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Oct 19, 2008 12:00 pm

What does medicine owe to Africa?

The contribution of European culture to medicine has long been recognised.

The Greeks are thought by many to be forerunners of modern medicine - they studied the progression of disease, they knew something of the inner workings of the body, and their language gave medicine many of its terms.

But the Greeks probably learnt much from the Ancient Egyptians who understood the workings of the body from practising mummification.

Imhotep, architect of the famous step pyramids, has even been dubbed the first "father of medicine" for his influence.

Egyptologist Stephen Quirke said that, although the information from the time is sketchy, Imhotep did have an important role to play.

He is credited with diagnosing and treating over 200 diseases and even performing surgery and dentistry. Some say his work even influenced Hippocrates.

Katie Maggs, associate medical curator at London's Science Museum, said much of Africa's contribution to medicine had been overlooked.

"There is evidence that suggests African medicine, and primarily Egyptian healing cults and physicians, had an influence on Greek cultures and that there was a cultural exchange of ideas."...

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