Science Factsheet - Hippocrates - Discovery zone - Living Paintings

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Science Factsheet – Hippocrates

Portrait of Hippocrates from Linden, Magni Hippocratis, 1665 showing a man writing at a desk.

Name: Hippocrates

Field of science: Medicine

Born: circa 460 BC, island of Cos, Greece, died 370 BC, Larissa, Greece

Best known for: Being the “father of medicine” and the greatest physician of his time. Hippocrates’ name is given to what’s known as the Hippocratic Oath. A promise still made by modern doctors to keep patient’s confidences secret and “not to give poison” i.e. always do your best for your patient. Before this, some doctors would intentionally harm their patients for money – there was no moral code for physicians to stick to.

Anything else? Hippocrates was one of the ancient Greek doctors who first developed a rational (rational means based on logic) rather than spiritual system of medicine. Previously people believed that the gods brought illness as a punishment and there was no way other than being morally good to prevent it.

Any famous quotes? As a believer in a whole-body approach to wellness, it’s believed Hippocrates was the one who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. A quote that’s as relevant now as it was way back then.

What did he look like? As Hippocrates lived such a long time ago, no one really knows for sure. The above image is a 17th century representation by Dutch physician, Johannes Antonides van der Linden.

You may not know: He was the first to accurately describe disease symptoms including the symptoms of pneumonia, epilepsy in children and clubbing of the finger (still referred to today as ‘Hippocratic finger’ – an important diagnostic symptom of numerous diseases and disorders including chronic lung infections, lung cancer, Graves’ disease, cirrhosis of the liver, coeliac disease, and heart valve infections).


Encyclopaedia Britannica. Hippocrates.

Greek Physician Weekly. Before and after Hippocrates.

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