The fourteenth and fifteenth century Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350, was just as devastating to the Middle East as to Europe. It has even been argued that Western Europe was generally more effective in recovering from the pandemic than the Middle East.
In the early modern period, important early figures in medicine and anatomy emerged in Europe, including: Gabriello Fallopio, often known by his Latin name “Fallopius,” was one of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century; and William Harvey, an English physician, who described and in detail the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the body by heart, though earlier writers had provided precursors of the theory.
The major shift in medical thinking was the gradual rejection, especially during the Black Death in the 14th and 15th centuries, of what may be called the ‘traditional authority’ approach to science and medicine. This was the notion that because some prominent person in the past said something must be so, then that was the way it was, and anything one observed to the contrast was an anomaly (which was paralleled by a similar shift in European society in general, e.g. Copernicus’ four years at Kraków played an important role in the development of his critical faculties and initiated his analysis of the logical contradictions in the two most popular systems of astronomy–Aristotle’s theory of theory of homocentric spheres, and Ptolemy’s mechanism of eccentrics and epicycles–the surmounting and discarding of which constituted the first step towards the creation of Copernicus’ own doctrine of the structure of the universe.
Physicians like Vesalius, sa Flemish anatomist, physician, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, “de humani corporis fabrica” (On the Structure of the Human Body), improved upon or disproved some of the theories from the past. The main tomes used both by medicine students and expert physicians were Materia Medica, a Latin medical term for the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing (i.e., medicines), and Pharmacopoeia, which in its modern technical sense, is a book containing directions for the identification of samples and the preparation of compound medicines, and published by the authority of government or a medical or pharmaceutical society.