National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Hippocrates, Father of Medicine B RN on the Aegean island of Cos, Hippocrates, the son of a physi cian, became the best-known physi cian of his time and laid the founda tions of modern medicine. His early years were passed on his native island, where there was a famous sanctuary of healing, or Asklepieion, to which came great numbers of invalids and tourists. The school which he founded there was still the finest school of medicine under the Ptolemies. About 430 B.C. he went to Athens, by invitation, to help combat a plague that was raging there. He thus forms part of the picture of the last half of the fifth century-a pe riod of growing culture, science, and philosophy which blossomed in the Periclean Age. There is a tremendous amount of Hippocratic literature, much of which was written after Hippocrates' time, but by general consent four works may be ascribed directly to him: the Aphorisms, the Prognostics, the Regimen in Acute Diseases, and the monograph on Wounds in the Head. Hippocrates' principal contribution was, like that of his followers, the separation of practical medicine from religion and philosophy, and the ex pression of the conviction that all diseases are due to natural causes and not to the interference of the gods. Preventive medicine plays a large part in his writings. Hippocrates be lieved that a good doctor could, from a careful study of bodily conditions, learn to foresee the course a disease would follow. His practice made relatively little use of drugs, but in cluded emetics, enemas, blood-letting, massage, and hydrotherapy. According to Hippocrates, the best way to avoid disease was to lead a wholesome life, and the best way to cure disease was to observe a proper diet and way of life. Anatomy and surgery made rather slow progress in Greece, although the action of the heart was known, and the brain was recognized as the seat of consciousness and thought. Tre phining operations for head wounds were performed, and reductions for dislocations, closely resembling mod ern methods, were known. Anaesthet ics, however, were not in general use. A late manuscript of Apollonius of Citium is illustrated with drawings showing the tortures undergone by patients when dislocations of joints were reduced. Throughout the Greek world there were centers of healing known as asklepieia. Here, doubtless, many simple and rational cures were ef fected by therapeutic means, and the presence of a big theater at one of the largest (Epidaurus) indicates plainly that relaxation and entertain ment, combined with proper diet, fresh air, and a certain amount of mental suggestion, were recognized as an effective way of curing numerous ills. Naturally, at such places the credit for the cure was given to the god Asklepios, and innumerable dedi cations have been found at the sanc tuaries belonging to him. These dedi cations, in the form of affected parts of the body, might be made of marble, bronze, or terra cotta. Inscriptions also testify to the miraculous nature of many of the cures, and we must assume that some of these were advertisements. Never theless, Hippocrates and his fellows of the fifth century set the high stand ard of professional ethics still ob served by physicians who take the Hippocratic Oath.