The Contribution of Hippocrates to Medicine

The Contribution of Hippocrates to Medicine

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The Contribution of Hippocrates to Medicine

Greek doctors tried to understand what caused disease through careful
observation of people who were ill. They saw that when someone was ill
there was usually a liquid coming out of the body, for example phlegm
from nose or vomit from the stomach. They decided that these liquids
(which they called humours) must somehow be the causes of illness. The
liquid or humour must be coming out of the body because there was too
much of it. The humours had got out of balance with each other.

Hippocrates, the most famous Greek doctor, who developed the theory of
the four humours, told all of his students that illnesses could be
treated without the use of magic. He said all they had to do was
discover the nature of each disease. Then they would be able to treat

The Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic Oath is still used today. It makes clear that doctors
do not use magic. They have to keep high standards of treatment and
behaviour and work for the benefit of patients rather than making
themselves rich. This also offered patients the right to


The Hippocratic collection contains books which doctors used for
centuries. Hippocrates may not have written all of these books and
historians cannot tell who did write them. This collection is
important because it is the first detailed list of symptoms and
treatments. Doctors continued to use the theories of Hippocrates as
the basis of their own work for hundreds of years.

Recording and Observing

Hippocrates showed how important it was to observe and record
carefully the symptoms and development of diseases. This had two
advantages. Doctors were more likely to choose the right cure if they
took care to find the cause of the problem. These notes could also be
used to help with the diagnosis and treatment of future patients.

Causes of disease & natural treatments

Hippocrates developed the theory of the four humours to explain the
causes of disease.

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We now know that this theory was wrong but it
dominated medical treatments for many centuries. Hippocrates
encouraged people to look for natural treatments for illnesses rather
than going to the Gods for help.

Hippocrates played a big part in the medical movement during the Greek
period. His thoughts upon the four humours played a big part in some
of the other break-through's in the future, and got people thinking of
physical remedies rather than relying on religion and the use of gods
for healing. This carried over to the Roman period, causing them to
look at practical solutions going on from some of the previous
theories. Some examples of practical solutions were the Romans looking
at bacteria in water supplies, the use of cleaner buildings and
sterilised equipment.
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