Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics

Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics

Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics

Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics


This history of the evolution of pediatrics from the beginning of recorded civilization examines chronologically the medical and societal antecedents of current child care. Although the term "pediatrics" is modern, the book explores the antecedents that facilitated the evolution of pediatric care as a separate discipline and a unique science. These antecedents include ancient manuscripts and the writings of acknowledged medical classicists, and the works of physicians in the East who recorded the medicine of the ancients, their own original theories, clinical observations, and experience, and exported their wisdom to the West.


Were the question "What is a pediatrician?" put to me, my response, clearly influenced by the wit and prose of Ambrose Bierce, would be that a pediatrician is a doctor who, with distractions and tickles, cajoles voiceless babes and wary toddlers into making audible their woes.

After more than thirty years of treating infants and children -- and a good number who have passed the age of adolescence -- and of teaching pediatric medicine to newly qualified physicians, my work continues to be absorbing as well as rewarding and has kindled in me a passionate interest in the history of children's medical treatment in the past.

Cicero defined the value of studying history in general and in the process used a metaphor quite suited to a history of pediatrics:

Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to continue always a child; if no use is made of the labors of the first ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge. (de Oratore 2.34)

Moreover, historian Edwin Ackerknecht's (1906-1988) belief that "a man can be a competent doctor without a knowledge of medical history, but an acquaintance with medical history can make him a better doctor" supported my thesis that pediatric history is an important adjunct topic that students and pediatric residents should know. I also believed that the general public would find it a fascinating saga to read about the extent of the impact that medical care (or lack of it) has had on the world's history. In the case of children, it seemed to me an especially captivating topic since it relates to the most vulnerable and least independent members of our species.

Whereas taking a child to a pediatrician is routine today, the concept and reality of physicians especially trained to treat sick children and to prevent . . .

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