"Very truly,  I tell you, the one who believes in me will do the works that I do and,
 in fact, will do greater works than these…" (Jesus — John 14:12)


(Investigator 212, 2023 September)


Modern science, including medical science, was born in the Middle Ages in nations permeated with Christian beliefs. The Church founded universities where free discussion occurred in a setting that encouraged questions about the natural world. The early-modern pioneers of medical science knew the Bible and realized that new discoveries provided new ways to obey the Bible's commands to do good. Some discoveries in science, including in medical science, were known in ancient cultures but did not progress except in Christianity.

Until the 19th century most of the great discoveries in science came from Christian scientists until outnumbered in the 20th century by secular scientists. Secular scientists, however, built on what came earlier — Christianity laid the cultural and educational foundations.

We considered this topic, the origin of modern science, in Investigator #170, and responded to criticism in #172. This time we'll zero in on medical science and discuss the theology of it afterwards.


AMBROISE PARÉ (c.1510-1590)

Ambroise Paré is a pioneer of modern surgery and forensic pathology. An army surgeon for 30 years Paré improved the treatment of gunshot wounds, and replaced cauterization by red-hot iron after amputation with ligatures of the arteries, greatly improving survival rates. His statement "I dressed him; God healed him" credited God for his achievements. He also revived the "podalic version" — the obstetric procedure of turning an abnormally positioned fetus in the womb to facilitate birth — originally practiced by Hippocrates but long discontinued.

Paré was twice married in a Catholic church, had his children baptized as Catholics, and was himself buried as a Catholic.é


Belgian physician and professor of anatomy who authored On the Structure of the Human Body (1543). This most influential book, based on actual dissections, corrected many ancient errors (taught by Galen, the pre-eminent Roman physician) and got Vesalius recognized as the "founder of modern human anatomy".

He was Catholic and wrote of "our most truthful and sacred religion". html

WILLIAM HARVEY (1578-1657)

William Harvey's explanation of the circulation of blood was "The supreme 17th-century achievement in medicine…" (Wikipedia) His classic book Concerning the Motion of the Heart and Blood (1628) refuted Galen's teaching that blood moved in an ebb and flow movement.

Harvey's discovery resulted from the new experimental method, described by philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626), which drew the truth from experience, observation and induction, and not from authority.

Harvey's second great book Experiments Concerning Animal Generation (1651) laid the foundation of modern embryology.

Harvey conformed to the established church.


Physician and botanist who authored The Complete Herbal (1653) — "The systematisation of the use of herbs … was a key development in the evolution of modern pharmaceuticals, most of which originally had herbal origins." (Wikipedia)

Culpeper was brought up by his maternal grandfather who was a "Reverend", and also influenced by John Goodwin, a theologian and preacher, therefore himself probably of Christian belief. His study of herbs was scientific, but he linked plants and diseases with astrology which was not scientific.


Sydenham was born into a Puritan family. He became the "Father of English medicine" and the "English Hippocrates" (because of his reliance on observation instead of authority), and one of the founders of epidemiology. His book Observationes Medicae (1676) remained a standard medical text for two centuries.


Italian biologist-physician, "founder of microscopical anatomy" and considered the "father of modern pathology and physiopathology", was a:  "very religious and honest man … always supported in the most difficult situations by the church". Despite his many scientific investigations into the organs of the body, discovering among other things capillaries, Malpighi also believed in supernatural healing.


Dutch-born van Leeuwenhoek founded the fields of Microscopy and Microbiology — becoming "the father of" microbiology, bacteriology and protozoology — which facilitated research in other sciences including medical science.

He designed and made small microscopes about 5cm long, 275x magnification, and was first to observe "animalcules" (single-celled organisms) and experiment with them. He observed also muscle fibres, red blood cells, spermatozoa, bacteria and blood-flow in capillaries all of which he described in 190 letters to the Royal Society.

Wikipedia says: "He constructed rational and repeatable experimental procedures and was willing to oppose received opinion, such as spontaneous generation, and he changed his mind in the light of evidence."

Van Leeuwenhoek's religion was Calvinist and he regarded his discoveries as evidence that God wondrously designed living creatures.


The "father of modern anatomical pathology". Morgani's massive work The Seats and Causes of Diseases Investigated by Anatomy (1761) was based on 700 post-mortem examinations. Eight of his ten children became nuns and one a Jesuit priest.

