Conception Of The Duties
His high conception of the duties and position of the physician and the skill with
which he manipulated the materials that were at hand, constituted two important
characteristics of Hippocratic medicine. Another was the recognition that disease,
as well as health, is a process governed by what we call natural laws, learned by
observation, and indicating the direction of recovery.
These views of the 'natural history of disease' led to habits of minute observation and careful interpretation of
symptoms, in which the Hippocratic school excelled and has been the model for all
succeeding ages, so that even now the true method of clinical medicine may be said
to be the method of Hippocrates.
One of the important doctrines of Hippocrates was the healing power of nature. He
did not teach that nature was sufficient to cure disease, but he recognized a natural
process of the humours, at least in acute disease, being first of all
crude, then passing through coction or digestion, and finally being expelled by resolution or
crisis through one of the natural channels of the body.
The duty of the physician was to 'assist and not to hinder these changes, so that the sick man might conquer
the disease with the help of the physician.'" "Galen, the man from whom the greater part of modern European medicine has
flowed, lived about 131 to 201 A.D.
He was equipped with all the anatomical, medical, and philosophical knowledge of his time; he had studied all kinds of
natural curiosities and was in close touch with important political events; he
possessed enormous industry, great practical sagacity, and unbounded literary
At that time there were numerous sects in the medical profession, various
dogmatic systems prevailed in medical science, and the social standing of
physicians was degraded. He assumed the task of reforming the existing evils and
restoring the unity of medicine as it had been understood by Hippocrates, at the
same time elevating the dignity of medical practitioners.
In the explanation and healing of diseases he applied the science of physiology. His
theory was based upon the Hippocratic doctrine of humours, but he developed it
with marvelous ingenuity. He advocated that the normal condition of the body
depended upon a proper proportion of the four elements, hot, cold, wet and dry.
The faulty proportions of the same gave rise, not to disease, but to the occasions for
He laid equal stress upon the faulty composition or dysaemia of the blood.
He claimed that all diseases were due to a combination of these morbid
predispositions, together with injurious external influences, and thus explained all
symptoms and all diseases. He found a name for every phenomenon and a solution
for every problem.
And though it was precisely in this characteristic that he
abandoned scientific methods and practical utility, it was also this quality that
gained for him his popularity and prominence in the medical world.
However, his reputation grew slowly. His opinions were in opposition to those of
other physicians of his time.
In the succeeding generation he won esteem as a
philosopher, and it was only gradually that his system was accepted implicitly. It
enjoyed great, though not exclusive predominance until the fall of Roman