Reason and Medicine

Art and science of healing from antiquity to modern times

First Edition

Tags: History, Medicine,

ISBN(s) 978-81-88789-83-2
Pub. Date January 2013
Pages pp xii, 352
Dimensions 8.5 x 5.5 in.
Rights All Rights Available
  India Elsewhere
Paperback 978-81-88789-83-2
₨. 500

* Prices inclusive of taxes and shipping.

There is no such thing as Chinese, Hindu, Islamic or European physics or chemistry.  Why then are there distinct schools of medicine (Ayurvedic, Chinese, Unani, Homeopathic, etc.)? What has been the role of witchcraft in the history of healing? What has been the contribution of women in healing and medicine – in antiquity and in the modern world? Why has the materialist outlook been so important for the development of modern medicine? Why do other schools of medicine survive in the modern age? Is ancient Greek medicine the only heritage of modern medicine? What have been the Islamic contributions to science and medicine? What has been the political economy of medicine under capitalism? How did the development of capitalism lead to advances in medicine and health care? Why does medical research today pay great attention to diseases of the rich and of the developed countries than to diseases that affect the majority in developing countries? What is the role of pharmaceutical giants in making health care inaccessible? Why is the expansion of a universal public health care system so important? What constitutes medical ethics?

The reader will find answers to these and many other questions in a language that is lucid and friendly.



  1. Introduction
  2. The Art and Science of Medicine
  3. Socio-political Determinants of Medical Science
  4. The Age of Spiritual Medicine
  5. Empirical Medicine: Egypt
  6. The Transition to Materialist Medicine: Ayurveda
  7. The Transition to Materialist Medicine: Chinese Medicine
  8. The Age of Materialism: Greek Medicine
  9. The Age of Stagnation of Medical Science
  10. Islamic Medicine
  11. The Age of Witch Hunt
  12. The Age of Allopathy [overdosing] and Homeopathy
  13. Therapeutics Since Antiquity
  14. Modern Medicine Comes of Age
  15. Medical Ethics and Medical Science
  16. The Sun Rises in the West
  17. Survival of the Fit and the Unfit Medicines

Appendix: Natural Drugs
Subject Index

Cover painting Maji by Cheryl Braganza


The  book is a treasure of information and deep insights. It has taught me a lot, particularly on the importance of philosophy and politics for medicine.

— Mario Bunge, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, McGill University

This book is brilliant and wise, full of unexpected insights, and a delight to read! It is the kind of rare book that only a practising scientist with a deep awareness of medicine, therapeutics, politics and societies can write. A materialist framework is critical for understanding the history of any science, and this book is the most astute of any book I have read on the history of medicine. The science of physiology and the art of healing are merged in medicine, and the author truly grasps the significance of both.

— Professor Mriganka Sur, FRS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I stand in awe at the author’s encyclopedic knowledge, placing medicine in an economic and social context and ranging over several civilizations even while referring to many movies and their actors, and  mentioning the name of the most recent Indian-origin recipient of the Nobel prize.  At the same time, Dr. Varma  remains true both to his political values and  professional calling.  The author underlines the explosive power of capitalism for good even as he recognizes its shortcomings. A  superb book!

— Baldev Raj Nayar, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, McGill University

Dr. Daya Varma’s book is fascinating, full of rich insights into the history, science, political economy, cultural and social aspects of medicine. It is a people’s history of medicine and refreshingly non-Eurocentric view of medical science.

— William Dere in Frontier

The premises in the book are clearly spelt out, the arguments cogently put across, the style is lucid and examples from many situations familiar to the lay reader makes it a good buy.

— Mridula Ramanna in Economic and Political Weekly

About Daya Ram Varma Read full profile ›

Daya Ram Varma, MD, PhD (1929-2015) was Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University, Montreal. He studied at the King George Medical College, Lucknow.  He is author of 'Reason and Medicine: art and science... Read more

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