Going back in time to ancient Egypt (c. 2700 BC) we find Merit Ptah, the first woman mentioned by name in the history of medicine. Some believe she may have been the first female scientist mentioned in all of science.
|Pyramid of Djoser|
Merit was the royal court’s “Chief Physician” (or “Boss Doctor”), a title inscribed on her tomb by her son, a high priest. Merit was buried in the necropolis near the famous step pyramid of Saqqara, the Pyramid of Djoser. Built during Pharaoh Djoser’s reign (c. 2630-2611 BC), the step pyramids are considered the first and earliest known Egyptian pyramids ever built.
As the court’s chief physician, Merit would have been the king’s personal physician, as well as a teacher and supervisor of medical staff below her. Her large medicine storehouse would have included some of the estimated 160 plants known to have curative properties, and likewise, dried animal feces and certain metals, as well as therapeutic remedies. She would have relied on religious beliefs in her treatments and used the magical realm of incantations as applicable.
| Ancient Egyptian amulets were popular and |
worn for good health and magical purposes.
|Egyptians stressed the importance of cleanliness, more for religious reasons than for health, but on a practical level, cleanliness was a definite win-win for doctors treating infections in patients and preventing the spread of contagious disease. Ancient Egypt was a recognized source of medical knowledge and had the best physicians in the ancient world. Their practice of mummifying the dead had given them a unique advantage in understanding human anatomy, such as blood flow and the function of internal organs.|
|A Tomb monument of an Egyptian couple with child|
Research Note: I ran into problems researching Merit Ptah, and was warned early on not to confuse her . . . with Merit-Ptah, the wife of Ramose (Governor of Thebes and Vizier under Akhenaten). And then learned not to confuse her also with . . . Queen Merit-Amun (or Meritamen). I saw a beautiful bust of Queen Merit-Amun (really her image?) reference all three women, so be warned. Confusion all over the internet 😦
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merit-Ptah; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Step_pyramid; http://www.ancient.eu/article/49/
http://ancientstandard.com/2011/03/16/the-female-physicians-of-ancient-egypt/; http://www.ancient-origins.net/merit-ptah; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215293/