Hippocrates Biography: His Influence On Modern Medicine
Hippocrates biography: The Father of Modern Medicine
”To seek to ease pain is natural” (Silverburg, 16). Therefore since the dawn of pain, man has sought relief from it. This is how the field of medicine began. Since the dawn of man, many medical advances have been made and the world of medicine continues to change and improve.
Over the course of history, various civilizations have attempted to eliminate pain. Various methods and medical techniques have been used, and a few of the more common methods are still in use today. However from ancient China to ancient Greece, the basic belief of the ancient people was the same: A higher being was responsible for man's well being. Man was not responsible for medicine and thus we could not affect it or change it.
This was the belief held by many ancient cultures. “It is not until the New Stone Age, which began in Europe seven to ten thousand years ago, that we find actual evidence of medical practice.” (Dolan, 1) In these times, man held the belief that the ailments were caused by other means, which were out of mans control. “Primitive man believed that disease came not from natural causes but from supernatural ones; that is it arose from the action of unfriendly spirits, ghosts, and demons, or from witchcraft.” (The Doctor, 10) These diseases were therefore “prevented and treated by magic directed against supernatural forces.” (10) The belief in these supernatural causes transferred to many different civilizations. Shamans and medicine men used various herbal concoctions to rid the patients of the demons which was causing the illness. This practice was widely used up until the Dawn of Hippocrates.
Hippocrates was a very educated man and he was a pioneer in shifting the medical view of the world. Hippocrates was a key component in the movement to rid Ancient Greece of medical beliefs, which revolved heavily around the religious beliefs of the time. Demonic possession or evil spirits were seen as the main reason for an illness. The “doctors” would try to rid the patient of the demon causing the illness. Hippocrates shifted the cause of illness to a mostly scientific cause. Hippocrates had acquired immense knowledge of natural sciences including chemistry, physics, and biology. “
Under his influence, the shackles of mysticism, which had bound medicine for so long, were at last cast off. With Hippocrates medicine entered the age of Reason based upon observation and for the first time it acknowledged the unknown. By ... careful, painstaking observation and inquiry the physician became a servant of nature--a doctor instead of a sorcerer. That is not to say that all of the writings of theories including that of the “humors,” yet unlike Galen who came after, he accepted areas of uncertainty as inevitable and didn’t fill in with theoretical
drivel. (The Greek, 3)
These humors were established by the idea of Essentialism. The belief that “ every living alive…contained certain mixtures of four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) called humours. These humours consisted of black bile, phlegm, yellow, and blood.” (Ancient Greek, 1) When one of the humours was out of place, sickness would be the result. In order to stop the illness, the error in the humours had to be fixed. Though he started the work of the humours, this was not what establishes Hippocrates’ name in the history of civilization.
Hippocrates is more widely known for his work on training new recruits into the medical field. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates wrote an oath for physicians to follow. This oath detailed the rights of the patient under the physician’s care and detailed the responsibilities the physician had to the patient. This oath set the ethical standard in direct patient care for many years to follow. The following is a summary of the Hippocratic oath: “The Hippocratic oath … pledges the physician to work for the good of the patient, to do him or her no harm, to prescribe no deadly drugs, and to keep confidential medical information regarding the patient.” (Clayman, 539) This oath has become a standard in the medical field. The oath is administered during the graduation ceremonies of all modern medical schools. In the United States, if a physician is found to have purposely ignored the rules set forth in the Oath, he or she will loose their license to practice medicine in the States. This is a way of ensuring the care and concern shown by Hippocrates will continue to be shown in the future.
His immense knowledge and human compassion has given Hippocrates a spot in history. His pledge to patients of the world will continue to make an impact in the world for centuries to come. Pain will be present in lives until the end of time. The Hippocratic oath will help to ensure the injured patients receive the proper care and treatment for their ailments.
“Ancient Greek Civilizations: Medicine in Ancient Greece”
Dolan, John P. and William N. Adams-Smith. Health and Society: A Documentary
History of Medicine. The Seabury Press: New York, 1978.
Haggard, Howard W. The Doctor in History. Dorset Press: New York, 1989.
“Hippocratic Oath” The American Medical Association Home Medical Encyclopedia.
Charles B. Clayman, M.D. Editor. Random House: New York ,1989.
Silverburg, Robert. The Dawn of Medicine. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York, 1966.
“The Greek Era” www.getnet.com/~labores/greeks.html