Hippocrates (460-377 BCE)



Hippocrates, Greek physician, (460-377 BC), has been dubbed "the father of modern medicine" and is widely considered one of the outstanding figures ever in the field of medicine. His writings rejected the the superstition of primitive medicine and formed the basis for the field to become a branch of science. Hippocrates held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts. He accurately described many symptoms of diseases and and was the first physician to accurately describe the symptoms of pneumonia, as well as epilepsy in children. He believed in the natural healing process of rest, a good diet, fresh air and cleanliness. He noted that there were individual differences in the severity of disease symptoms and that some individuals were better able to cope with their disease and illness than others. He was also the first physician that held the belief that thoughts, ideas, and feelings come from the brain and not the heart as others of him time believed. His Hippocratic Oath is still taken by physicians and pertains to the ethical practice of medicine.

Toxicological Perspective

Hippocrates notes the effect of food, of occupation, and especially of climate in causing disease. One of his books, De aëre, aquis et locis (Air, Waters and Places), is the earliest work on human ecology.


The only snippet of biographical information historians agree on is that Hippocrates was real, having been born around 460 BCE on the island of Kos. It is said that he traveled often and may have been born to a physician father as well.

The Hippocratic Philosophy was the first investigation of human anatomy and physiology in ancient Greece. He centered his philosophy upon prognosis rather than diagnosis and he rejected many of the accepted mystical elements of disease. He did not believe that disease was a punishment by God but rather understood that disease arose out of other factors - diet, age, environmental factors.