleagues of the present century.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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