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The History of Healthcare in Debrecen

The coronavirus is not the first epidemic or even pandemic in the history of Debrecen, but the city has always been in a privileged position in terms of healthcare (relatively speaking). 

By 1583 there was a surgeon’s and barber’s guild in Debrecen, where Latin-speaking students of lower grades of the College worked and traded with medicines.

In 1709, nine masters worked in Debrecen. Famously, the father of the famous Hungarian poet and a leading figure in the Hungarian literary revival of the Enlightenment, Mihály Csokonai Vitéz,  was a barber and surgeon but did not receive membership of the guild.

Barber surgeons cut hairs, treated open injuries and bruises. They could give medications, but only on medical prescription and they had to ask permission to cut blood vessels. During this time midwives were already officially recognized for their work, while folk healers were seen as the great rivals of the doctors and barbers who were much cheaper than going to the doctor. 

In the 18th century, only a few doctors in the whole country could run a home pharmacy and prepare their medicine in the absence of a public pharmacy. 

The first pharmacy was founded by the city at the beginning of the 18th century and it stood on the corner of Piac Street and Szent Anna Street. It was later known as the “Arany Angyal” (Golden Angel). The pharmacy had its own botanical garden and was visited by the general public, including György Maróthy (Founder of Kántus, teacher), István Huszti Szabó (doctor of Transylvania Prince Mihály Apafi, the city’s first chief physician and teacher), István Weszprémi (founder of Hungarian medical history) and István Hatvani (the “Hungarian Faust”, a scientist-teacher).

The Golden Angel Pharmacy

Over the past centuries, the Debrecen Reformed College has consciously chosen teachers who have obtained a medical degree or at least medical knowledge abroad. Péter Melius Juhász, a Hungarian botanist, writer, theologist, and bishop of the Calvinist Reformed Church in Transylvania, worked here. He published the first Hungarian medical herb book.

Johann Segner (János András Segner), physician and inventor of the turbine’s predecessor, has also studied and worked in Debrecen, Hungarian scientist, József Szentgyörgyi who was not only the municipality’s chief physician but also the the pioneer of vaccination.

By visiting the below list of buildings and places you can discover the history of the famous pharmacies and medical personalities of the last century in Debrecen:

1. The former building of the Golden Angel Pharmacy (Corner of Szent Anna street – Piac street)

2. The former building of the Golden Unicorn Pharmacy (Corner of Kossuth street – Dósa Nádor square)

3. The former house of József Szentgyörgyi (Kossuth street 35.)

4. One of the former houses of Csokonai (Corner of Piac street and Csapó street)

6. The main building of the Reformed College (Kálvin square 16.)

7. The former house of István Hatvani, scientist-teacher (Kálvin square 11., New Town Hall)

8. Segner Square commemorates Johann Segner, physician, and inventor of the turbine’s predecessor

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