Hippocrates, greatest physician of antiquity, is regarded as the father of medicine. Born on the island of Kos, Greece in the year 460 b.c., says the earliest biography written by Soranus of Ephesus in the a third century a.d. Although a native of Kos he was forced to leave the island as the result of a fire for which he was blamed.
He traveled to many other islands to practice medicine. Most of the cases in the two books of Epidemics considered to be genuine are located at Thasos, a small island in the North Aegean Sea, and at Abdera, a town on the adjacent mainland; but there are also references to Cyzicus, on the south coast of the Sea of Marmara, and to Larisa and Meliboea in Thessaly. He died, according to tradition, in Larissa, Greece; little else is known about him. His name is associated with the Hippocratic Oath, though he probably is not the author of the document. In fact, of the approximately 70 works ascribed to him in the Hippocratic Collection, Hippocrates may actually have written about six of them. The Hippocratic Collection probably is the remnant of the medical library of the famous Kos school of medicine. His teachings, sense of detachment, and ability to make direct, clinical observations probably influenced the other authors of these works and had much to do with freeing ancient medicine from superstition.
Among the more significant works of the Hippocratic Collection is Airs, Waters, and Places, 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 -advanced the then- revolutionary idea that, by observing enough cases, a physician can predict the course of a disease.
The idea of preventative medicine, first conceived in Regimen and Regimen in Acute Diseases, stress not only diet but also the patient’s general way of living and how it influences his or her health and well being. Sacred Disease, a treatise on epilepsy, revealed 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 interests are Wounds in the Head, Women’s Diseases, and Dismembering of the Fetus in the Womb.
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