Below are outlines of the two most popular lectures that I give at medical schools with a video presentation accompanying the first. Please get in touch with me if you would like me to speak to your group on topics related to the history of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or medical quackery. You can reach me at


Useful Medical History for the Modern Physician

In a short period of time this lecture provides all the history that all modern physicians should know about their profession. Also included is a brief review of important philosophic principles along with the missteps made by past well known practioners.


a) Landmarks in the Second Oldest Profession

  • Aesculapius, the Caduceus, and the Hippocratic Oath
  • First Medical Illustrations and Procedures
  • Brief History of Anatomy and the Emergence of Medicine
  • Landmarks in Medical Literature and Art
  • Early Diagnosis and the Origin of the Stethoscope
  • History of the "Rx" and Early Therapeutics
  • Ancient Therapy and Modern Physiology
  • The First Great Medical Discoveries: Asepsis and Anesthesia

b) Doctors Behaving Badly

  • Gender Bias
  • Physicians Hiding their Medical Discoveries
  • Famous Plagiarism
  • False Advertising
  • Quackery

c) Patient/Physician Relationships

  • Quotes by Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain

d) Practice Advice from the Greats

  • Quotes by Hippocrates, Thomas Jefferson, and Wm Osler


Lecture objectives:
1) Achieve an understanding of the roots of clinical medicine
2) Become familiar with landmarks in medical
    literature and art
3) Review practice guidelines from the medical greats


History of Medicine Lecture Series



Medicine through the Ages

Medical school training in history is often neglected, so here I hope to acquaint the audience with what students, and in fact all faculty and practicing physicians should know about the origins of their profession.


a) Anatomy

  • Classic Art
  • Great Books

b) Physical Diagnosis

  • Origin of the Stethoscope
  • Urine Diagnosis

c) Bleeding

  • The Four Humours
  • Cupping

d) Surgery

  • Hemostasis
  • The Discovery of Anesthesia
  • Asepsis

e) Trauma Surgery

  • Trepanning
  • Civil War Surgery

f) Obstetrics

  • Great Art
  • Discovery of the OB Forceps
  • Vesiculo-Vaginal Fistula

g) Urology and the Treatment of Stones

h) Ophthalmology and ENT

i) Medicine

  • Infectious Disease: Plague, Leprosy, Syphilis
  • Smallpox and Vaccination

j) Pharmacy

  • Herbs
  • Homeopathy
  • Advertising

k) Dentistry

l) Quack Medicine

  • Magnetism
  • Electricity
  • Radioactivity


Lecture Objectives:
1) Review the origins of medical and surgical specialties
2) Achieve an appreciation of great medical classics and art
3) Get a better understanding through audience participation and direct quotes



Robert E. Greenspan MD, FACP.

Painting: Tulp's Anatomy Lesson, Rembrandt van Rijn Doctor

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, oil on canvas by Rembrandt van Rijn (1632).


Recipient of the Baylor University
John P. McGovern Annual Lectureship Award
in the History and Philosophy of Medicine, 2011


May 15, 2018

Dear Bob:

Thank you for everything you've done for so many years to enrich the educational experience of students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine with your entertaining and highly informative presentations on the history of medicine. Your generosity in giving willingly of your time, vast expertise and access to your personal collection of medical artifacts have been an inspiration to me personally and the many young physicians whose lives you've touched.

All the best,

Phil Mackowiak, MD, MACP
Emeritus Professor of Medicine
Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar- in-Residence
University of Maryland School of Medicine


November 1, 2014

Dear Bob:

Thanks for coming to the MSV Annual Meeting and giving your talk on medical history. As usual, this was well received and I have heard many positive comments on your talk.

Much Appreciated! Bill


William C. Reha, MD, MBA
President, Medical Society of Virginia


March 12, 2011

Thanks again for 2 great talks...people are coming up to me quoting various interesting stories that caught their attention and imagination.


Joseph Nally, MD
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine


June 25, 2009

Dear Bob:

Thank you for a most energizing lecture...I can't remember when I enjoyed a Grand Rounds as much as I did this morning. Your presentation was excellent and you are to be congratulated in bringing together so much of the richness of medicine throughout the ages to those of us who are entrusted to the care of patients today.

With all best wishes, Joe Bellanti


Joseph A. Bellanti, MD
Professor of Pediatrics & Microbiology-Immunology
Director, International Center for Interdisciplinary
Studies of Immunology
Georgetown University Medical Center
Washington, DC 20057


November 6, 2006

Dear Dr. Greenspan:

It was a pleasure having you speak at our American College of Physicians Ohio Chapter Annual Session recently...I have gotten good reviews on your talk...It was very interesting and compelling.

Very truly yours,

David L. Bronson, MD, FACP
former President, American College of Physicians


...What makes the book even more fascinating are the numerous anecdotes in it ̬ material which, if used appropriately, can liven up potentially boring lectures in medical school or elsewhere.

—The National Medical Journal of India
(Vol. 22, No. 1, 2009)
Sanjay A. Pai, MD
Columbia Asia Referral Hospital
Bangalore, India