Marble statue of Asclephius on a pedestal, symbol of medicine in Western medicine

Medicine is the science and practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Medicine has existed for thousands of years, during most of which it was an art (an area of skill and knowledge) frequently having connections to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers for healing, or an ancient philosopher and physician would apply bloodletting according to the theories of humorism. In recent centuries, since the advent of modern science, most medicine has become a combination of art and science (both basic and applied, under the umbrella of medical science). While stitching technique for sutures is an art learned through practice, the knowledge of what happens at the cellular and molecular level in the tissues being stitched arises through science.

Prescientific forms of medicine are now known as traditional medicine and folk medicine. They remain commonly used with or instead of scientific medicine and are thus called alternative medicine. For example, evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is “variable and inconsistent” for any condition, but is generally safe when done by an appropriately trained practitioner. In contrast, treatments outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery. Read more…

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The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material (DNA or RNA sequences) is translated into proteins (amino acid sequences) by living cells. Specifically, the code defines a mapping between tri-nucleotide sequences called codons and amino acids; every triplet of nucleotides in a nucleic acid sequence specifies a single amino acid. Because the vast majority of genes are encoded with exactly the same code (see #RNA codon table), this particular code is often referred to as the canonical or standard genetic code, or simply the genetic code, though in fact there are many variant codes (thus, the canonical genetic code is not universal). For example, in humans, protein synthesis in mitochondria relies on a genetic code that varies from the canonical code.

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Civil War Zouave ambulance.jpg

American Zouave ambulance crew demonstrating removal of wounded soldiers from the field, during the American Civil War.

Photo credit: Civil War glass negative collection (Library of Congress)

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