400 BCE Medicine

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Hippocrates medicine Medicine


Hippocrates removed medicine from practice of religious rituals and exploration of philosophies. Instead of focusing on diagnosis to specialize the medicine for a disease, his school focused on prognosis to learn by what course a disease would result in convalescence, relapse, or death. The school of Hippocrates believed in balancing the four humors, and were forbidden to practice dissections to learn about the human body.


Hippocrates might have said, “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness.” “Fatter people die sooner.” “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” “Diseases are cured by their contraries.” “Walking is man’s best medicine.” “Extreme diseases require extreme treatments.” “Prevention is better than a cure.” “Unconcocted humors should not be purged.” “Hiccup supervening in dropsical cases is bad.” “It is easier to fill up with drink than with food.” “Drinking strong wine cures hunger.” “A rigor and delirium from excessive drinking are bad.” And he probably didn’t say, “First, do no harm,” although something similar is attributed to him.


Most doctors today don’t really swear by Apollo the physician or Aesculapius the surgeon. Doctors today don’t attribute disease to an imbalance of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. For centuries after Hippocrates, a pall of panderers perverted medical practice following the oath of hypocrites.

Intelligent practicioners with noble ideals will eventually win out over quackery and greed. The practice started with primitive theories, but after the dark ages has gradually become more advanced and more beneficial.

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