The Definition, Number, Division of Diseases.

The Definition, Number, Division of Diseases.

WHAT a disease is, almost every physician defines. Fernelius calleth it an "Affection of the body contrary to nature." Fuschius and Crato, "an hinderance, hurt, or alteration of any action of the body, or part of it." Tholosanus, "a dissolution of that league which is between body and soul, and perturbation of it; as health the perfection, and makes to the preservation of it." Labeo in Agellius, "an ill habit of the body, opposite to nature hindering the use of, it." Others otherwise, all to this effect.

Number of Diseases.] How many diseases there are, is a question not yet determined; Pliny reckons up 300 from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot: elsewhere he saith, morborurm infinita multitudo, their number is infinite. Howsoever it was in those times, it boots not; in our days I am sure the number is much augmented:

-- "macies, et nova febrium
Terris incubat cohors."

-- "Emaciation, and a new cohort of fevers
Broods over the earth."

For besides many epidemical diseases unheard of, and altogether unknown to Galen and Hippocrates, as scorbutum, small-pox, plica, sweating sickness, morbus Gallicus, &c., we have many proper and peculiar almost to every part.

No man free from some Disease or other.] No man amongst us so sound, of so good a constitution, that hath not some impediment of body or mind. Quisque suos patimur manes, we have all our infirmities, first or last, more or less. There will be peradventure in an age, or one of a thousand, like Zenophilus the musician in Pliny, that may happily live 105 years without any manner of impediment; a Pollio Romulus, that can preserve himself "with wine and oil;" a man as fortunate as Q. Metellus, of whom Valerius so much brags; a man as healthy as Otto Herwardus, a senator of Augsburg in Germany, whom Leovitius the astrologer brings in for an example and instance and certainty in his art; who because he had the significators in his geniture fortunate, and free from the hostile aspects of Saturn and Mars, being a very cold man, "could not remember that ever he was sick." Paracelsus may brag that he could make a man live 400 years or more, if he might bring him up from his infancy, and diet him as he list; and some physicians hold, that there is no certain period of man's life; but it may still by temperance and physic be prolonged. We find in the meantime, by common experience, that no man can escape, but that of Hesiod is true;

"Th'earth's full of maladies, and full the sea,
Which set upon us both by night and day."

Division of Diseases.] If you require a more exact division of these ordinary diseases which are incident to men, I refer you to physicians; they will tell you of acute and chronic, first and secondary, lethales, salutares, errant, fixed, simple, compound, connexed, or consequent, belonging to parts or the whole, in habit, or in disposition, &c. My division at this time (as most befitting my purpose) shall be into those of the body and mind. For them of the body, a brief catalogue of which Fuschius hath made, Institut. lib. 3, sect. 1, cap. 11. I refer you to the voluminous tomes of Galen, Areteus, Rhasis, Avicenna, Alexander, Paulus Ætius, Gordonerius: and these exact Neoterics, Savanarola, Capivaccius, Donatus Altomarus, Hercules de Saxonia, Mercurialis, Victorius Faventinus, Wecker, Piso, &c., that have methodically and elaborately written of them all. Those of the mind and head I will briefly handle, and apart.

Previous Next