Who: An ancient Greek physician considered the father of western medicine.
Born: 460 BC
Died: 370 BC (90 Years old)
Known as: Father of Medicine
Hippocrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician who lived during the 5th and 4th centuries BC and is considered the father of medicine for his outstanding work in the field of medicine. He founded the Hippocratic School of medicine on the island of Kos. This school revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece, establishing itself as being distinct from other fields that it had been commonly associated with (such as theurgy and philosophy), making it a separate profession. So great was the work of Hippocrates that after his death the field of medicine had failed to advance for the next two thousand years as his teachings were taken to be too great to be improved upon. It wasn’t until in Europe in the 19th centuries that his methods were revived and expanded upon by some of the most revered physicians of modern time. His teachings and ideas are still used to this day and the famous Hippocratic Oath is practiced all around the world acting as an oath for Doctors to take once they have graduated medicine school.
One of Hippocrates most important advancements was being the first physician toreject superstitions, legends and beliefs that credited supernatural or divine forces with causing illness. When people got an illness in ancient Greece they would often offer a sacrifice to the Gods of Olympus to cure the illness. Hippocrates essentially separated the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits. Indeed there is not a single mention of a mystical illness in the entirety of the Hippocratic Corpus. Hippocratic medicine was notable for its strict professionalism, discipline and rigorous practice as it was recommended that physicians always be well-kempt, honest, calm, understanding, and serious. The Hippocratic physician paid careful attention to all aspects of his practice: he followed detailed specifications for, “lighting, personnel, instruments, positioning of the patient, and techniques of bandaging and splinting” in the ancient operating room. He even kept his fingernails to a precise length.
- “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
- “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
- “Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future.”
- “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.”
- “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.”
- “The life so short, the craft so long to learn.”
- “It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
- “That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away.”
Kos = Hercules, Hermes, Hippocrates! Athena & Asclepius:
RECITATION OF THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH AT ASKLEPION KOS 2011: