Celebrate Father’s Day with Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published June 15, 2018

Key Takeaways

Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) is widely recognized as the “Father of Medicine” for instituting a rational, scientific approach to the diagnosis and treatment of medicine, without inclusion of religious beliefs or magical practices. His contributions to medicine are exemplified by the systematic observation of clinical symptoms and a process for interpreting the causes of disease. He also held himself and his students to high ethical standards, with an almost sacred duty toward professionalism and a primacy on the care of patients.

Many of his precepts were codified in the famous Hippocratic Oath (which, contrary to longstanding tradition, doesn’t contain the phrase “First, do no harm,” although it clearly cautions physicians against “injury and wrong-doing” in their efforts to provide treatment).

Notably, a scroll from Ancient Greece was recently discovered that purportedly contains a news article about Hippocrates at the pinnacle of his career. Scholars just released their translation of the long lost text, which we present here in its entirety:

Kos Daily News, 399 BCE – Local dad Hippocrates of Kos, known in physician circles around Greece for his eponymous Oath, is being celebrated this weekend as the “Father of Medicine.”

The news comes as something of a surprise to the famous physician’s own father, Heraclides, a physician-priest, as well as his grandfather, Hippocrates I, also a physician-priest and a direct descendent of Asclepius, the god of medicine.

“By the Oracle!” cried a crochety Hippocrates I. “I was administering leeches long before that little whelp could toddle. Now, look at him. Starting his own school, teaching medicine to any Tom, Dick, or Herodotus who wanders in. In my day, we kept medicine to our own, and that was just fine by us.”

Father Heraclides shrugged off concerns about his son’s popular medical school. “It’s not the egalitarian learning ethic that bothers me,” said the local healer and spiritualist, as he fanned smoking incense at a patient with consumption. “What bothers me is Hippocrates’ disdain for our ancient superstitious practices. I mean, these are time-honored formulas based on supplications to the gods and ritual sacrifices.”

Across town at the School of Kos, the medical institute that Hippocrates founded, students had no lack of praise for their instructor.

“He, like, teaches us stuff like observing clinical signs and making rational conclusions?” said Polybus, a beardless youth. “Also, he came up with a lot of great terms that, like, other people just don’t know. Like epilepsy? It’s not a punishment from the gods, number one. And number two? It has symptoms—that’s another great term, symptoms—that you can actually classify and document.”

Polybus and other pupils admitted they weren’t happy about so much documentation. Nor were they so enthusiastic about certain lines in the Hippocratic Oath such as: “when [my teacher] is in need of money, to share mine with him.” But they uniformly agreed on celebrating their instructor as the “Father of Medicine,” especially because it cost them nothing and required no additional work.

Thessalus, another student, said with pride, “Father of Medicine? That was totally my idea, because he’s like my actual father.”

Thessalus and his brother Draco hope to one day soon walk in their father’s footsteps in teaching others what they’ve learned, going to lands wracked by plagues, and treating the sick by performing such procedures as lancing boils and applying salves to festering wounds.

“Plagues…and boils?” said young Draco, somewhat ambivalently. “Yeah, I guess so. But that part [in the Hippocratic Oath] about not poisoning someone? I totally have that covered. I am so on top of that.” 

For his part, Hippocrates and his wife plan to spend Father’s Day at home with friends. “My good pal Plato is coming over. You know he wrote that I’m ‘the famous physician of Kos,’ right? Yeah, he did. But I’m not in this for the glory. I just do it for the patients.” Then, with a grin, he added: “And the parties!”

[Editor’s note: After the “discovery” of this “ancient text,” scholars have since deemed it a fraud and completely fabricated.]

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