Scientific Medicine in Precolonial Uganda – A Science Descended From Imhotep 2000 years Ago

The existence of sophisticated scientific medical practice in Uganda hundreds of years before the Europeans came, baffles many. It is a fact that Euro-centric skeptics have found hard to believe or accept.

That is simply because they want to make the world believe that Africa was in darkness before the Europeans came. But discovered facts prove that Africa boasted of a robust civilization and advanced medicine before the Europeans came. 

Ancient Africans were the world’s first Doctors, the first to do Brain surgery, organ transplants and other outstanding medical accomplishments. Africans for thousands of years have used herbs and science for the natural healing component of all body ailments.

These African Dibias, Baba lawos, shamans all generally called medicine men are privy to remedies that baffle modern scientist to this day. It is of this stock that the great-historic Ihmotep and just recent Dr Sebi belong to.  

In Uganda, there is evidence of outstanding medical excellence – at least judging by the international standards of the time.

The distinguished historian, Shane Doyle, had reported that clinical tests that have shown that their cures for eczema and post measles bloody diarrhea were more effective than Western medicine. He also said that their herbs have been shown to control schizophrenia.

Also, mention was made of evidence of advanced hygiene control to prevent stomach infections. But these are just bonuses to the magic of the ancient Ugandan medicine. Surgery is were the magic lies. So, let’s dig into it and show you the power and glory of Africa.


In 1879), R.W. Felkin, a medical student and missionary, recorded a caesarean operation carried out in Bunyoro, Uganda. The details were published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal 1884 xxix, 922-930, and they were startling.

The surgical team comprised of 3men. The surgeon washed the mother’s womb and his hands with banana wine (nguuli) and then water.

The mother was half intoxicated with the same banana wine and was laying on a bed. The surgeon made a cutting into her stomach and the baby was brought out. They sewed the wound with iron spikes, sparingly used and tied together with skin.

At various times during the surgery, the assistants helped with pulling out the baby, holding the intestines in place and holding her ankles, and placing on the wound, a grass mat to absorb the blood and mucus. It is most proud to say that the patient made a full recovery after 11 days.

Interestingly, at that time in the UK and other parts of Europe, cesarean operations, were extremely rare. This was because they were considered major and there was considerable resentment for them. Felkin later became the adviser to the Lancet on tropical medicine, and it would be safe to take his account as accurate.

Some Europeans have expressed doubt about his report on the operation in Uganda. This is expected; as to them, nothing good can come of out of Africa. But they have not expressed the same doubts as regards the rest of his work, which is funny, considering that he translated many of the works of Emin Pasha, from German to English.

In any case, it seems extraordinary that he could make up such a story which would result in the praise of a supposedly ‘primitive’ people.  To substantiate what he witnessed in Uganda, he took back with him the surgical knife, which has near-celebrity status in the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in the UK.


These vaccinations were carried out in precolonial Bunyoro to protect infants and even adults from syphilis. The doctors, Abafumu, argued that when the ‘virus’ (vaccines) was introduced to the infants’ bodies, it reduced the chances of the kids catching the disease in adulthood.

Later research showed that exposure to the disease in infancy indeed significantly reduced a person’s chances of contracting the disease later in life. Clearly, the bafumu were very much ahead of their time.

But as is to be expected, they were condemned by the colonial administrators and missionaries. Also, the new converts to Christianity joined in converts in condemning this medical achievement. It was accounted that the missionaries opposed this style of medicine with overwhelming cry-more-than-the-bereaved enthusiasm.

But fast forward to today, and it is clear to all that the same vaccination the missionaries and colonialist condemned is now being promoted by their governments and health organizations. The importance of vaccinations in modern medicine is now accepted worldwide because it is championed by the Europeans. When the knowledge comes from Africa, the Europeans do their best to discredit it.

Medical Research

It would be surprising for a people to attain such a high level of medical skill as a result of a flash in the pan. There must surely be some form of organization, order, training, and apprenticeship to learn and achieve this. If the above accounts of medicine do not indicate any form of preparation and organization, perhaps this should.

In 1902, when sleeping sickness was causing massive death tolls to both colonizers and the indigenes of Uganda in equal measure, information spread that there was a traveling Munyoro doctor who was curing the disease.

The man, Yangoma, told the colonial administration in Busoga, that following the sleeping sickness outbreak of 1886-7, that he was commissioned by Omukama Kabalega, to ‘make experiments in the interests of science. And he made it known that he was ‘successful in procuring a cure’. He told this to Grant, the tax administrator, who told it to the commissioner.

But in order to belittle the result of Yangoma’s research, Grant told the commissioner that the instruction to look for a cure was ‘more probably from selfish motives’ of the Omukama. It needs to be noted that in their endeavors to cure disease, the bafumu separated their experiments from religious practice, so that this can be properly called scientific, and that the outcomes were results of repeated and tested displays.

Interestingly, there is no evidence that this medical genius was achieved as a result of exposure from the outside world. This is because much of the interior was cut off from Europe until the latter part of the 19th century, and it was unreasonable to claim that the Europeans who came could have passed on the knowledge. If they knew the cure, many of them would not suffer from sleeping sickness, just like the local people.

Felkin himself was amazed at the medical feet achieved by the indigenous people of Uganda.

Tragically, thanks to persecution from the European invaders, much of this information, which was passed on from the elderly to the young in an orderly fashion, was lost. Today we rely mostly on foreign medicine, with hospitals which are death traps. Africa lost a lot, and medical ingenuity which is one of the things we lost, should be mourned.    


As history unfolds and archeologist makes more findings, it becomes clearer that Africans from all corners of the continent and beyond were masters of science, art, and technology. The medical ingenuity of Imhotep and many who before or after him, makes a clear case for the superiority of African medicine and science.

The surgeons and researchers of Uganda, just like other parts of Africa, by proximity and regional collaborations, must have learned a lot from the ancient Egyptian medicine god Imhotep.

Near the beginning of the Bronze Age, the third dynasty of ancient Egypt had begun. It was the first dynasty of the “Old Kingdom” from 2686 B.C. to 2181 B.C. Also, the pharaoh Djoser came to power at about 2670 B.C and ruled for about 19 to 29 years. The exact duration, like many other facts, remains debatable by historians, due to conclusions by archeological findings.

During this period, a man named Imhotep came to prominence (circa 2650 B.C. to 2600 B.C.), and for his vast knowledge as scribe, architect, engineer, artist, as well as medicine, became the chancellor/advisor to Djoser.

Remarkable for that time was that his medical teachings were among the first not completely driven by magic or mysticism. Imhotep had some knowledge of anatomy and medical treatments derived from plants, which has been the African way. It has been suggested that it was actually Imhotep who wrote the document from which Edwin Smith’s Papyrus was derived.

Nonetheless, Imhotep’s influence when he alive was very strong and grew even stronger after his death. He was so renowned in medicine and other sciences that 2,000 years later, his status was ultimately raised to that of a deity of medicine, with his cult centered in Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt.

After his deification, Imhotep was considered to be the mortal path to the god Ptah. Ptah is the Egyptian god of creation and fertility, who was supposedly Imhotep’s father. Imhotep was later worshipped as the god of medicine in Egypt, and in Greece. The was also identified with the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.

He is said to have been the architect of the step pyramid built at the necropolis of Ṣaqqārah in the Egyptian city of Memphis. The pyramid, which is the oldest surviving monument of hewn stone known to the world, consists of six steps and attains a height of 200 feet (61 metres).

Imhotep’s cult reached its climax during Greco-Roman times when his temples in Memphis and on the island of Philae in the Nile River were often crowded with sufferers who prayed and slept there with the belief that the god would reveal remedies to them in their dreams. 

In light of all his prowess and achievements, in 1928, William Osler proposed that Imhotep was the “real father of medicine” — not Hippocrates. Osler passionately stated that Imhotep was “the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mist of antiquity.”


Since after the colonization of Africa, and the enlistment of Africa under certain European bodies, certain drugs, and medicine used in Africa are prone to testing and validation from Europe and America. They now assume that our medicine is inferior and their’s superior. But when in all ramifications, African medicine which is deeply rooted in herbs is more efficient and has little or no side effects. That is because they are gotten from nature.

Everywhere you go in Africa or in the world, there are various Native or Herbal African doctor curing diseases that European and American scientists said to have no cure. One of such Herbal doctors whose popularity has spread was Dr. Sebi, who is renowned to have cured hundreds of people in America of HIV/AID.

In November of 1985, Dr Sebi put up an advertisement in the Amsterdam News saying that his herbal remedies cured AIDS, sickle cell, lupus, and other diseases. This angered the big pharmaceutical companies and the government, and on February 10, 1987, he was arrested. The New York City Supreme Court filed a civil and criminal case against him for the practice of medicine without a license.

In 1988, Dr. Sebi’s won the court case. Documents from nine of 72 witnesses were used during the trial proving that his herbal remedies helped cure multiple diseases the patients had, including AIDS.

Many of Dr. Sebi’s patients and followers are suspect that the U.S. government and the FDA did not approve Dr. Sebi’s products because he is African, or because they want to keep making money from HIV/AIDS drugs. To compound issues, Dr. Sebi died in 2016 under government custody, after been arrested for illegal possession of $37,000.

Dr. Sebi, a Honduran man, was a health and wellness guru. Dr. Sebi believed that there are six fundamental food groups: live, raw, dead, hybrid, genetically modified, and drugs. His diet essentially boycotted all the food groups except live and raw foods. He encouraged dieters to eat as close to a raw vegan diet as possible. That is foods like naturally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.

The medical skills which he had are a reflection of Africa’s medical science for thousands of years. Our ancestors healed all kinds of diseases and survived all kinds of plagues and epidemics with their knowledge of herbs and roots. But today, we are told by our governments to abandon our ancient medicine and hold unto chemically manufactured drugs.


The prowess and accuracy of African medicine herbal medicine is one that has been downplayed ever since Africans encountered the Europeans and Americans. Over the centuries, the colonizer has systematically replaced our ancient science with their supposedly ‘modern medicine’. Through Christianity, and deliberate government policies, Africa’s ancient medicine has been painted as barbaric or inaccurate.

But the questions we should all ask ourselves are: If African medicine was so backward, how come many Europeans, especially the ancient Greeks, came to Africa to learn our science? If African medicine was inferior to European medicine at the time of our encounter with colonialists, how come our ancestors lived for thousands of years with our herbs?

The truth remains that nature, and it is only advisable that man cures himself with herbs, fruits, vegetables, and roots. There is a science to it, and it is still alive in Africa.

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Liberty Writers Africa

Liberty Writers Africa

Our mission is to raise the collective consciousness of Africans all over the world. And also giving an account of our uniqueness, we hope to reintroduce Africa to the rest of the world. At the core of our vision, is to liberate the African mind - to make Africans discover their voice through literature.

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