Generally regarded as the father of western medicine, Hippocrates
of Cos was a physician in ancient Greece during the time of Pericles
and is considered one of the most important figures in the history
of medicine. His own contributions to the field are quite remarkable
and long lasting. Even today, physicians take the "Hippocratic
Oath" in recognition of his philosophy and approach to medicine.
Hippocrates was born around 460BC and arguably lived at least
90 years with some scholars believing he actually made it to 100.
We know relatively little about his long life apart from a 20
year prison sentence he endured for opposing the forms of medical
practices that was being engaged in at the time. During his sentence,
he wrote "The Complicated Body" which did encompass
many of the elements that we are familiar with today.
Interestingly enough, despite his overwhelming fame there is
actually very little we know of the man himself. This is because
most of his work we know from the writings of Corpus, a practitioner
under Hippocratic medicine and not from Hippocrates. Most of the
writings Hippocrates did have, apart from "The Complicated
Body" are presumably lost to history.
However, Soranus of Ephesus who lived in the 2nd century BC did
write about Hippocrates as well as Aristotle and John Tzetzes
who also compiled information about Hippocrates in the 12th century
The Achievements of Hippocrates
His most notable achievements came from founding the Hippocratic
School of Medicine, a school which revolutionized the thinking
of healthcare in its treatment and practice. The results were
in creating a discipline that separated itself from philosophy
and established itself on its own terms.
The most obvious achievement of Hippocrates is the establishment
of the Hippocratic Oath which is still being used today. In addition,
he established the study of clinical medicine using a systematic
form that our modern version derives from as well. In general,
it must be stated that Hippocrates was arguably the most influential
in how we see the medical profession today rather than for a string
The "Hippocratic Corpus", a collection of roughly 70
early medical works from the time period of Hippocrates survives
to this day. It contains research, notes, textbooks and lectures
from the time period that Hippocrates himself might have contributed,
but it does appear the work is from several authors.
In addition, Hippocrates and those who followed his teachings
are noted for the description of many different types of diseases
along with medical conditions. Cyanotic heart disease and lung
cancer were first diagnosed by Hippocrates as well as the clubbing
of fingers as a medical condition. In addition, Hippocrates categorized
these diseases into categories such as chronic, acute, endemic
and finally epidemic.
Unfortunately, the very fame of Hippocrates that he earned during
his long life contributed to the stalling of medical science once
he passed away. It took several centuries for the progress of
medicine to advance. However, the foundation of modern medical
science owes a huge debt to Hippocrates for establishing the focus
and boundaries of the science.
Rumor Has It …
… that Hippocrates' younger brother Ted was known as the Hippocratic
Oaf when romancing women with his clubbed hand. And some say
he was a bit hypocritical as well.
Written by Kevin Lepton
Published August 13, 2014