Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-f7d5f74f5-5d7d4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-03T00:08:58.822Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

III.4 - Diseases of Infancy and Early Childhood

from Part III - Medical Specialties and Disease Prevention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Kenneth F. Kiple
Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Get access


In ancient times physicians wrote primarily on the care of infants, and only incidentally about children’s diseases, because their concept of medicine stressed the maintenance of health rather than the diagnosis of specific disease entities (for medical perspectives on children during antiquity, see Etienne 1973). The earliest of these “pediatric” texts known to us was that of Soranus of Ephesus (active around A.D. 100), On Gynecology, which included 23 chapters on infant care (see Soranus 1956; also Ruhräh 1925; Still 1931; Garrison 1965; Peiper 1966). First, Soranus gave instructions on sectioning the umbilical cord, feeding, swaddling, choosing a wet nurse (if necessary), bathing the baby, and other activities essential to infant care. Then he discussed the treatment of common disorders of infancy, including teething, rashes, and “flux of the belly,” or diarrhea.

Soranus was a leader of the Methodist sect at a time when Greek medicine was enlivened by various contending schools of thought. Methodism taught that disease was due to excessive relaxation or contraction of internal pores of the body, leading to immoderate secretion and moisture in the first instance and to diminished secretion and dryness in the second. The cause of disease was considered unimportant, stress being laid instead on treatment that, crudely put, consisted of inducing the contrary state, drying the moist or humidifying the dry. In his section on infant management, Soranus concentrated on the practicalities of care and treatment without slavish adherence to the tenets of Methodism. The result was a pragmatic guide uncomplicated by theoretical or speculative overtones.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1993

