A Brief History of Obesity
GEORGE A. BRAY
Past is prologue.
The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.
—SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.
In this chapter, I present highlights in the history of obesity. To do this, I first present a brief review of the major scientific advances with particular reference to obesity. Second, I indicate how these ideas have affected the understanding of obesity.
The beginning of modern science can be dated from 1450–1500 and the introduction of movable type printing by Gutenberg (Table 69.1). By 1500, printing presses were widely distributed and the classic writings were more available than ever before. Probably the major scientific development in the century following Gutenberg was the Copernican Treatise of 1543, arguing that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe. Late in the 16th century, Galileo took this argument to the point that the Catholic Church put him under house arrest for heresy. These early pioneers led the way to the Newtonian synthesis of the Laws of Motion in the 17th century. The Newtonian laws and the physics they spawned were followed by applications to biology and to human beings, and served us well until Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The so-called iatromechanical schools of medicine interpreted human physiology and disease in mechanical terms.