June 17, 1968


JAMA. 1968;204(12):1138-1139. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140250118018

Hippocrates is probably the best-known name from medical history. Paradoxically, we know little about the man, and what we accept as fact often rests on wispy strands of information. We do know with reasonable assurance that Hippocrates lived about four centuries before Christ, that he was born and practiced medicine on a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and that he taught his art to students.

Our ignorance of Hippocrates' life in no way alters his importance to the profession. Ludwig Edelstein has remarked that Greek physicians were the first to take data about patients and transform it into knowledge: "Where their forerunners had noted details, moments of sickness, as it were, they encompassed the whole process of illness... the Greeks invented the science of medicine."

Hippocrates did not perform this feat personally. Indeed, the process was well advanced in his day. But unquestionably he and his colleagues contributed