Hippocrates Electric: Invoking the ‘Father of Medicine’ in the 21st Century

Dr Jo Brown, Honorary Research Associate in Department of Classical Studies at the Open Univeristy, writes: Hippocrates, famously known in the Western medical tradition as the ‘father of medicine’, now has a firm presence on the health-conscious realms of the internet. In discussions on diets, medical history and ‘alternative’ medicine, his name is invoked to support various regimes and ideologies, and his supposed ‘quotes’ are shared as inspiration amongst those seeking ‘natural’ health (just search Twitter for ‘Hippocrates’ and see what you get). But why is Hippocrates such an appealing figure for the ‘alternative’ health movement, and what do people on the internet really know about him? Why does it become good business sense to tie a product or idea to Hippocrates’ name?

Professor Helen King of The Open University began her ‘Hippocrates Electric’ project to answer just these questions, and I joined her as a research assistant in 2012. Helen has written of the reception of the Hippocratic Oath on The Conversation and with me on the use of Hippocrates to promote watercress on Wonders and Marvels. Here on a Classics Confidential podcast, we discuss the project.

We are collecting discussions and mentions of Hippocrates on the internet, TV and in other media, and would be delighted to hear about any interesting links you come across. For more information, please contact jo.brown@open.ac.uk.

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