Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Charles S. Finch III, director of international health at Morehouse School of Medicine, will speak on “African Origins in Medical Science” 7:30 p.m. today in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104.

His lecture, part of Lafayette’s celebration of Black History Month, will include the following assertions:

  • African medical science – indeed medical science as currently understood – begins no later than 6,000 years ago along the banks of the Nile.
  • If there is such a thing as a “Father of Medicine” that would be Imhotep (c. 3,700 B.C.), whom Sir William Osler called “the first figure of a physician who stands out clearly from the mists of antiquity.”
  • The first investigations into cardiovascular physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, surgery, and gynecology are documented in ancient northeast Africa.
  • African contributions to medical science have continued into contemporary times with documented uses of natural antibiotics, cataract surgery, and cesarean sections.
  • African “phyto-medicine” (plant medicine) continues to be a source of treatments even against modern scourges such as AIDS.

“Until very recently, it was assumed that Africa had no true medical science worthy of the name,” Finch explains. “However, a careful examination of the historical record shows instead that modern Western medicine has its roots in northeast Africa.”

Finch took his first trip to the West African country of Senegal in 1982, beginning a series of visits that have taken him to the continent over 50 times.

“My main motivation was my interest in traditional African medicine, stimulated by the research done preparing for my first published article,” he says.

A graduate of Yale and Jefferson Medical College, Finch began working at Morehouse School of Medicine in 1989. Two years later, he became principal investigator of a survey focused on a group of Serer (Senegal) traditional healers and their clientele. In 1996, he was a co-organizer of Coumba Lamba USA, an eight-day traditional healing ceremony that brought together healers from Senegal, Nigeria, and five Native American tribes, and was designed to unite traditional knowledge practitioners and advocates from different parts of the world.

Over the past 34 years, he has conducted independent studies in African antiquities, comparative religion, anthropology, and ancient science. He has published numerous articles and is the author of three books: The African Background to Medical Science: Essays on African History, Science & Civilization, Echoes of the Old Dark Land: Themes from the African Eden, and The Star of Deep Beginnings: Genesis of African Science and Technology.

Categorized in: News and Features