Hippocrates of Cos – The father of Western medicine

Hippocrates of Cos
(ca. 460/ 450 BC , Island of  Cos, Ancient Greece – 377/370 BC, Larissa, Thessaly, Greece)
Nationality: Greece
Category: Scientists
Occupation: Physicians, Philosophers
Unique distinction: The father of Western medicine, the author of the humoral theory of temperaments
Gender: Male

Quotes: 1. The first principal of medical ethic: “First, do no harm.” Primum non nocere (Latin). 2. Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult. 3. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. 4. Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity. 5. Walking is man’s best medicine. 6. It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has. 7. Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. 8. Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. 9. To do nothing is also a good remedy. 10. If you are not your own doctor, you are a fool. 11. The physician treats, but nature heals. 12. The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.


Social and professional position: Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician
The main contribution to (what is known): He was the founder of the Hippocratic School of medicine in ancient Greece, establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields thus making medicine a profession. His school revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece and establishing medicine as a profession.
Contributions: Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician and was considered one of the history’s most famous doctor and  most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician.
Hippocrates stated that medicine is not philosophy, and therefore must be practiced on a case-by-case basis rather than from general, first principles.
He separated medicine from philosophic speculation, rejected superstition in favour of scientific observation, classified diseases, and gave the world the Hippocratic Oath, a code of ethics for physicians which is still taken by graduates at many modern medical schools.
In The Sacred Disease, he advocated clinical observations, diagnosis, and prognosis, and argued that specific diseases come from specific causes.
Diseases in the Corpus Hippocraticum are natural events, which arise in a normal manner from the food one has eaten or weather, Airs, Waters, and Places, which recognized a link between environment and disease.
He was an expert in diagnosis, predicting the course of disease. Based on the color and pallor of the ill person, disease was considered to be an imbalance of the four “humors”—blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
This concept persists in the following terms that describe distinctive temperaments, which were determined by the predominance of the distinct fluid: sanguine (blood),  phlegmatic (phlegm). choleric (yellow bile), and melancholic (black bile).
Healing emphasis was placed on purges, attempts to purify the body from the illness produced by excesses or imbalance of humors. Hippocrates laid the foundation of a rational nutrition.
He  particularly noted the influence of food and diet on health, recommending moderation.
He believed that the goal of medicine should be to build the patient’s strength through appropriate diet and distinct hygienic measures, resorting to more drastic treatment only when the symptoms showed this to be necessary.
He watched the course of ilness, and attached great importance to the various periods of disease.
Knew and used in medical practice  more than 200 medicinal herbs, was a supporter of massage, gymnastics and  water therapies
Hippocrates also known as an outstanding surgeon.
The Hippocratic Collection (Corpus Hippocraticum) was assembled for the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. About 60 medical writings have survived that bear Hippocrates’ name, most of which were not written by him. The collection deals with anatomy, clinical subjects, diseases of women and children, prognosis, treatment, surgery, and medical ethics.
He is credited with the Hippocratic Oath, a code of professional conduct still followed by doctors.
Major works: Hippocratic Collection, ( Corpus Hippocraticum) which consists a various works attributed to him and to his school and includes The Hippocratic Oath, Aphorisms, and various works.


Origin: He was born, according to Soranus, in Cos (Kos), in the first year of the 80th Olympiad, in 460 BC. He was a member of the family of the Asclepiadae, It is also claimed for him that he was descended from Hercules through his mother, Phaenarete. Soranus wrote that Hippocrates’ father was Heraclides, a physician; his mother was daughter of Tizane. His mother Phaenarete  was the midwife. Moreover all the men were physicians in the Asclepiadae family. Hippocrates learned medicine from his father and grandfather, and studied other subjects with Democritus and Gorgias.
Education: He studied medicine under his father Heraclides who was a physician in the Asclepieion of Cos and Democretus and Herodicus of Selymbria. In philosophy Gorgias of Leontini and Democritus of Abdera were his masters.
Influenced by: Hippocrates was a disciple of Democritus and  contemporary of Socrates.
Career highlights: When he was twenty years old he was devoted to the priests, because it was impossible in that date to be engaged in  his medical practice without it.
He then seems to have spent most of his life traveling around the Greek world curing the great of obscure diseases and ridding grateful cities of plagues and pestilence. He taught and practiced his profession at Athens, probably also in Thrace, Thessaly, Delos, his native island Kos and the Sea of Marmara.
Personal life: Hippocrates was born on the island of Cos. The two sons of Hippocrates, Thessalus and Draco, and his son-in-law, Polybus, were his students. He traveled to many neighboring countries, and taught and practiced his profession at Athens, probably also in Thrace, Thessaly, Delos and his native island.  He probably died in Larissa at the age of 83, 84 or 90, though some accounts say he lived to be well  100,  104 and 109 age.
Zest: Thus very little is known about what Hippocrates actually thought, wrote, and did. The incidents of his life are shrouded by uncertain traditions, which naturally sprang up in the absence of any authentic record. It would be correctly to  reject the legends that he set fire to the library of the Temple of Health at Cnidos. He was short and travelled much. He was associated with the cult of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing whose staff entwined with a serpent became the symbol of medicine. Hippocrates means “horse master”.