Hippocrates: The Father of Modern Medicine

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Hippocrates of Kos is the most outstanding doctor of his time and the first blogger of medical books. He cleared medicine from the effects of philosophy and the darkness of magical rituals and is one of the most famous personalities throughout history in all ages and all fields. However, he only cared about one field and did not excel in different fields, such as Leonardo da Vinci who spoke in different fields, gained unparalleled wide fame, and many books were attributed to him. The owner of the idea of ​​the famous oath that doctors take before practising the medical profession.

Hippocrates (c. 460–375 BCE), the son of Euclid (Heraclitus), the son of Hippocrates, the seventh Greek physician from the Asclepius family who are considered the founder of ancient medicine, and his name means in Greek the skilled knight. Hippocrates, in turn, is considered the father of medicine in the fourth century BCE, despite the ambiguity of his personality and the inaccuracy of the facts and information he provided.

Historians and translators transmitted it from him, but his outstanding role in the field of medicine, philosophy and thought cannot be denied. He is the founder of the medical school on the island of Kos in the Mediterranean. He is also credited with separating divine and religious concepts from medicine and moving away from speculation and myths prevalent in antiquity.

He replaced it with a purely medical method based on observation and observation of the body as a basis for medical knowledge, in addition to considering the appropriate diet and medicines the key to maintaining the balance and health of the body, away from the religious beliefs and practices recognised in his time.

Birth of Hippocrates

Hippocrates’s date of birth has not been determined precisely by historians. Still, it is likely that he was born on the Greek island of Kos in the year 460 BCE, i.e. in the 5th century BCE, and that he belongs to the ancient Greek family of Asclepius.

Education of Hippocrates

There are many differences between the education and life of Hippocrates. Still, the translators indicate that he studied with Democritus and Gorgias and that he travelled to seek knowledge through Greece and Asia Minor, then settled on the island of Kos, to which he originated, which was a city where the medicine was practised, but he was mixed with religious belief.

Before Hippocrates, there were many doctors and medical students among priests and philosophers, who, in turn, wrote down some names of diseases, in addition to using many medical terms. Until the era came when Democritus and members of the medical school excluded religious ideas related to medicine. Empedocles developed the theory of the four elements often attributed to Hippocrates.

However, he was young at the time, and Empedocles himself was inspired by his theory from the ancient philosopher Pythagoras. Later, he was inspired by Hippocrates and imbued with this scientific spirit while settling and learning medicine on the island of Kos. It is mentioned that he especially learned and practised the medical profession through research and study Stories of treating diseases preserved in the Temple of Kos.

Medicine before Hippocrates

In ancient Greece, if someone became unwell, they would usually end up in Asklepion, a temple dedicated to the god of medicine. The patient slept there and hoped Asklepios would visit him overnight, telling him of the cure.

Upon awakening the next day, the patient would report his dreams to the priests, who would prescribe a cure for them—usually based on prayer, exercise, bathing, and herbal remedies. However, the desire to seek more realistic explanations for people’s illnesses has grown over time.

Hippocrates was one of the most prominent physicians who advocated science and reason, which helped advance the theory of the four correlates, and was one of the first physicians to accurately describe conditions such as epilepsy. While some people believe that the disorder is caused by demonic possession, the doctor decided Born in Kos that the reason lies within the human brain.

Thanks to the work of Hippocrates and his followers over the generations, a distinction began to be made between acute (short and sudden) and chronic (long-term) diseases, emphasising the importance of follow-up.

Hippocrates’s Medical Philosophy and Therapeutic Approach

Hippocrates provided an accurate description of many diseases, including tuberculosis, epilepsy, and puerperal convulsions. In addition to various diets. He also accurately indicated signs that warn of approaching death for approximately 42 disease cases, and 25 of them were destined for death, so some sections of the science of unique surgery became Known as Hippocratic.