JAMES LIND (1716 – 1794)

Scottish pioneer of naval hygiene and preventative medicine; author of A Treatise On The Scurvy (1753). In 18th century Britain nearly everyone belonged to a church, and Lind was baptized, and buried in St Mary's Church, but how seriously he took Christian belief is unclear.

In the 15th to 18th centuries scurvy killed 2 million sailors. During  George Anson's 1740s circumnavigation of the world with 8 ships 1400 men out of 1854 died, mainly from scurvy. John Woodall (1570–1643), an English military surgeon, had recommended citrus fruit to prevent scurvy but was not heeded.

In 1747 Lind conducted one of the first clinical experiments with control groups. He divided twelve scurvy-afflicted sailors into six pairs who received different supplements to their diet. The two sailors who received two oranges and a lemon each day recovered after 6 days. Lind concluded that eating citrus fruits cured and prevented scurvy. Decades later British surgeon Gilbert Blane (1749-1834) got Lind's discovery into routine practice.

A Treatise On The Scurvy says that besides fruit, eating vegetables such as cabbage, beans and lettuce also prevent scurvy. Even onions: "I never observed any that used them fall into the scurvy at sea." (p. 170)

Lind also argued for the health benefits of better ventilation aboard naval ships, the cleanliness of sailors' bodies, clothing and bedding, and fumigation below-deck with sulphur and arsenic. He noticed that typhus disappeared from the top floor of a hospital, where patients were bathed and received clean clothes and bedding, but not from other floors. Lind's observations were adopted in the British navy and alleviated typhus.
Lind may have gotten his medical insights from the Bible. Aside from washing requirements in Moses' Old Testament law, there's also Daniel's food experiment. Basterfield  & Lilienfield (2020) write:

Many historians date the first formal clinical trial to 1747, when Scottish physician James Lind (1716-1794) conducted an investigation to cure scurvy…

Some scholars bestow this distinction to a ""study" described in the Bible, which probably occurred in about 600 B.C.E. (Grimes, 1995; Lewis, 2003). In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Daniel proposed a method to test the effectiveness of a meat and wine diet recommended by the Babylonian leader, King Nebuchadnezzar. To do so, Daniel compared the outcomes of individuals who received this diet with the outcomes of those who received a vegetarian diet, the latter better construed as a comparison group than a strict control group:
Daniel said to the steward… "Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's rich food be observed by you, and according to what you see deal with your servants." So he hearkened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's rich food. So the steward took away their rich food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables.

Daniel's group that ate normally would today be called the "control group" or "comparison group" and the vegetable eaters the experimental group. Control and experimental groups became standard procedure in scientific research including medicine. Perhaps the philosopher-scientists prior to Lind, such as Francis Bacon, who proposed experiment and observation for discovering truth, thus inaugurating not just modern medicine but modern science, got their cue from Daniel!

Vitamin C content in 100 gram of the vegetable
 as a % of the daily recommended intake
Capsicum 400% Cabbage 60% Silverbeet 18% Rhubarb 13%
Sprouts 140% Spinach 45% Leeks 17% Corn 11%
Broccoli  100% Turnips 35% Lettuce 15% Beans 10%
Cauliflower 80% Potatoes 30% Pumpkin 15% Carrots 9%
Peas 65% Raddish 25% Onions 14% Beetroot 8%

Vegetables in the diet wouldn't merely prevent scurvy, and Daniel doesn't mention scurvy, but would provide many beneficial vitamins and minerals. Babylonians and Hebrews also did not know modern botanical classification, therefore "vegetables" might include some fruits. Nevertheless Daniel's dietary experiment had the potential to prevent millions of deaths. But the world ignored Daniel and millions died!'s-voyage-around-the-world

PHILIPPE PINEL (1745-1826)

French physician and pioneer in psychiatry who introduced enlightened treatment for the mentally ill. He was brought up a Catholic, was enrolled in the faculty of theology, but switched to medicine.

EDWARD JENNER (1749-1823 )

Smallpox is a contagious, airborne virus which in the 18th century killed 50 million people. But in 1979 the disease itself died. What happened?

Edward Jenner, son of a clergyman, was born in England. At 24 he became a country doctor. When smallpox broke out nearby, Jenner gathered information and concluded that cowpox, a mild disease caught from infected cows, made dairymaids immune to smallpox.

In 1796:

He reached a momentous conclusion: if the virus of comparatively harmless cowpox was deliberately introduced into the human body it would provide immunity against smallpox…

TWO scared children — a dairymaid named Sarah Nelmes and eight-year-old Jimmy Phipps — were taken by Dr. Edward Jenner to his home…

Jenner extracted some pustular matter from sores on Sarah's hand and injected it into Jimmy's arm. Two months later Jenner injected Jimmy with matter from a smallpox sufferer. (Parade magazine)

Jimmy survived and Jenner announced his discovery!

Five previous researchers from 1768 to 1791 in England and Germany found cowpox protective against smallpox, but only with Jenner did the procedure become widely known and understood.

An earlier practice "variolation" — cutting the skin and smearing smallpox extract on the cut — had been used in Asia for centuries, and introduced in Britain in 1721, but was less effective and more dangerous (a 2% death rate).

A three-year Spanish expedition led by Francisco Javier de Balmis (1753-1819) vaccinated people in Spanish colonies against smallpox. Napoleon had his troops vaccinated. And European nations made the vaccination compulsory — Bavaria 1807; Denmark 1810; Sweden 1814; various German states 1818; Prussia 1835, etc.

Jenner's vaccine laid the foundation for subsequent discoveries in immunology. Louis Pasteur's work led to vaccines for rabies (1885), cholera (1885) and anthrax in animals (1881). Vaccines that followed included:

Typhoid 1896 Yellow fever 1930s Meningococcal 1978 Shingles 2006
Plague 1897 Influenza 1930s Hepatitis B 1981 Covid Phizer 2020
Pertussis 1914 Polio 1955 Haemophilus influenzae 1987 Covid AstraZeneca 2021
Diptheria 1920s Measles 1963 Chickenpox 1988 2021 Malaria
Tuberculosis 1921 Mumps 1967 Hepatitis A 1995
Tetanus 1924 Rubella 1969 Pneumococcal 2001

American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman (1919-2005) was the most prolific vaccine inventor, developing 40 vaccines. He grew up in a Lutheran household but "Later in life he rejected religion."

Wikipedia says: "Neither fanatic nor lax, Jenner was a Christian who in his personal correspondence showed himself quite spiritual; he treasured the Bible."
Smallpox killed 300 million people in the 20th century, 1.5 million just in 1967. The World Health Organization then embarked on complete eradication with vaccination — achieved in 1979.

Measles killed 200 million people worldwide since 1850 but is steadily decreasing due mainly to vaccination. 733,000 deaths in 2000, down to 128,000 in 2021.

Polio came close to eradication in 2013 when new infections were down to several hundred (in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). War then stalled further progress and polio re-emerged in Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. Further hindrances were vocal anti-vaccination lobbies; conspiracy theories that vaccines poisoned or sterilized recipients; and terrorists targeting vaccinators. New Scientist reported:

The UN has warned of an "explosive" outbreak of polio in Somalia … after medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was closing all its programmes in the country, believing it too dangerous for staff to continue their work." (24 August, 2013, p. 7)

The WHO estimates that 1.5 million children still die each year from vaccination-preventable diseases.

Despite opposition from bigots, liars, fools and zealots Jenner's work led to longer, healthier lives for billions of people.


English naturalist who improved microscopy, wrote the standard work on aquatic micro-organisms (History of the Infusoria 1841), and was a leading member of the North London Unitarian Church.

CLAUDE BERNARD (1813-1878)

Claude Bernard originated the concept of "homeostasis" and is described as the "father of experimental medicine" and "one of the greatest of all men of science". His writings didn't mention religion, but his acquaintance Cardinal Ferdinand Donnet called him "a fervent Catholic".

JAMES NEWLANDS (1813-1871)

Scottish civil engineer who designed and implemented the world's first integrated sewage system in 1848 in Liverpool. The high mortality in Liverpool due to cesspits and cholera plummeted, and by 1871 life expectancy doubled from 19 years to 38.

Newlands started a public health revolution by making the Liverpool sewage system a model that other towns, and then the entire world, followed. He created a linked sewage system with flushing of sewage away from homes.

Newlands was baptized, married in church, and of "deep religious feeling".

J. MARION SIMS (1813-1883)

Dubbed "the father of modern gynecology" Sims specialized in fistula surgery initially on female slaves in 1849, afterwards in New York and Paris.

Stewart (2004), reporting about another fistula surgeon a century later,  explained obstetric fistula: "where a woman who has obstructed labour for days on end suffers serious damage to soft tissue. This tissue rots away, leaving a hole between the rectum and vagina and causing the woman to permanently lose control of her bowels."

Sims moved to New York in the 1850s where he founded the first Woman's Hospital and to Paris in 1861 and became internationally famous. His was a long lasting contribution to medicine.

