Dr Merit Ptah (her name means beloved of Ptah – the creator God). She is the world’s first female doctor and the first woman in science whose name we know. She lived in ancient Egypt in 2700 BC. Her son, described her as “the Chief Physician”.
As a Swnwt (doctor), Merit Ptah was a highly skilled and educated person. At that time and for a long time after Egyptian medical knowledge was the envy of the world. Even the Greek writer Homer said that “the Egyptians were more skilled at medicine than any other art’. An Egyptian Swnwt might specialist in:
- Proctology: (The branch of medicine concerned with the anus and rectum),
- Ophthalmology: (A specialist in medical and surgical eye disease)
- Gastroenterology: (The branch of medicine which deals with disorders of the stomach and intestines)
They were able to treat many diseases and injuries much more successfully than doctors could thousands of years later. They showed a need for cleanliness and a knowledge of anatomy and physiology that was very sophisticated. Yet, they still believed in the need for divine blessings and magic charms.
Merit Ptah -World’s First Female Doctor
Merit Ptah’s life most likely overlapped with that of Imhotep the father of medicine, not Hippocrates. Peseshet is sometimes named as the first female doctor, but she is likely at least a generation younger than Merit-Ptah, Imhotep, and Hesy-Ra.
To show the significance of this is the fact that it took Europe almost 4,000 years to have its first female doctor, the Italian Dr Trotula of Salerno in the 12th century.
Dr. Merit-Ptah continues to remain relevant even today as a crater on Venus is named after her!