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JAMA 100 Years Ago
August 19, 2009


JAMA. 2009;302(7):807. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1156

The first physician of whom we have any definite record is evidently I-em-Hetep, who lived in the reign of King Tchser, a monarch of the Third Dynasty of Egypt, the date of whose reign is somewhat uncertain, but is probably not later than 4500 B. C. In the light of recently awakened interest in psychotherapeutics and the use of the mind to influence the body, it is extremely interesting to note that his name, I-em-Hetep, means “the bringer of peace.” According to tradition, he had two other titles, one of which was “The Master of Secrets” and the other “The Scribe of Numbers.” The reference embodied in the first of these titles is easy to understand. The second is less easy of comprehension. Perhaps the writing of his prescriptions required an unusual knowledge of numbers in those days, for even at that time the Egyptians had a great many remedies that they employed for diseases of various kinds and many methods of administering them. He seems to have been held in high honor by his generation and to have received ample rewards for his professional work, for the well-known “step pyramid” at Sakkara, the old cemetery near Memphis, is attributed to him, showing that he was only next to the king in honor and also very probably in revenue.

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