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A disease can be defined as a disruption of the body health, which in one way or another alters the functioning of vital organs or parts of the body. Diseases, therefore, are attributed to disturbance in the equilibrium between a person’s body and his/ her environment(Caplan, 1981). There are three most popular historical theories that explain the cause of diseases. These theories have contributed significantly to the development of the modern day medicine. In this paper, the humoral concept of disease, the anatomy t and the germ theory, as well as their difference and historical significance are discussed in detail.

The Most Significance Theories

The humoral theory presumed that the human body is made up of four humors namely: melancholy, which is black in color, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. It, therefore, suggested that there will always be an imbalance if any of the four humors is affected. These imbalances differed thereby resulting to different diseases with specific symptoms. Drugs were administered after thorough analysis by a physician (Gaynes, 2011).

The anatomical theory of disease was proposed by Giovanni Baptista Morgagni. He used human anatomy and pathology to identify the cause of the diseases. According to Giovanni, diseases originate from a certain disturbance or pathology a particular organ. Giovanni study brought a connection between the symptoms of the disease on the inside and those from the outside. He also established a link between the clinical results and the postmodern results. The theory, therefore, presumed that disease affects the anatomy of the individual and a change in anatomy causes diseases (Thadepalli & Mandal, 1984).

Germ theory advances the view that diseases are caused by specific microscopic organisms. The proponent, Pasteur, argued that micro- organisms cause decaying matter. These organisms can, however, be killed by applying heat of pasteurization. Pasteur conducted an experiment where he proved that microbes in the air have potential of causing decay (Gaynes, 2011).

These theories are different in a number of ways. The humoral concept of disease associated occurrence of diseases to the changes in the environment. The proposition is different to the anatomical theory, which suggests that disease arise from a certain disturbance in a particular organ. Therefore, he saw the need to focus on the understanding of the functioning and anatomy of these organs. Germ theory was a complete departure from the humoral and anatomic theory. It brought the idea of microscopic organisms existing in the air causing decay. It did not consider environmental changes a significant factor in understanding of diseases. Furthermore, it did not establish a link between anatomies of human bodies and diseases.  Germ theory, therefore, can be considered as the theory that brought a revolution the understanding and practice of medicine in relation to diseases (Have, Kimsma, & Spicker, 1990).

Each of these theories has historical significance. The humoral theory can be considered as the foundation of the modern view since it killed the ancient view that diseases had a religious origin. It advocated use of preventive medicine and public health principles to combat diseases. Medicine, therefore, became a science. Anatomic theory is credited for initiating research on the functioning of the human body. The understanding of these organs has enabled the use of surgery as a treatment procedure. The theory also enabled physicians to relate diseases to the operations of a particular organ. Germ theory is considered the foundation of creation of vaccines that prevent disease outbreaks (Caplan, 1981).

Considering all the factors presented above, it can be deduced that each of these theories contributed to the development of medicine. The historical perspective can enable individuals appreciate the contribution of previous generations thereby motivating them to contribute to the future. It may also encourage the existing scientists resolve divergent issues relating to diseases. 


  1. Caplan, E. (1981). Concepts of health and disease: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Reading,MA: Addison-Wesley.
  2. Gaynes, R. (2011). Germ theory: Medical pioneers in infectious diseases. Washington, DC: ASM Press.
  3. Have, H. T., Kimsma, G., & Spicker, S. (1990). The growth of medical knowledge (philosophy and medicine). New York, Ny: Springer.
  4. Thadepalli, H., & Mandal, A. K. (1984). Anatomical basis of infectious disease. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd.

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