The introduction of Sims' book, The Story of My Life (1884), by Judge Mackey, of Washington, says: "... he was an earnest Christian, not only by inherited faith, but from conviction based upon a profound study of the evidence that supports the sublime verities of Christianity."

JOHN SNOW (1813-1858)

John Snow was among the first in Britain to control pain with anesthesia. He also, in 1854, identified contaminated drinking water as the main transmitter of cholera. This got him acknowledge by historians as "the father off modern epidemiology".

Cholera pandemics tend to start during civil unrest, wars and natural disasters when poor sanitation results, and food and water become contaminated:

Deaths in India between 1817 and 1860, in the first three [cholera] pandemics of the nineteenth century, are estimated to have exceeded 15 million people. Another 23 million died between 1865 and 1917, during the next three pandemics. (Wikipedia)

London's epidemic of 1853-1854 claimed 10,700 lives and is when John Snow correlated deaths with water sources. He convinced officials to deactivate a pump close to a sewer. Authorities later embarked on the renovation of London's water and sewage system.

Elsewhere his work remained unknown or ignored. In Spain 236,000 died  in the 1854–55 cholera epidemic; 26,000 in Puerto Rico (1855-1856); 113,000 in Italy (1867); 80,000 in Algeria (1867); 50,000 in North America (1870s)

John Snow was the first of nine children — "Religion was a central part of the Snow family life." (Wikipedia) They attended an Anglican  church and the children were all baptized.
In  the late 1840s Snow began using ether for pain relief. The first use of anesthesia in England was by dentist James Robinson in 1846 but Snow improved the procedure by designing an inhaler and published a textbook about anesthetic vapors. He investigated chloroform and in 1853 administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she gave birth.

WILLIAM T. MORTON (1819-1868)

General anesthesia ended "the age of agony" when screaming, writhing patients had to be physically restrained during surgery which therefore needed to be quick!. Anesthesia enabled surgeons to perform longer, more complex operations!

Wikipedia says: "William Thomas Morton … on Oct. 16, 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, first demonstrated before a gathering of physicians the use of ether as a general anesthetic."

Morton gave the first successful public demonstration, but others of Christian background contributed:

Crawford W. Long (1815-1878) began to use ether in operations in 1842, including for childbirth and amputation, but did not publish his findings until 1849. He called his work "a ministry from God".

Garner Q. Colton (1814-1898), experimented with nitrous oxide in medical school, and demonstrated the gas as a showman in 1844 to amuse audiences. He also invented an electric motor, exhibited in 1847. His father was a "poor but deeply religious weaver", Garner himself "a devout Christian".

One audience member in December 1844, Dr Horace Wells, saw the potential of nitrous oxide for dental surgery and asked Colton to extract a tooth under its influence. [Colton with two other dentists set up the Colton Dental Association in 1864, with branches in major cities, and "used nitrous oxide in tens of thousands of tooth extractions."]

Horace Wells (1815-1848) came from a "deeply religious" family. He began using nitrous oxide for anesthesia after Colton extracted his tooth. He did a public demonstration even before Norton, which however failed because the patient woke up. Wells turned to chloroform in 1848.

Charles T. Jackson (1805-1880), physician and scientist, learned about nitrous oxide from Wells in 1845, performed experiments with it, and advised Morton in September 1846.

James Young Simpson (1811-1870), Scottish professor of midwifery, and "loyal member of the Free Church of Scotland", demonstrated the anesthetic powers of chloroform in November 1847 and championed obstetric anesthesia using chloroform (and made many other contributions to obstetrics, gynaecology and infection-control). (McKenzie 2011)


Florence Nightingale c.1860
Public domain. Photo by Henry Hering (1814-1893)
National Portrait Galery, London

Nightingale pioneered modern hygienic nursing and laid the foundation of modern professional nursing.

Hospitals at the time were filthy with conditionss so bad that nurses got drunk to get through the day. In military hospitals of the Crimean War Nightingale introduced standards of cleanliness which reduced the death rate from 40% to 2%. In 1860 she established the world's first secular nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital, London. She also authored books about nursing and excelled at mathematics, becoming "a true pioneer in the graphical presentation of statistics".

Nightingale offered herself to God for service at age 17 and always treasured her Bible and prayer book.

RUDOLF VIRCHOW (1821-1902)

Virchow was a German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, biologist, and politician. He is known as "the father of modern pathology" and the founder of social medicine.

Virchow's book Cellular Pathology (1858) gave the deathblow to the view which had dominated medicine for two millennia, that disease is due to an imbalance of the four humours.

