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The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates

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A preeminent classics scholar revises the history of medicine. Medical thinking and observation were radically changed by the ancient Greeks, one of their great legacies to the world. In the fifth century BCE, a Greek doctor put forward his clinical observations of individual men, women, and children in a collection of case histories known as the Epidemics. Among his wo A preeminent classics scholar revises the history of medicine. Medical thinking and observation were radically changed by the ancient Greeks, one of their great legacies to the world. In the fifth century BCE, a Greek doctor put forward his clinical observations of individual men, women, and children in a collection of case histories known as the Epidemics. Among his working principles was the famous maxim "Do no harm." In The Invention of Medicine, acclaimed historian Robin Lane Fox puts these remarkable works in a wider context and upends our understanding of medical history by establishing that they were written much earlier than previously thought. Lane Fox endorses the ancient Greeks' view that their texts' author, not named, was none other than the father of medicine, the great Hippocrates himself. Lane Fox's argument changes our sense of the development of scientific and rational thinking in Western culture, and he explores the consequences for Greek artists, dramatists and the first writers of history. Hippocrates emerges as a key figure in the crucial change from an archaic to a classical world. Elegantly written and remarkably learned, The Invention of Medicine is a groundbreaking reassessment of many aspects of Greek culture and city life.


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A preeminent classics scholar revises the history of medicine. Medical thinking and observation were radically changed by the ancient Greeks, one of their great legacies to the world. In the fifth century BCE, a Greek doctor put forward his clinical observations of individual men, women, and children in a collection of case histories known as the Epidemics. Among his wo A preeminent classics scholar revises the history of medicine. Medical thinking and observation were radically changed by the ancient Greeks, one of their great legacies to the world. In the fifth century BCE, a Greek doctor put forward his clinical observations of individual men, women, and children in a collection of case histories known as the Epidemics. Among his working principles was the famous maxim "Do no harm." In The Invention of Medicine, acclaimed historian Robin Lane Fox puts these remarkable works in a wider context and upends our understanding of medical history by establishing that they were written much earlier than previously thought. Lane Fox endorses the ancient Greeks' view that their texts' author, not named, was none other than the father of medicine, the great Hippocrates himself. Lane Fox's argument changes our sense of the development of scientific and rational thinking in Western culture, and he explores the consequences for Greek artists, dramatists and the first writers of history. Hippocrates emerges as a key figure in the crucial change from an archaic to a classical world. Elegantly written and remarkably learned, The Invention of Medicine is a groundbreaking reassessment of many aspects of Greek culture and city life.

30 review for The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates

  1. 5 out of 5

    Naia Pard

    Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. OMG! I have never EVER been so excited about a non-fiction book. I am myself incredulous at how much I have loved this book. The writing, omg! I can barely contain my delight. The author is not being ominous. He dosen`t derail from the matter at hand, he goes straight to the point. More than that, every statement made is accompanied by plenty examples! But, I am getting way ahead of myself. So, this is a book tha Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. OMG! I have never EVER been so excited about a non-fiction book. I am myself incredulous at how much I have loved this book. The writing, omg! I can barely contain my delight. The author is not being ominous. He dosen`t derail from the matter at hand, he goes straight to the point. More than that, every statement made is accompanied by plenty examples! But, I am getting way ahead of myself. So, this is a book that talks mainly about the Ancient Greeks. They were among the first to have something that would translate in modern terms as “doctors” and “medicines”. That is not to say that there weren`t healers outside of ancient Greece`s aria. There were healers in Babylon and also in Egipt, but they did not leave behind a treatise, nor a corpus of written testimonials from doctors or patiences. The Greeks let us what was to be called the Hippocratic Corpus. I would just love to give you some quotes, but as I understood, that is not really allowed as the book is not yet published. But, God! It is a really entertaining reading. The Greeks did not have the terminology that we have nowadays to name causes. For example, they did not see the pulse as being of any importance when consulting a patient. However, they followed patterns in things like urine`s color or dreams or fits of anger or mumblings. They observed things happening in their society and they tried to observe their manifestation. It is just fascinating to follow how they described malaria or mumps. The doctors were exclusively male. There comes an entire game when you read what they thought about the female organism. What produced the period or what was the connection between the breast milk and the menstrual blood. Or you`ll find about exhibitionists and Homer`s knowledge in medical practice. You have to give it a shot. It is not a try-harder book. \\Instagram\\my Blog\\

