Hippocrates (460–377 B.C.) may have been a single individual, a fine physician, and a
teacher, but little record of his life exists. In fact, the “Hippocratic Collection” does not ap-
pear to have been written by a single hand: its style, addressed audience, and even opin-
ions shift through the 60–70 items. For example, around A.D. 100, both Seribonius Largus,
a physician traveling in Britain with Emperor Claudius, and the Greek Soranus, working in
Rome, followed the principles in the “Hippocratic Collection.” Yet Scribonius Largus's re-
fusal to perform any abortion and Soranus's choice to perform safe, alternative procedures
are both supported by the collection. It is likely that the collection formed the heart of a
medical library at Cos and was transferred to the library at Alexandria around 300–200 B.C.
|1.||In all previous attempts to speak or to write about medicine, the authors have introduced certain arbitrary postulates1 into their arguments, and have reduced the causes of death and the maladies that affect mankind to a narrow compass. They have supposed that there are but one or two causes: heat or cold, moisture, dryness or anything else they may fancy. From many considerations their mistake is obvious; indeed, this is proved from their own words. They are specially to be censured since they are concerned with no bogus science, but one which all employ in a matter of the greatest importance, and one of which the good professors and practitioners are held in high repute. But besides such there are both sorry practitioners and those who hold widely divergent opinions. This could not happen were medicine a bogus science to which no consideration had ever been given and in which no discoveries had been made. For if it were so, all would be equally inexperienced and ignorant, and the condition of their patients due to nothing but the law of chance. But this is not so, and the practitioners of medicine differ greatly among themselves both in theory and practice just as happens in every other science. For this reason I do not think that medicine is in need of some new postulate, dealing, for instance, with invisible or problematic substances, and about which one must have some postulate or another in order to discuss them seriously. In such matters, medicine differs from subjects like astronomy and geology, of which a man might know the truth and lecture on it without either he or his audience being able to judge whether it were the truth or not, because there is no sure criterion.|
|2.||Medicine has for long possessed the qualities necessary to make a science. These are a starting point|
From Hippocrates “Tradition in Medicine,” “Dreams,” and “Nature of Man.” In G. E. R. Lloyd (Ed.), J. Chadwick and W. N.
Mann (Trans.), Hippocratic Writings (pp. 70–86, 252–271). New York: Penguin, 1986.