Virchow, in 1855, concluded that the basic units of life are self-reproducing cells, and that pathologic conditions in living bodies result primarily from changes in cells due to external influences. The principles of cellular pathology, based upon Virchow’s research, have dominated biology and pathology ever since. He formulated the basic law: "Each cell stems from another cell."

In 1838 another researcher, Theodore Schwann, had introduced the theory that the elementary unit of all animals and plants is the cell but believed that cells were spontaneously created from an amorphous substance called "blastema". Virchow disproved spontaneous generation by demonstrating conclusively that cells multiply by division.

Disease, Virchow, taught, is not located basically in organs, tissues, vessels, or nerves, but in cells. This more specific concept became the basis of instruction in pathology. He coined the term, "cellular pathology" in 1855.

In 1847 with a colleague he launched the periodical Archives for Pathological Anatomy and Physiology and Clinical Medicine, which is still published.

In the field of racial research, Virchow organized a project to examine seven million German children to determine if there is a true "German type". He proved that only 30% were blond and found no evidence of a predominant skull type.

Virchow's original goal was to become a pastor and he graduated with a thesis in 1839 but, "chose medicine mainly because he considered his voice too weak for preaching." He opposed Darwin's theory but not evolution as a whole, and viewed natural selection as "an immeasurable advance" but unproven.

LOUIS PASTEUR (1822-1895)

French chemist who established the science of bacteriology, and is honoured as the "father of bacteriology".

Pasteur proved that fermentation of wine and souring of milk are caused by living micro-organisms. His work led to the pasteurization of milk and inoculations against rabies (1885), anthrax in sheep and cattle, cholera in fowl, and rabies in humans and dogs. Pasteur showed that food spoilage could be caused by micro-organisms and suggested three methods to eliminate them: filtration, exposure to heat, exposure to chemical solutions.

His research:

… led to remarkable breakthroughs in the understanding of the causes and preventions of diseases, which laid down the foundations of hygiene, public health, and much of modern medicine…

Perhaps the overarching medical advance of the 19th century … was the conclusive demonstration that certain diseases, as well as the infection of surgical wounds, were directly caused by minute living organisms. This discovery … effected a complete revolution in the practice of surgery. (Wikipedia)

Pasteur was born to a Catholic family but people dispute how closely he observed that faith in later life. One view is: "Pasteur had a strong religious and humanitarian spirit. He firmly believed in God, as the creator of all living things. From his knowledge of the Gospels, he wanted to benefit mankind by having his ideas used to 'heal the sick'."

GREGOR MENDEL (1822-1884)

Mendel was a biologist, mathematician, friar, and abbot (head) of a monastery. He is considered the "father of modern genetics" for his research into the inheritance of traits in pea plants by crossbreeding them in the monastery garden.

JOSEPH LISTER (1827-1912)

Before Lister's lifetime, people believed that "miasma" i.e. bad air caused infections in wounds. Hospital wards therefore were sometimes aired out but hand-washing and keeping patient's wounds clean were considered, in the absence of knowledge of bacterial infection, unnecessary.

In 1865 Lister (after reading of Pasteur's discovery that living things cause fermentation and putrefaction) began to spray surgical instruments and dressings with carbolic acid and swabbed it on wounds. Infection-free surgery resulted, which Lister reported in The Lancet in 1867.

Lister was born to a prosperous Quaker family near London. He was barred from Oxford and Cambridge universities because of their religious requirements, therefore attended UCL Medical School which accepted Quakers. In 1856 he married outside his religion, therefore had to leave the Quakers, and joined Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, in Edinburgh.

Wikipedia says:

Joseph Lister ... was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery … his research into bacteriology and infection in wounds … revolutionised surgery throughout the world... Lister successfully introduced carbolic acid (now known as phenol) to sterilise surgical instruments and to clean wounds ... the first widely used antiseptic in surgery…

Lister's work led to a reduction in post-operative infections and made surgery safer for patients, distinguishing him as the "father of modern surgery".

WILLIAM W. KEEN (1837-1932)

The first brain surgeon in the USA, including removal of brain tumours. He also treated neurological injuries which most surgeons refrained from treating. Authored  I Believe in God and in Evolution (1922).

WILHELM C. RÖNTGEN (1845-1923)

Professor of physics who discovered X-Rays with far-reaching consequences for surgery and diagnosis and which led to radiation therapy. His father was "religious" and himself a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.öntgen

WILLIAM OSLER (1849-1919)

Osler was one of the four main founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, became its first Physician-in-Chief (1889), and in 1893 was instrumental in starting the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and making it one of the world's great medical schools. He authored the key textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892) the most influential general medical text for 40 years.

