Hippocrates

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Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, 460 BC — 370 BC
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 5 January 2017

Introduction

See also Avicenna | History of medicine portal | Hua Tuo | Maimonides | Osler Library of the History of Medicine | Sushruta | Andreas Vesalius

Hippocrates of Cos (460 BC — 370 BC), Ancient Greek physician, diagnostician & author, is considered to be one of the best-known physicians in history. His writings, referred to as the Corpus Hippocraticum, provide a wealth of information about medicine and insight into one of the first codes of professional ethics. It is generally believed that the Corpus Hippocraticum is the work of several authors or followers of the great master's teachings. The name ‘Hippocrates’ was assigned to the entire corpus without distinguishing any texts actually written by Hippocrates. Hippocrates' peer Plato made reference to Hippocrates in Phaedrus.

During his lifetime, Hippocrates began to categorize illnesses as acute, chronic, endemic and epidemic, and used terms such as "exacerbation, relapse, resolution, crisis, paroxysm, peak, and convalescence". Another of Hippocrates' major contributions were his descriptions of symptomatology, physical findings, surgical treatment and prognosis of thoracic empyema (pus), i.e. suppuration of lining of chest. Hippocrates' teachings remain relevant to today's students of pulmonary medicine and surgery. The medical profession’s core principles owe a considerable debt to Hippocrates; while they may have been modified somewhat over the centuries, they have remained relatively the same since Hippocrates first articulated them. His rules for the profession were relatively simple; first do no harm, always do what is best for the patient, consider the patient before self, create no mischief and keep confidential what you see and hear.

There is nothing specific in the Hippocratic Oath about charges or payments for a physician’s services. However, it concludes with the statement, “if you keep this oath, it will be granted to you to enjoy life and the practice of this art, respected by all men in all times.” Through the ages patients have relied on the physician’s adherence to this basic Code of Medical Ethics as the fundamental basis for the social contract, commonly refer to as the patient/physician relationship. Historians agree that Hippocrates was born around the year 460 BC on the Island of Kos and became a famous ambassador for medicine. He was also an outspoken critic of religion-based medical practice. As a result, Hippocrates endured a twenty-year prison sentence during which he wrote medical works such as The Complicated Body, encompassing many of the things we know to be true today.

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