Excerpt from The Journal of the Medico-Chirurgical College of Philadelphia, Vol. 4: October 20, 1903
A brief study of the chief ideas of Hippocrates is most instructive, for it shows the clear recognition which, twenty-four hundred years ago, eminent men possessed concerning the value of strictly scientific methods as applied to medicine. Hippocrates had a clear recognition of disease as being, equally with healthy life, a process governed by what we should now call natural laws, which could be known by ob servation, and which indicated the spontaneous and natural direction of recovery. These views of the natural history of disease led to habits of minute observation, so that even in these days, the true method of clinical medicine may be said to be the method of Hippo crates. But of anatomy, physiology, pathology, physics and chemis try, Hippocrates had only a most meagre knowledge. To our shame and to his credit, be it said that had Hippocrates had such a knowledge of these subjects as we possess, he would likely have far surpassed us. With his scant knowledge, Hippocrates had, perforce, to turn to dogma; and thus to finish our picture by an absurd example of the unscientific in medicine. The dominating theory of diseases was the humoral. According to this celebrated theory, the body contains four humors, - blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, a right propor tion and mixture of which constitute health; improper proportions or irregular distribution, disease. While this seems like utter nonsense to us, I submit it is no more nonsensical than the statement, gravely made in these days, of vital action and the like, as though they were real entities rather than mere gauzy cloaks for ignorance.
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