#7 Soranus of Ephesus

(98-138 AD)

Soranus was a Greek Physician who practised in Rome and Alexandria in 1st and 2nd century AD. And is remembered for his magnum work on gynaecology, obstetrics, midwifery, perinatal care and paediatrics. His book in Gynaikeia (Gynaecology) was written in four volumes- the first two on normal birth and the next two on abnormal births. In these two last volumes does one read his guidance on “delivering the feet” first.

In addition, he wrote extensively on fractures, sutures, bandages, healing of wounds, acute and chronic diseases as any careful physician would record for posterity.

One of the most quoted statements of Soranus is his description of the ideal midwife “literate, discrete, mentally able, of good health, respectable, robust, of sound health herself, free of superstitions and possessing long, slim fingers with short nails.”

And he prescribed “wiping off the thick moisture in the eyes of the new-born with olive oil”.

But above are not the reasons why I would like to introduce Soranus to you, my reader. Soranus was a good Physician, one of the best perhaps at his times but beyond all of that Soranus was an excellent human being who treated with care and emphasized on service delivery with a human touch.

A significant part of his work on mental illness. His guidance to those who treated mental illness was to treat with kindness. He criticized those who treated with harshness mental illnesses and argued for soft restraint of those who needed to be restrained because of the behaviours they exhibited. The restraining band, he advised should be of “soft and delicate texture”.

He argued that patients with mental disorders must be allowed to exercise their minds by philosophical discussion and dismissed love and sympathy as treatment for mental illnesses.

He too relied on the humor theory of Hippocrates in explaining mental illnesses. Mental illnesses he explained were because of the “disequilibrium in the atoms that flowed in the canals”.

And Soranus is remembered as one of the first medical biographers for his biography of Hippocrates whose school of medicine he followed.

Reference: A Short History of Medicine by Steve Parker; Encyclopaedia Britannica; http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/ancient_history/soranus.html

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