Medical Pioneers – Hippocrates

Hippocrates is known as the ‘Father of Medicine’. He was a Greek physician who lived between around 460 B.C. to 375 B.C. He lived at a time when most people believed sickness was down to superstition and the anger of the gods. Hippocrates was a pioneer of his time, believing that illness had a natural cause. He set up the very first school focussed on the teaching of medicine.

He was a prolific writer and around 60 medical documents are attributed to him. This includes the famous Hippocratic oath that is still used today by doctors. The different documents were gathered together into a collection known as the Hippocratic Corpus. Whilst he may not have directly written all of them, they reflect his teaching and philosophy and provide evidence that he led the practice of medicine in a new direction, one of rationality and scientific thinking.

Image credit

Hippocrates has been credited with the development of the idea of the Four Humours. They are described as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. The way in which the body’s organs, humours, age and qualities interacted, as well as the season all determined health, both physically and mentally and a person’s personality type.

According to the Four Humours theory yellow bile is associated with the choleric disposition, hot and dry conditions, fire, summer and childhood.

Black bile is associated with melancholy, cold and dry conditions, winter and old age.

Blood is associated with a sanguine personality, hot and wet, spring, air, the heart and teen years.

Phlegm is associated with cold and moist conditions, water, the brain and growing maturity.

Differences in age, gender and disposition could all be attributed to the interactions of these four elements. The ancient theory purported that the secret to good health was keeping these four humours in balance. Too much of one or a deficiency in another could lead to illness and disease.

Image credit

These concepts might sound bizarre to us today, but they represented the first step towards looking at health as separate from superstition and increasing belief that illness was related to the environment and what was happening inside the body. Make your own important contribution to the world of medicine and partake in Paid Clinical Trials with

The collection lectures, books and writings known as the Hippocratic Corpus were assembled in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century B.C. and became the standard reference book for training physicians across the Western world. Some of these teachings were still being used as late as the 19th century.

The Hippocratic oath is still used by medical school graduates today, albeit in a modern variation. Although some believe the oath needs updating to reflect modern society’s issues, doctors still hold the oath’s principles as sacred. It includes treating the sick to the very best of one’s ability, keep them safe from harm and injustice, respect patient privacy and to teach the skills of medicine to the next generation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *