Toward A Science Of Obesity

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Toward the end of the Middle Ages, two historical and philosophic traditions, one of Indo-European origin with Greco-Roman philosophy as its base, and the other of Semitic origin with the Hebrew and Christian traditions as its base, reached a form of resolution synthesis in the Hegelian sense (239) from which the Renaissance and Modern Science both took their roots (1,240).

The modern scientific tradition is the tradition of ''experimental'' science. That is, progress was made by designing ''experiments'' to test hypotheses and apply mathematical analysis to the results. The fruitfulness of this tradition is everywhere around us. Its application to obesity has come, as it has come to all other areas, but progress has been slow. From the beginning of the Scientific Era (AD 1500) to the beginning of Modern Medicine (AD 1800), only a few scholarly theses with obesity as the subject matter had been published (241-246). In general, these theses reflected the traditions of Hippocrates, Galen, or Avicenna, as interpreted in the more contemporary traditions provided by the iatrochemical and iatromechanical views of the words originating in the mechanical and chemical explanations of life. As interest in obesity increased, a much larger number of theses with obesity as the subject were published in the 18th century (247280), which also saw publication of the first monographs on the subject (281,282). Table 3 is a list of most English, French, and German monographs up to 1950 (281-321).

There were two works published in English before 1800. The first of these was by Thomas Short (281). He begins by saying, ''I believe no age did ever afford more instances of corpulency than our own.'' From Short's perspective, treatment of obesity required restoring the natural balance and removal of the secondary causes. One should, if possible, pick a place to live where the air is not too moist or too soggy, and one should not reside in flat, wet countries or in the city or the woodlands. He thought that exercise was important and that the diet should be ''moderate spare and of the more detergent kind.''

Table 3 Monographs on Obesity




18th century

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