Hippocrates (460?-377?bc), greatest physician of antiquity, regarded as the father of medicine. Born probably on the island of Kos, Greece, Hippocrates traveled widely before settling on Kos to practice and teach medicine. He died in Larissa, Greece; little else is known about him. His name is associated with the Hippocratic Oath, though he probably is not the author of the document. In fact, of the approximately 70 works ascribed to him in the Hippocratic Collection, Hippocrates may actually have written about six of them. The Hippocratic Collection probably is the remnant of the medical library of the famous Kos school of medicine. His teachings, sense of detachment, and ability to make direct, clinical observations probably influenced the other authors of these works and had much to do with freeing ancient medicine from superstition.
Among the more significant works of the Hippocratic Collection is Airs, Waters, and Places (5th century bc), which, instead of ascribing diseases to divine origin, discusses their environmental causes. It proposes that considerations such as a town's weather, drinking water, and site along the paths of favorable winds can help a physician ascertain the general health of citizens. Three other works—Prognostic, Coan Prognosis, and Aphorisms—advanced the then-revolutionary idea that, by observing enough cases, a physician can predict the course of a disease.
The idea of preventive medicine, first conceived in Regimen and Regimen in Acute Diseases, stresses not only diet but also the patient's general way of living and how it influences his or her health and convalescence. Sacred Disease, a treatise on epilepsy, reveals the rudimentary knowledge of anatomy in ancient Greece. Epilepsy was believed to be caused by insufficient air, which was thought to be carried by the veins to the brain and limbs. In Joints, the use of the so-called Hippocratic bench is described for treating dislocations. Also of interest are Wounds in the Head, Women's Diseases, and Dismembering of the Feotus in the Womb.