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April 1964

The Asklepian Myths Revalued

Author Affiliations


Arch Intern Med. 1964;113(4):496-500. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.00280100004002

The Asklepian myths are often used currently in the initiation rites of USA Greek-letter medical fraternities. These brotherhoods in the healing arts have chapters at medical schools, and their members are pledged to support the ancient ethical standards of the Hippocratic oath. Medical fraternity rituals sometimes include appearances of Asklepios as the son of the wounding and healing Apollo, born at the death of his mother Koronis.

These groups derive from the Kappa Lambda Society of Aesculapius, organized by Samuel Brown (1769-1830) in 1819 at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. The purpose of its founding was to improve standards of medical education and practice, which had slumped badly during the rapid frontier growth of the United States, even in the midst of its Jeffersonian-inspired Greek revival. When Kappa Lambda succumbed to political intrigue in 1835, its program became, in 1846, the basis for founding the American Medical Association.

While modern