Hippocrates Essay, Research Paper
Greek philosopherHippocrates is Greek physician, who is often called “the father of medicine.” Despite the existence of an elaborate tradition surrounding his name, modern scholarship recognizes that actually very little is known about his life, his activities, or his writings, and what is known is based indirectly on authors who lived at least 200 years after his death. The only contemporaries or near contemporaries who mention him are Plato, Aristotle, and Menon, a pupil of Aristotle. The influence of Hippocrates and of the Hippocratic writings has, however, been very real. It has incontestably helped in freeing medicine from superstition and speculative hypotheses. From the slender sources available, we learn that Hippocrates was born on the island of Cos in the Aegean Sea about 469 B.C. His father and first teacher was Heraclides, who belonged to the fluid of physicians. His mother was a mid wife, and his grandfather, also named Hippocrates, a physician. The numerous claims of his heroic ancestry, all mythological, indicate the position held by hippocrates in the minds of the Greeks. Following the death of his parents hippocrates went to Athens, where he studied under the celebrated sophist and rhetorician Gorgias of Leontine and Gorgias’ brother Herodicus, the gymnast. Plato states that hippocrates taught medical students for a fee. He is believed to have led the life of a wandering physician, traveling extensively throughout Greece and Macedonia. He died about 377 B.C. and was buried at Larissa in Thessaly. Aristotle says that within a few years after his death he was already known as “the Great Hippocrates.”Even less is known about the writing of Hippocrates than about his life. For centuries it has been recognized that the 70 or so treatises that make up the writings often attributed to Hippocrates are a heterogeneous group whose only internal consistency is that they are all written in the Ionic dialect. As early as the 1st century A.D. the Roman physician Galen and others attempted to identify the genuine works of Hippocrates. Scholarship grew more and more skeptical so that by the beginning of the 20th century none of the writings of the collection was accepted with any confidence as the work of Hippocrates himself. Later, this harsh position was somewhat softened. There is now a tendency to identify a group of treatises as his authentic work. They exhibit some unity of expression and style and a freedom from superstition and speculation that is consistent with the reputed characteristics of Hippocrates.
At the core of the Hippocratic problem is the question of what standard of genuineness or spuriousness can be adopted since there is no single work or passage nor any verbal quotation that we know for sure is the work of Hippocrates and therefore nothing from which to make a comparison. If the testimony of Plato, Aristotle, and Menon can be relied on, the fact that no extant work embodies the entirety of Hippocratic theory and teaching must be accepted. If tradition is relied on, Hippocratic doctrine must be invented and his biography derived from works only assumed to be genuine. The suggestion that the Hippocratic Collection is the remains of the library of the Hippocratic School at Cos is useful, permitting the grouping of the more important treatises. First are the main medical works Epidemics I and III, Regimen in Acute Diseases, and Prognostic. These works are unified and scientific in outlook, giving emphasis to experimental bedside or clinical medicine. Regimen discusses the general principles to be followed in the acute fevers, especially those associated with pulmonary disease. Closely allied in style and spirit are the Aphorisms, Airs, Water, Places, Prorrhetics I, and Coan Prenotions. Most of these treatises are thought to have been the work of Hippocrates himself. The second group consists of a series of largely technical surgical works. Wounds in the Head, Fractures, and Joints traditionally have been placed among the genuine works with some scholars attributing Fractures to grandfather Hippocrates.The third group includes essays, incomplete works, and compilations representing highly speculative theories on physiology and disease. In contrast to this group are the polemical works Ancient Medicine and Sacred Disease (epilepsy), which attack the intrusion of hypothetical speculation into medicine and concepts of the divine origin of disease, respectively. Finally, there are a large number of miscellaneous treatises that express the thought of various other schools.