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December 5, 1966

It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine

Author Affiliations

New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1966;198(10):1133-1134. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110230149055

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Actually it didn't start with Hippocrates at all. It began with the dawn of history. "In fact it began shortly before dawn, at about 3:00 A.M., when the first Stone Age doctor was routed from his bed...." Pre-Hippocratic, too, was Thoth, "an ibis-headed god with a lisp," and great Apollo. (Apollo was not present at his shrines "but worked through an answering service.") As for Aesculapius, "his fame traveled to the remotest corners of Greece." The legends of Hippocrates are fascinating. "One is that he never gave a thought to money. Another is that he admitted his errors. The reader should keep in mind that these are legends." There are, however, some double-Armoured truths in the same chapter. The Hippocratic doctors were itinerant. ( "With Hippocrates wandering around lookfor patients and patients wandering around looking for Hippocrates, there was a good deal of confusion.") The vis medicatrix naturae was recognized and