Wikipedia says:

Perhaps Osler's greatest influence on medicine was to insist that students learn from seeing and talking to patients and the establishment of the medical residency. The latter idea spread across the English-speaking world and remains in place today in most teaching hospitals... He pioneered the practice of bedside teaching, making rounds with a handful of students...

He has frequently been described as the Father of Modern Medicine and one of the greatest diagnosticians ever to wield a stethoscope.

Osler founded the History of Medicine Society in London, the Medical Library Association of Great Britain and Ireland, was a founding member of the Association of American Physicians, and in the UK in 1907 initiated the founding of the Association of Physicians.

Osler's father was a minister of the Church of England, his mother "very religious". He had enrolled at Trinity College, Toronto, in 1867, intending to enter the ministry, but changed his mind after a year and got his medical degree. He studied religion in his father's library but also secular writings such as the agnostic Thomas Henry Huxley.

Osler continued to attend church but irregularly and had the hope of life after death.


A major obstacle in surgery is "shock" — the excessive loss of blood. The obvious solution was to replace lost blood with new blood, made possible after 1901 when Karl Landsteiner discovered the ABO blood groups, and in 1914 when sodium citrate was added to donated blood to prevent clotting. Landsteiner was a Jew who converted to Catholicism.

ALEXIS CARRELL (1873-1944)

French surgeon awarded a Nobel Prize in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques. He was also "a pioneer in transplantology and thoracic surgery."

Carrell was raised in a devout Catholic family, became an agnostic and skeptic at university but returned to faith after witnessing a miracle at Lourdes.


Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic power of penicillin in 1928 when noticing its action on a culture of staphylococcus bacteria. He also pioneered the use of anti-typhoid vaccines on humans and the use of salvarsan against syphilis. Fleming was a member of the Church of Scotland but changed to Roman Catholic.

In 1941 other researchers isolated a pure form of penicillin and demonstrated its potency and lack of toxicity. By 1944 penicillin was saving thousands of wounded in WWII. -in-god.html

VIRGINIA APGAR (1909-1974)

American physician, obstetrical anesthesiologist and medical researcher who invented the Apgar Score for assessing a baby's health immediately after birth and combating infant mortality:

Unbeknown to many of her medical friends she was deeply religious. Her favorite hymn was "Take My Life and Let It Be, Consecrated Lord to Thee."

JOSEPH MURRAY (1919–2012)

Pioneer in transplant surgery. The first surgeon to successfully perform renal transplantation…" Murray was a practicing Catholic.


Australian Professor of Otolaryngology and bionic-ear pioneer. Clarke invented a multi-channel implant which gave hearing to the deaf, and in 1983 founded the Bionic Ear Institute. He is a church-attending Christian.


The modern hospital system owes its origin to people of faith.

The early Christian hospitals and medical teaching were functions of abbeys, monasteries, and convents. The first organized medical school in Europe was established at Salerno, southern Italy — the parent of the great medieval schools that followed. Scholars from far and near including women studied at Salerno. Holy Roman emperor Frederick II decreed in 1221 that no one should practice medicine until publicly approved by the professors of Salerno. Salerno gave way to Montpellier as Europe's top medical school in about 1200 CE.

Doctors and nurses in these institutions were members of religious orders and combined spiritual with physical healing.

The medieval medical schools progressively gave way to universities (e.g. Bologna University founded 1088) which until the 19th century were mainly of Christian origin. In Britain Edinburgh University (founded by the authority of King James VI in 1582) became the leading academic centre for medicine.

On other continents medical schools and hospitals were often established by Christian sponsors and missionaries with medical degrees. In this way modern medical discoveries spread worldwide.

Consider America.
Dickenson (2023) names the three oldest hospitals in the USA:
•    Pennsylvania Hospital — founded in 1751 by Quaker Christian Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin, ranked number fourteen in the nation today.
•    New York–Presbyterian Hospital — founded in 1771 by Episcopal Christian Samuel Bard; ranked number ten in the nation today.
•    Massachusetts General Hospital — founded in 1811 by Rev. John Bartlett, ranked number four in the nation today.

Consider Japan.
European medicine was introduced into Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries by Jesuit missionaries and Dutch physicians. Translations of European books on anatomy and internal medicine into Japanese commenced in the 18th century. In 1857 a group of Dutch-trained Japanese physicians founded a medical school at Tokyo, regarded as the beginning of the medical faculty of the University of Tokyo.

In the 1870s it became government policy to westernize Japanese medicine, and medical schools were founded and  research encouraged.

Consider India.
The Charter Act of 1813 lifted the ban on the missionary entry into India. Missionaries sponsored by Christian organizations began arriving and served as evangelists and doctors, and from the 1880s established hospitals and  modern medical treatments.

The first woman medical missionary, Dr Clara Swain (1834-1910), a Methodist, arrived in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1870 and established  the Clara Swain Hospital in 1874, India's first hospital for women and children.

St. Catherine’s Hospital for Women was established by the Zenana Missionary Society of the Church of England at Amritsar (in the Indian state of Punjab) in 1884.

Scottish evangelist sisters Martha R. Greenfield and Kay Greenfield started medical missionary work in Ludhiana  (in Punjab) in 1881 where they established the Charlotte Hospital and in 1894 helped Edith Brown establish the North India School of Medicine.

Edith M. Brown (1864–1956) was sent by the Baptist Missionary Society in 1891. She founded the North India School of Medicine, India's first medical school for women, in Ludhiana, Punjab, in 1894 and served as its principal for 48 years. She pioneered the training of Indian females as midwives in modern western methods, benefitting orthodox Hindu woman who did not accept medical services by men. The School expanded into a college and hospital, renamed "Christian Medical College and Hospital" in 1952. By that time "411 doctors, 143 nurses, 168 pharmacy dispensers and 1000 midwives" had graduated.

Jessica Carlton established a small hospital in 1894 followed by the Philadelphia Hospital for Women (1901) at Ambala (in the state of Haryana), with a school of nursing added in 1924.

Anna M. Fullerton (1853-1938) established a dispensary for women and children at Fatehgarh (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) in 1904 which developed into the Fullerton Memorial Hospital.

Ida S. Scudder (1870 – 1960), of the Reformed Church in America, grew up in India and witnessed famine, disease, poverty and women dying during childbirth.

In 1899 Scudder graduated from Cornell Medical College, New York City, returned to India with a $10,000 grant from a Manhattan banker, and started a medical dispensary and clinic for women at Vellore, near Madras. She treated 5000 patients in two years.

In 1902 she founded the Mary Taber Schell Hospital, and in 1918 the Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital. This developed into the Vellore Christian Medical Center, one of the great hospitals of Asia with 2000 beds

Most medical missionaries did not establish new hospitals but worked along with existing medical centres:

Mary Scharlieb (1845-1930), British physician, sailed with her husband barrister William Scharlieb, to India in 1865 where she worked in a hospital. Returning to Britain she qualified in medicine, obstetrics and surgery in 1882 at the London School of Medicine for Women. She returned to India, stayed until 1887, and worked in the Hospital for Caste and Gosha (women who practiced self-concealment from the sight of men) and lectured to women students at the Madras Medical College. Scharlieb was raised in a strict Anglican household and became Catholic in India.

Laura M. Fowler (1868-1952), born of Scottish liberal-minded Baptists, became the first University of Adelaide woman medical graduate in 1891. She married physician Charles Hope (1861-1942) and the two went to Bengal in 1895 as missionaries. They worked in Baptist Missions where Charles did eye surgery, and Laura treated patients for typhoid, cholera and malaria.

Mohan (2022) writes: "the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society made history in India and China when after fifty years of work, it reported the establishment of 23 hospitals and 27 dispensaries…",_Ludhiana

Consider Africa.
Hospitals established by Christian missionaries proliferated from the late 19th century in sub-Saharan Africa. Presently in Uganda alone the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations manage 47 hospitals and "500 lower-level health facilities". 

Elinor Catherine Hamlin (1924-2020) Sydney-born, Christian, obstetrician and gynecologist, and her husband founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia in 1974 to provide free obstetric fistula repair surgery. 60,000 women received reconstructive surgery by 2020. To develop their surgical technique the Hamlins consulted the 19th century medical writings of J.M. Sims (see above).

Judy Steel (b.1943) was a South Australian nurse who after her retirement went to Uganda and established a 30-bed hospital for women and children.


To benefit from medical advancements people need access to them. This often requires reforms in issues such as poverty, equal opportunity, environment, refugees, justice, ethics, housing, and agriculture.

Let's briefly consider agriculture and food because good health requires adequate food without which surgery, drugs, antiseptics and hospitals are less effective.

Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884) invented a mechanical reaper which allowed farmers to double their crop size and sparked an agricultural revolution. McCormick was a Presbyterian and donated large sums to schools, hospitals and churches.

