1. Birthplace and Family

Hippocrates, the most famous doctor of ancient times came from the island of Kos and was the son of Heraclides. All the family belonged to the guild of Asklepieion, that is to say, those who practiced medicine and claimed to be descended from Asclepius. There was a long and important tradition of medicine on the island and in neighbouring Cnidus on the coast of Asia Minor. There is little reliable information about Hippocrates’ life and what there is, is bound up in myth. However we can place his birth at around 460 BC.

2. Training and Work

Among his teachers were the sages Gorgias and Prodikos, the philosopher Democritus and the gymnast Herodicus of Selymbria. We also know that he travelled a great deal practicing medicine and probably died in Larissa in 370 BC. His wide education, which included philosophy, explains why Hippocrates was distinguished among his medical peers. His medical observations came from a deep understanding of nature and could be supported with scientific evidence.

He finally developed his ideas in extended writings. The Corpus Hippocraticum contains about 58 medical books of the 73 books. Other books have been claimed as Hippocrates’ but they are probably not his work. The true works are distinguished not only by the fine Ionic dialect but from the compassion of the medical arguments. Hippocrates’ “On Ancient Medicine” describes his particular way of thinking which says that illnesses are often personal as it depends on ones way of life and eating habits and as such should not depend on general philosophical opinions. This was in opposition to most philosophical theories of the body which put philosophy first and considered scientific observation to be secondary. However he could not avoid some generalisations which led him to the theory of humours. According to this, illness was the result of an imbalance of the four basic humours or fluids of the body, black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm.

The book “On the Sacred Disease”, in other words epilepsy, forms a landmark in European science. The ancients attributed this illness to the Gods but Hippocrates proved that it was no more "godsent" than other diseases. Even if he did not manage to account for the disease completely he reasoned that it was because of phlegm that accumulate in the brain and blocked blood vessels. This methodical medical explanation finally separated medical science from demonology.

"The Hippocratic Oath" is recognized World wide and is Hippocrates’ greatest legacy. It was taken by all who wanted to enter the Guild of Asklepieion and is still used today in graduation ceremonies of doctors all over the world.