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Even someone who knows nothing about the ancient Greek world will probably have heard of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors still have to take. This academic, and admittedly quite dense at times, book explores the legacy of Hippocrates and the growth and influence of Greek medicine around the world. Going back to the injuries mentioned in Homer, then on to Hippocrates himself and the first case studies as we would recognise them, the work ranges across many aspects of Greek daily life and culture Even someone who knows nothing about the ancient Greek world will probably have heard of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors still have to take. This academic, and admittedly quite dense at times, book explores the legacy of Hippocrates and the growth and influence of Greek medicine around the world. Going back to the injuries mentioned in Homer, then on to Hippocrates himself and the first case studies as we would recognise them, the work ranges across many aspects of Greek daily life and culture and is a treasure trove of interesting facts and figures. I particularly enjoyed the case studies as they made these long dead people come alive and feel very human in spite of the centuries that separate them from us. The author is an erudite historian and it’s no surprise that this is an worthy and erudite tome, which sometimes went above my head – as I am neither erudite nor an historian. Nevertheless, I got a lot from it and although it’s probably not a book for the general reader, it’s still written clearly and accessibly and gives a real insight into ancient Greek life. Definitely worth the effort involved to learn more about the origins of modern medicine.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    This is a great for anyone who is curious about the origins of Western Medicine. The author obviously is passionate about ancient Greece and well known philosopher's ideas. Well written and insightful. Thanks to Netgalley, Robin Lane Fox and Perseus Basic Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 12/8/20 This is a great for anyone who is curious about the origins of Western Medicine. The author obviously is passionate about ancient Greece and well known philosopher's ideas. Well written and insightful. Thanks to Netgalley, Robin Lane Fox and Perseus Basic Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 12/8/20

  4. 5 out of 5

    Arevik Heboyan

    A brilliant work of presenting the invention and development of medicine as a scientific filed and all the external and history/era specific stimuli, ideas, people who affected the development of ideas of healing, intervention, systematic understanding of the body and all organ-systems. A fascinating read, highly recommended to students of all-natural sciences, as well as any person who wants to learn more on the natural development of ideas into schools and paradigms/

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda | District Reads

    Extremely dry, although interesting at points. I would have appreciated more anecdotal storytelling - but it is likely meant to not be that kind of book. That said, it's definitely a resource, brings some unique perspective to the Greek philosophers and early medicine, which I found interesting. Extremely dry, although interesting at points. I would have appreciated more anecdotal storytelling - but it is likely meant to not be that kind of book. That said, it's definitely a resource, brings some unique perspective to the Greek philosophers and early medicine, which I found interesting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Heller

    Reviewed for Library Journal. What a treat.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Robin Lane Fox's "The Invention of Medicine" is a thorough review of Ancient Greek views on medicine. The book is approachable if a little dense. Assuming you have even a passing interest in how our present-day thoughts on infections and cures differ from those of people far away in time, this is a good study to pick up. I particularly enjoyed the parts discussing Homer's detailed descriptions of injuries and anatomy in "The Iliad." Recommended if you want to learn more about the Ancient' world f Robin Lane Fox's "The Invention of Medicine" is a thorough review of Ancient Greek views on medicine. The book is approachable if a little dense. Assuming you have even a passing interest in how our present-day thoughts on infections and cures differ from those of people far away in time, this is a good study to pick up. I particularly enjoyed the parts discussing Homer's detailed descriptions of injuries and anatomy in "The Iliad." Recommended if you want to learn more about the Ancient' world from the perspective of its medical beliefs and practices. Some interest in Ancient Greece might be necessary. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for granting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bits of Lit

    The Invention of Medicine is a thorough study of medicine in the times of the ancient Greeks. Starting with portrayals in Homer's Iliad, it captures you with its exhaustively researched content. The origins of Hippocrates and the Hippocratic Oath come to life with Robin Lane Fox's examination. It can feel overwhelming and too academic, but this niche topic can be enjoyed by anyone, even if they are not familiar with medicine or ancient Greece. The difficult part to get through is the examination The Invention of Medicine is a thorough study of medicine in the times of the ancient Greeks. Starting with portrayals in Homer's Iliad, it captures you with its exhaustively researched content. The origins of Hippocrates and the Hippocratic Oath come to life with Robin Lane Fox's examination. It can feel overwhelming and too academic, but this niche topic can be enjoyed by anyone, even if they are not familiar with medicine or ancient Greece. The difficult part to get through is the examination of the Epidemics books, as it can be dry, but it's good reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    zhane

    3/5 stars! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I learned a lot about the history of Western medicine in this book. However, I think it's too long and not that direct to the point for my liking. It is a great book for readers who are interested to know more about this topic though. 3/5 stars! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I learned a lot about the history of Western medicine in this book. However, I think it's too long and not that direct to the point for my liking. It is a great book for readers who are interested to know more about this topic though.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Emg

    Sections were a little too technical and detailed for but it was fun following a scholar's thoughts. Very witty; you just have to like a guy who can work Rosario Dawson into ancient Greece! Sections were a little too technical and detailed for but it was fun following a scholar's thoughts. Very witty; you just have to like a guy who can work Rosario Dawson into ancient Greece!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Smaiz

    Great information.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    See my review at Reading World See my review at Reading World

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Pershing

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lily Wood

  15. 5 out of 5

    DellyPar

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nando

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jose G. Belliard

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robin L.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shania Manoppo

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy for Kids

  23. 5 out of 5

    FarCry

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  26. 4 out of 5

    Selkis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Marie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Avelardo Gaytan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gary Windlass

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