Ferdinand Schumacher (1822-1908) started the American cereals revolution in 1854 using a hand oats grinder in his store and sold oats as a breakfast food. Schumacher's American Oatmeal Company was the nation's first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. It was purchased in 1881 by Henry Parsons Crowell (1855-1944) who in 1901 established Quaker Oats Company.

Schumacher was of the Universalist Church and donated to many church organizations. Parsons was a "respected Christian businessman", and chairman in the Moody Bible Institute.

Cereal companies proliferated. The Seventh Day Adventists made cereals part of their faith. John Harvey Kellogg (1851-1943) began producing "cornflakes" in 1895; cereal-eating became popular in America and worldwide.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was born into slavery. At age 10 he became a Christian and later an environmentalist and agricultural scientist. He developed techniques to improve depleted soils, letting poor farmers achieve greater quality of life by growing a variety of food crops.

Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914-2009) of the Lutheran religion was an American agronomist, geneticist, plant pathologist and "Father Of The Green Revolution". He transformed agriculture through cross-breeding of wheat, producing high-yield, disease-resistant varieties. Global wheat production from 1960 to 1990 increased an average of 3.3% annually.  Borlaug's work with wheat helped his colleagues develop high-yield rice varieties that were introduced across Asia.

In the 1960s world-wide famine, due to population increase outstripping food production, was predicted for 1975. Already in 1965 111 countries had received food from the USA! (Paddock 1968, p. 225) The "green revolution", however, averted global famine and saved a billion people from starvation!

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Borlaug referred to the Bible! He also warned that the Green Revolution provided only a reprieve, the "Population Monster" must still be curbed.


Jesus was noted for his healing ministry and predicted that his followers would do greater things than he did. (John 14:12)

And because the gospel would be preached "throughout the world" (Matthew 24:14) the greater things by Christians ought to also benefit all "the world".

Similarly, the Old Testament predicted that God would "bless all the nations" by means of Abraham's descendants. (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 28:14) The New Testament teaches that Abraham's descendants are Christ and his followers and the blessing involves turning people "from their wicked ways" (Acts 3:26) and informing them about eternal life. (Acts 13:46-47) In Old Testament times, however, "blessing" also referred to health, longevity, good harvests, peace, safety, justice, etc. (Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 103:1-14)

From these premises the Christian contribution to world health and food look like fulfilment of prophecy, not the total fulfilment, but part of it.


Investigator #170 focused on the origin of modern science and #172 responded to objections. This time we zeroed in on modern medical science.

Scientists often keep their scientific life and private life separate. In some cases (e.g. Virginia Apgar) I consulted 10 websites before finding one which mentioned religion. With J.M. Sims only his published biography gave a positive answer! Therefore many life-improving, Christian, contributors to medical science have probably been omitted.

I don't claim that Christians have discovered more than atheists. Millions of scientists have lived, therefore much remains to be said about who discovered what and its relative importance. Similarly with the founding of medical schools, hospitals and universities. Christians probably founded the majority until the 20th century. The founding of Adelaide University had extensive Christian input, but nobody when I studied there, ever mentioned it, and such secrecy regarding founders may be common.

What I have argued is that the biblical predictions of "blessing" to all nations, and Christ's followers doing greater things than he did, are partly fulfilled by Christian medical discoveries, founding of hospitals and the healing that resulted. It's not a stand-alone proof of the Bible or Christianity but contributes. 


Basterfield, C. & Lilienfield, S.O. Clinical Psychologist paper, 2020 The History of the Early Controlled Trial: Lessons for Contemporary Psychologists and Students.   https://psyarxiv/xqes2/

Dickerson, J.S. Christianity and the Origins of Hospitals and Modern Medicine, March 9, 2023.

Lind, J.1757 A Treatise On The Scurvy, Second edition, London

Mohan, K. Patriarchy and Medicine: A Woman Medical Missionary in the Colonial Punjab, Journal of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, 2022, 6(1), 98-112

Paddock, W. and P. 1968 Famine 1975, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Parade, Death of a Disease,   July 1978, pp 6-7

Senthilingam, M. Every last trace, New Scientist, 14 June, 2014, 38-41

Sims, J.M. 1884 The Story of My Life, Appleton and Company

Steel, J. 2011 Mama Jude, ABC Books

Stewart, C. From out of Africa, a tale of devotion, The Australian, September 23, 2004, p. 11

Williams, G. 1975 The Age of Agony, Constable