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ackerknecht, Erwin H. 1967. Medicine at the Paris hospital, 1794–1848. Baltimore.Google Scholar
Ackerknecht, Erwin H. 1968. A short history of medicine. New York.Google Scholar
Anon, . 1843. On the diseases of children. British and Foreign Medical Review 15.Google Scholar
Anon, . 1849. On the diseases of children. British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review 3.Google Scholar
Bakwin, Harry. 1942. Loneliness in infants. American Journal of Diseases of Childhood 63.Google Scholar
Barthez, A.-C.-E., and Rilliet, F.. 1853. Traité clinique et pratique des maladies des enfants, 3 vols. Paris.Google Scholar
Billard, Charles M. 1835. Traité des maladies des enfants nouveau-nés et à la mamelle, 3d edition. Brussels.Google Scholar
Blake, John B. 1953. Origins of maternal and child health programs. New Haven, Conn.Google Scholar
Bowlby, John. 1951. Maternal care and mental health. World Health Organization Monograph No. 2. Geneva.Google ScholarPubMed
Brougham, Henry. 1823. Early moral education. Edinburgh Review 38.Google Scholar
Bulloch, William. 1938. The history of bacteriology. London.Google Scholar
Carpenter, Kenneth J. 1986. The history of scurvy and vitamin C. Cambridge.Google Scholar
Chudley, A. E. 1985. Genetic contributions to human malformations. In Basic concepts in teratology, ed. Persaud, T. V. N., Chudley, A. E., and Shalko, R. G.. New York.Google Scholar
Churchill, Frederick B. 1976. Rudolf Virchow and the pathologist’s criteria for the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Journal of the History of Medicine 31.Google Scholar
Cone, Thomas E. 1976. 200 years of feeding infants in America. Columbus, Ohio.Google Scholar
Cone, Thomas E. 1979. History of American pediatrics. Boston.Google Scholar
Creighton, Charles. 1894. History of epidemics in Britain, Vol. 2. Cambridge.Google Scholar
Crookshank, Edgar M. 1889. History and pathology of vaccination, 2 vols. London.Google Scholar
Crosse, John. 1815. Sketches of the medical schools of Paris. London.Google Scholar
Dewees, William P. 1829. Treatise on the physical and medical treatment of children, 3d edition. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Dowling, Harry F. 1977. Fighting infection: Conquests of the twentieth century. Cambridge, Mass.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Drummond, J. C, and Wilbraham, Anne. 1958. The Englishman’s food: A history of five centuries of English diet. London.Google Scholar
Dwork, Deborah. 1987. War is good for babies and other young children. London.Google Scholar
Dyhouse, Carol. 1978. Working class mothers and infant mortality in England, 1895–1914. Journal of Social History 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwardes, Edward J. 1902. A concise history of small-pox and vaccination in Europe. London.Google Scholar
Etienne, R. 1973. La conscience médicale antique et la vie des enfants. In Annales de démographie historique, ed. Dupaquier, J.. Paris.Google Scholar
Fildes, Valerie. 1986. Breasts, bottles and babies. Edinburgh.Google Scholar
Galen, , 1951. Galen’s hygiene (De sanitate tuenda), trans. Green, Robert Montraville. Springfield, Ill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garrison, Fielding H. 1965. In Abt-Garrison history of pediatrics. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Garrod, A. E. 1908. Inborn errors of metabolism. Lancet 2.Google Scholar
Gregg, N. McAlister. 1941. Congenital cataract following German measles in the mother. Transactions of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia 3.Google Scholar
Harris, Leslie J. 1970. The discovery of vitamins. In The chemistry of life, ed. Needham, Joseph. Cambridge.Google Scholar
Hess, Alfred F. 1929. Rickets including osteomalacia and tetany. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Hopkins, Donald R. 1983. Princes and peasants: Smallpox in history. Chicago.Google Scholar
Jelliffe, Derrick B. 1969. Child nutrition in developing countries. Washington, D.C..Google Scholar
Jenner, Edward. 1798. An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae. London.Google Scholar
Jones, Hugh R. 1894. The perils and protection of infant life. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 58.Google Scholar
Jones, Kenneth L., and Smith, David W.. 1973. Recognition of the fetal alcohol syndrome in early infancy. Lancet 2.Google Scholar
Logan, W. P. D. 1950. Mortality in England and Wales from 1848 to 1947. Population Studies 4.Google Scholar
Lomax, Elizabeth. 1979. Infantile syphilis as an example of nineteenth century belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Journal of the History of Medicine 34.Google ScholarPubMed
McCleary, G. F. 1935. The maternity and child welfare movement. London.Google Scholar
McKeown, Thomas. 1976. The modern rise of population. London.Google Scholar
Mitchell, B. R. 1965. European historical statistics. New York.Google Scholar
Newman, George. 1907. Infant mortality: A social problem. New York.Google Scholar
Olson, R. E., ed. 1975. Protein calorie malnutrition. New York.Google Scholar
Papavoine, Jean Nicholas. 1830. Arachnitis tuberculeuses. Journal Hebdomadaire 4.Google Scholar
Paré, Ambroise. 1982. Ambroise Paré, on monsters and marvels, trans, and ed. Pallister, Janis L.. Chicago.Google Scholar
Parry, John S. 1872. Observations on the frequency and symptoms of rachitis with the results of the author’s clinical experience. American Journal of the Medical Sciences 63.Google Scholar
Peiper, Albrecht. 1966. Chronik der Kinderheilkunde. Leipzig.Google Scholar
Phaire, Thomas. 1965. The boke of children. Reprint. London.Google Scholar
Radbill, Samuel X. 1971. The first treatise on pediatrics. American Journal of Diseases of Children 122.Google ScholarPubMed
Rhazes, . 1939. Rhazes’ treatise on the small-pox and measles, trans. Greenhill, Williams A.; reprinted in Medical Classics 4.Google Scholar
Riese, Walther. 1953. The conception of disease. New York.Google Scholar
Ruhräh, John. 1925. Pediatrics of the past. New York.Google Scholar
Smith, F. B. 1979. The people’s health, 1830–1910. London.Google Scholar
Smith, Job Lewis. 1890. Treatise on the diseases of infancy and childhood, 7th edition. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Soranus, . 1895. Soranus d’Ephese, “Traité des maladies des femmes,” trans, into Franch by Herrgott, F.-J.. Nancy.Google Scholar
Soranus, . 1956. On gynecology, trans. Temkin, Owswi. Baltimore.Google Scholar
Still, George F. 1931. The history of paediatrics. London.Google Scholar
Straus, Lina Gutherz. 1917. Disease in milk, the remedy pasteurization: The life work of Nathan Straus. New York.Google Scholar
Sussman, George D. 1982. Selling mother’s milk: The wetnursing business in France, 1715–1914. Urbana, Ill.Google Scholar
Sydenham, Thomas. 1848. The works of Thomas Sydenham, M.D., Vol. 1, trans, from the Latin by Latham, R. G.. London.Google Scholar
Tebb, William S. 1898. A century of vaccination and what it teaches. London.Google Scholar
Temkin, Owsei. 1977. The double face of Janus. Baltimore.Google Scholar
Trowell, H. C., Davies, J. P. N., and Dean, R. F. A.. 1954. Kwashiorkor. London.Google ScholarPubMed
,U. S. Bureau of the Census. 1960. Historical statistics of the United States: Colonial times to 1957. Washington, D.C..
Underwood, Michael. 1806. Treatise on the diseases of children. Boston.Google Scholar
Vaughan, Victor. 1897. Diarrheal diseases. In An American textbook of the diseases of children, ed. Starr, Louis. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Warkany, Joseph. 1977. Congenital malformations of the past. In Problems of birth defects, ed. Persaud, T. V. N.. Baltimore.Google Scholar
Warner, Rebecca H., and Rosett, Henry. 1975. The effects of drinking on offspring: An historical survey of the American and British literature. Journal of the Studies of Alcohol 36.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wickes, I. G. 1953. A history of infant feeding. Archives of Diseases of Childhood 28.Google ScholarPubMed
Williams, Cicely D. 1933. A nutritional disease of childhood associated with a maize diet. Archives of Diseases of Childhood 8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wilson, Leonard G. 1975. The clinical description of scurvy and the discovery of vitamin C.Journal of the History of Medicine 30.Google Scholar
Winter, J. M. 1982. The decline of mortality in Britain, 1870–1950. In Population and society in Britain, 1850–1980, ed. Baker, Theo and Drake, Michael. London.Google Scholar
Wohl, Anthony S. 1983. Endangered lives: Public health in Victorian Britain. London.Google Scholar
Woodbury, Robert M. 1926. Infant mortality and its causes. Baltimore.Google Scholar
Yost, R. M. 1950. Sydenham’s philosophy of science. Osiris 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zirkle, Conway. 1946. The early history of the idea of the inheritance of acquired characters and of pangenesis. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 2d Ser., 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats