The Father of Modern Medicine: Hippocrates

His Life

Hippocrates lived between 430 and 370 B.C. He was born on the island of Cos, Greece. He had been taught medicine by his father Heracleides as well as by the most famous teachers of that time.

Hippocrates made his career as a house-to-house physician, the so called periodeut. He had founded the Coyan Medical School that later on competed with the Knidean Medical School. For a long time he practiced in Thrace and died in old age in Larissa in Thessalia.That is about all we know of his life.

The Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo the physician and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation.

To reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others.

I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.

With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

Whatever, in connection with my professional service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.

His Work

Hippocrates wrote some seventy books which as widely known as the Hippocratic Corpus. During his era medicine became a science and the profession had to be underpinned with logic and theory. The human body was thought to consist of four humours - yellow bile, blood, phlegm, and black bile. They were characterised by the same properties - dry, hot, wet and cold as the four elements - fire, air, water, and earth.

One generalised -and of course incorrecrt- theory was that disease was due to an imbalance of the fluid portions of the body. Hippocrates studied physiology, anatomy and evident, immediate and obscure causes of disease.

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Hippocrates (430 - 370 B.C.)

The Hippocratic Oath