About Hippocrates

Hippocrates was one of the first physicians to believe that diseases are the result of environmental factors rather than supernatural ones. The Hippocratic oath probably did not originate with Hippocrates. The concepts forged by Hippocrates have influenced medical thought ever since.

Hippocrates (born about 460 and died about 377 B.C.), was probably the greatest physician of all time and is considered the father of modern medicine. He was probably born on the island of Kos in Greece.  He traveled and studied widely before settling down on Kos to practice and teach medicine. He died in Larissa, Greece.  

About 70 medical text books are attributed to Hippocrates, but he may only have written six of them. The volumes of the Hippocratic Collection may be the remnant of the medical library of his famous Kos school of medicine.

The teachings, the sense of scientific detachment, and the ability to make direct, clinical observations, were all first taught by Hippocrates, and have influenced every doctor since. More than any other individual Hippocrates is credited with freeing medicine from superstition.

Among the most significant works of the Hippocratic Collection is Airs, Waters, and Places (dating to about the 5th century B.C.), which, instead of ascribing diseases to divine origin, discusses their environmental causes. It proposes that considerations such as a town's weather, drinking water, and site along the paths of favorable winds can help a physician ascertain the general health of citizens. Three other works (Prognostic, Coan Prognosis, and Aphorisms) taught the revolutionary idea that, by observing enough cases, a physician might be able to predict the course of a disease.

The idea of preventive medicine, first conceived in Regimen and Regimen in Acute Diseases, stresses that diet and the patient's way of living could influence his or her health. Sacred Disease, a treatise on epilepsy, reveals the rudimentary knowledge of anatomy in ancient Greece. Epilepsy was believed to be caused by insufficient air, which was thought to be carried by the veins to the brain and limbs. In Joints, the use of the so-called Hippocratic bench is described for treating dislocations. Also of interest are Wounds in the Head and Women's Diseases.


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Last modified: 07/27/08