It is the most famous undisputed until the end of the eighteenth century, as it was distinguished by its professional ethics as a natural person before becoming a skilled doctor. As for his medical approach, he built his types of treatment and medicines based on the following principles:

  1. Vitality: This principle echoes the well-known spiritual views in the era of Hippocrates, which refers to the existence of an immaterial element that revives the body and serves as a passing breeze that becomes extinct with its extinction, which is the psyche.
  2. Humorism: This principle believes that the things around us are composed of four essential elements, namely: cold, hot, dry, and moist, and that the human body forms a proportional mixture of blood, bile, and phlegm, and that if these elements are mixed in quantity and form, Balanced, this state of mixing is called the state of crisis, as the body is healthy and sound.
    While if the way or quantity of its mixing is disturbed, as if any of these elements increases or decreases, or does not accept mixing with other elements, then illnesses and diseases occur in the body. Hippocrates also confirms that an increase in cold and heat is the most common cause of conditions in the body, and therefore the human body is referred to as a united mass in functions, and all organs are affected by illness or disease of any part or member of its system.
  3. Naturism: It is intended to simulate nature during treatment, as the accuracy of observation distinguished Hippocrates in diagnosing and verifying diseases. The effect supervises the various vital functions in the body and fights the factors that affect and destroy it. As for the doctor’s role, he completes his assistance to nature so that it plays its role, and therefore he must be aware of the disease or crisis (crisis).

It is a “sudden change that occurs to a patient with acute fever, accompanied by profuse sweating and a rapid drop in temperature,” which represents the turning point in the disease, as it suggests the direction of its course, whether to improvement or exacerbation, in addition to the necessity for the doctor to be aware of the critical days.

Therefore, the doctor must not rush and take caution during his intervention during the disease. In order not to prevent the performance of nature and its healing role, but in the event of a delay in the appearance of the two seas, the doctor must intervene to remove the sick materials, using medicines, laxatives and other means of treatment.

Hippocrates Corpus

Hippocrates left a massive legacy in medicine collected in the 3rd century BCE. Doctors used it as a central reference throughout the entire Western world. The writings were compiled by the Alexandria Museum in Egypt and included in its library, in addition to the collection of medical works attributed to Hippocrates in the classical period. It was called (Corpus Hippocratum).

It is a collection of medical documents that number up to sixty books, some of which contain short paragraphs and some of which exceed the volume, and in which lectures, research papers, medical cases, and philosophical articles were placed on a variety of topics related to medicine, including anatomy and physiology, and other medical sciences, and clinical questions about internal medicine, diagnostic techniques, pathology, gynaecology, paediatrics, pharmacology, nutrition, and medical ethics.

Hippocratic Oath

Hippocrates drew up an ancient code of ethics for doctors. He mentioned several topics related to ethics and medical principles, giving free lessons to medical students, calling on doctors not to use knives in surgery, etc. Today, medical schools use the Hippocratic Oath in its updated form. College graduates must recite the Hippocratic Oath as a pledge to adhere to ethical principles while practising medicine.

Hippocrates’s Four Fluids Theory  

Hippocrates developed the theory of the four fluids, a different view from what was prevalent in the past about disease, by linking it to the environment and what happens inside the body. Liquids determine the physical, mental, and psychological health of a person. The body is in good health when these four basic fluids are balanced, but if their balance is imbalanced, the body will be exposed to disease, and among the medical ideas of Hippocrates also is that diseases are caused by undigested residues resulting from an improper diet as these residues secrete fumes that are transmitted to the body and cause illness.

Hippocratic Influence

Hippocrates made an influential mark in the medical field. The ancient medical schools, such as the first empiricism and rationalism, talked about Hippocrates being a source of their beliefs, just as Galen was influenced by the theories of Hippocrates when he developed his medical system, which later became the basis for European medicine in the Renaissance. In addition, Hippocrates has remained to this day a model for the human and ethical aspects of the medical profession.

Hippocrates’s Greatest Contributions to Medicine

Hippocrates made many vital contributions to the field of medicine, most notably the following:

  1. He separated medicine from religion. He adopted a firm rule on which treatment was built, which is that the primary source of diseases comes from air and food, so he linked air changes to the patient’s condition, stressing that sick bodies can be cured using the correct treatments.
  2. He is considered the first founder of a regular medical school in which he taught his beliefs and principles to his students.
  3. He is considered the first to determine pathological inheritance. Among his statements, he indicated that biliary was born from biliary, and phlegmatic was born from phlegmatic.
  4. He relied on medical observation and followed the method of clinical treatment whose benefit appeared in modern medicine. He was very observant and meticulous in his examination of his patients and his extrapolation of treatment, and this is the reason for his calling him the “father of medicine.”
  5. He also followed a new methodology that relied on observation and the study of nature in order to heal far on the authority of books and prevailing beliefs.
  6. Although Hippocrates did not know much about anatomy, he dissected the monkeys, explained the structure of the skeleton and its natural and dangerous condition, and described the structure of the skull and viscera. Still, at the same time, he made a mistake by confusing veins, arteries, and nerves and called the superficial muscles flesh.
  7. Hippocrates acknowledged that there are four humors: biliary, melancholy, bloody, and phlegmatic, pointing out that disease occurs due to a deficiency or excess of one of them.
  8. He used injections, diagnosed the patient by hearing, and excelled in diagnosing diseases, so he divided them into three roles: the role of attack, the role of severity, and the role of completion, and appointed several days for the third role.
  9. He mastered and excelled in the art of surgery, especially in the method of restoring dislocations and repairing fractures, using lettering to puncture the membranes of the brain, hydrocephalus (pericardial pericardium), extraction of renal stones by incision, fixation of forceps in obstetrics, and perforation of the cavity of the ribs in suppuration of the membrane lining the chest (pyrosis), and amputations and others. He also prevented his students from removing the pebble by operation due to the riskiness of the operation and their lack of experience.
  10. He presented many useful medical books, letters and dissertations in the field of surgery, obstetrics and orthopaedics, most notably: the book “Fractions”, “Head Swelling”, “The Nature of Bones” and others.
  11. Hippocrates took special care of the patients’ food more than his tendency to give them medicines. He praised the diet for the health and safety of the body, which differs in nature in the case of health and disease, and among his views in this field was that the sick person is treated with the drugs of his land as nature looks forward to its air and enters its food.
  12. He was distinguished by his good morals and humanity, which made him a prominent real doctor.
  13. He used to invite doctors and point out the importance of their human aspects, their adherence to professional ethics, and their avoidance of tricks and deception.

Hippocrates’s Most Famous Books

Although Hippocrates wrote many different books and medical treatises, there are many books and articles attributed to him by his students and other contemporary physicians who followed his path and followed his medical philosophy.

Historians of medicine called it Cropus hippocraticum, the Hippocratic Collection. The number of books ranges between 72-76 books covering 53 different topics. It represents an essential medical legacy that has been circulated throughout the ages, and it has been published, transferred and translated into Arabic, English and German, and among the books written by Hippocrates are the following:

  1. The Book of Embryos (On the fœtus): The book includes three articles that revolve around the formation of embryos, as the first deals with the formation of semen, the second on the formation of the fetus, and the last is about the formation of the body’s organs.
  2. The Book of Acute Diseases (Regimen in acute diseases): the content of the book revolves around diseases and their medicines, and it includes three articles, as the first revolves around how to manage food and about vomiting in acute diseases, and the second explains how to treat with tamponade and bloodletting, and refers to the composition of laxatives and so on That, as for the last one, talks about treatment with wine, cold water, bathing, honey water, and skincare.
  3. Women’s Pains: In his book, Hippocrates presents the ailments and diseases that happen to women resulting from menorrhagia and its bleeding, as well as the changes, diseases, and diseases that may affect them during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Hippocrates’s Most Famous Sayings

Among the most famous sayings of Hippocrates are the following:

  1. The wise man should think that health is man’s greatest blessing and learn by his thought how to benefit from his illnesses.
  2. A physician must be able to tell the past, to know the present, to foretell the future, to mediate these matters, and to possess two essential things in connection with illness: to do good or to do no harm.
  3. Life is short, art is long, opportunity is fleeting, experience is treacherous, and judgment is difficult.
  4. Knowing the person who has the disease is much more important than knowing what disease the person has.

Hippocrates Death

Hippocrates died in the ancient Greek city of Larissa. Historians have disagreed about his death, but it is likely that he died between 375 and 351 BCE.

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