AN EXAMPLE OF AFRICAN MEDICAL SCIENCE. ILLUSTRATION OF AFRICAN DOCTORS IN 19TH CENTURY (1879) KAHARA,UGANDA PERFORMING A CAESARIAN SECTION. THIS OPERATION WAS UNKNOWN IN EUROPE AT THE TIME.
Africans were performing many advanced medical procedures long before they had been conceived in Europe this is just one of many examples.
The British traveler R.W. Felkin who reported this noted that the healer used banana wine to semi-intoxicate the woman and to cleanse his hands and her abdomen prior to surgery. He used a midline incision and applied cautery to minimize hemorrhaging. He massaged the uterus to make it contract but did not suture it; the abdominal wound was pinned with iron needles and dressed with a paste prepared from roots. The patient recovered well, and Felkin concluded that this technique was well-developed and had clearly been employed for a long time. Similar reports come from Rwanda, where botanical preparations were also used to anesthetize the patient and promote wound healing.
Referece: “Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.
This is fascinating. Many (white) people think that Europe was the only place making technological and medical advancements, and all the brown people in other places were just wallowing in cave man times (such as: people claming Native Americans are ‘lucky’ that Europeans came here and ‘civilized’ them). Not true, at all.
However, cesarean sections were certainly known in Europe at the time. Cutting live babies out of dead/dying mothers was a practice that dates back to the birth of Julius Caesar (allegedly the reason we call it a cesarean section, although other reports state his mother survived the birth). I’m obviously not an expert on the history of c-sections, but I would imagine that some form of c-sections were taking place in every society around the world. Successful c-sections in Europe date back to the Middle Ages. I saw an exhibit at the Royal College of Surgeons in Chicago last year, and I remember seeing paintings of doctors administering c-sections around the 1500s.
Interestingly, c-sections were more successful (ie the mother lived more often) when they were performed outside of hospitals — like in the drawing above. Before modern antibacterial technology, getting cut open in a hospital usually meant contracting a deadly infection from another patient. And according to this book from the US National Library of Medicine, in rural areas or places without hospitals, c-sections would get started sooner and the mother and fetus were less distressed, which also contributed to their higher success rate.
But, yes, this illustration is proof that advances in medicine are not unique to Western culture.
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