Many things can be said about the marvels of modern medicine. However, we will take a trip to the past and look at some of the origins of how medicine is practiced today. In particular, we will look briefly at ancient Egypt and its medicine and the life of the Greek doctor Hippocrates.
Many of the ideas of medicine can be traced back to ancient Egypt. One of the first known physicians in history was the Egyptian Imhotep. Imhotep was not only a physician, but he also was an astronomer, politician, and architect. Some of his work in architecture includes designing the first pyramids of Egypt.
Unlike medical doctors of today who are worried primarily about keeping their patients alive and healthy, Egyptian doctors were focused on preserving the bodies of those who were dead. Egyptian culture was obsessed with the afterlife, and this created a market in which doctors would go to great lengths to preserve the body. This explains the development of mummification and the mummies that are still found to this day. Strangely, medicine during this time was focused on death rather than life.
Due to the pioneering work in medicine in Egypt, the country began to attract people from all over the world who wanted to study medicine there. Among the people who came to Egypt were the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen.
Hippocrates was a Greek physician born during the 5th century BC. Early in his life, he traveled to Egypt to study medicine. After his studies, Hippocrates spends some time as a traveling teacher before returning to Athens.
Hippocrates’ methods of treating patients were radically different from his peers. During his life, there was a large amount of superstition in treating disease. It was common for physicians to blame evil spirits, demons, and gods for illness. Treatments included making a sacrifice at a temple and spending the night there to be cured.
Hippocrates views were different for him disease had a natural cause. In other words, if you can find what is making a person sick, you can cure the disease. The practical outflow of this was as simple as asking the patient what kind of symptoms they were experiencing—other approaches included nutrition, rest, and cleanliness. Many of the ideas are still practice and also considered common sense today.
Hippocrates was also famous for his integrity. It was common during his time for doctors to be bribed to hurt people. However, Hippocrates apparently never agreed to this. He also would occasionally help people for free. His views on ethics were eventually summarized in the Hippocratic Oath, which lays out ethical behavior for medical doctors.
Imhotep may have been the first, but Hippocrates was one of the most influential physicians of all time. He is called by many the “Father of Medicine” due to his influential work in the medical world.