Sept 11, 2001
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1. Medicine is of all the arts the most noble; but, owing to the
ignorance of those who practice it, and of those who, inconsiderately,
form a judgment of them, it is at present far behind all the other
arts. Their mistake appears to me to arise principally from this, that
in the cities there is no punishment connected with the practice
of medicine (and with it alone) except disgrace, and that does not
hurt those who are familiar with it. Such persons are the figures which
are introduced in tragedies, for as they have the shape, and dress,
and personal appearance of an actor, but are not actors, so also
physicians are many in title but very few in reality.
2. Whoever is to acquire a competent knowledge of medicine, ought to
be possessed of the following advantages: a natural disposition;
instruction; a favorable position for the study; early tuition; love
of labour; leisure. First of all, a natural talent is required; for,
when Nature leads the way to what is most excellent, instruction
in the art takes place, which the student must try to appropriate to
himself by reflection, becoming an early pupil in a place well
adapted for instruction. He must also bring to the task a love of labour
and perseverance, so that the instruction taking root may bring
forth proper and abundant fruits.
3. Instruction in medicine is like the culture of the productions
of the earth. For our natural disposition, is, as it were, the soil;
the tenets of our teacher are, as it were, the seed; instruction in
youth is like the planting of the seed in the ground at the proper
season; the place where the instruction is communicated is like the
food imparted to vegetables by the atmosphere; diligent study is like
the cultivation of the fields; and it is time which imparts strength
to all things and brings them to maturity.
4. Having brought all these requisites to the study of medicine,
and having acquired a true knowledge of it, we shall thus, in traveling
through the cities, be esteemed physicians not only in name but in
reality. But inexperience is a bad treasure, and a bad fund to those
who possess it, whether in opinion or reality, being devoid of
self-reliance and contentedness, and the nurse both of timidity and
audacity. For timidity betrays a want of powers, and audacity a lack
of skill. They are, indeed, two things, knowledge and opinion, of
which the one makes its possessor really to know, the other to be
5. Those things which are sacred, are to be imparted only to sacred
persons; and it is not lawful to impart them to the profane until
they have been initiated into the mysteries of the science.*
click here for Oath of Hippocrates...
celebrated Greek physician, was a contemporary of the historian
Herodotus. He was born in the island of Cos between 470 and 460 B.C., and
belonged to the family that claimed descent from the mythical Aesculapius,
son of Apollo. There was already a long medical tradition in Greece before
his day, and this he is supposed to have inherited chiefly through his
predecessor Herodicus; and he enlarged his education by extensive
travel. He is said, though the evidence is unsatisfactory, to have taken
part in the efforts to check the great plague which devastated Athens at
the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. He died at Larissa between 380 and
The works attributed to Hippocrates are
the earliest extant Greek medical writings, but very many of them are
certainly not his. Some five or six, however, are generally granted to be
genuine, and among these is the famous "Oath." This interesting document
shows that in his time physicians were already organized into a
corporation or guild, with regulations for the training of disciples, and
with an esprit de corps and a professional ideal which, with slight
exceptions, can hardly yet be regarded as out of date.
One saying occurring in the words of Hippocrates has achieved universal
currency, though few who quote it to-day are aware that it originally
referred to the art of the physician. It is the first of his "Aphorisms":
"Life is short, and the Art long; the occasion fleeting; experience
fallacious, and judgment difficult. The physician must not only be
prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the
attendants, and externals cooperate."*
*Internet Wiretap Edition of
LAW OF HIPPOCRATES.
From "Harvard Classics Volume 38." Copyright 1910 by P.F.
Collier and Son. This text is placed in the Public Domain, June 1993.