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Arch Hellen Med, 26(2), March-April 2009, 262-265


The bio-medical comments of Empedocles. A precursor to modern science

1Department of Cardiology, "Polyclinic" Hospital, Athens
2Department of Orthopedics, "Venizelion" Hospital, Heraklion, Crete
3Department of Nursing, "Evangelismos" Hospital, Athens
42nd Department of Dermatology and Venereology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, "Attikon" General University Hospital, Athens, Greece

Empedocles (Diogenis Laertius) was born in 490 ΒC, and lived in Akragas (Agrigento), Sicily. He died in 440 BC and was considered a physician and a philosopher. About 450 verses have been saved from his work, some of which have biomedical references. He observed that plants and animals, including man, are created from four basic elements, which he called "rizomata" (roots or elements). When combined in different ways, these elements succeed in producing all the varieties of vegetable and animal species on earth. Concrete mixtures of these four elements describe each organ or part of the body, thus proposing a genetic and hereditary biology based on the mixture of the four "rizomata". He treated an endemic disease in Selinounta, a nearby city, by opening a canal and emptying stagnating water into the sea. It has also been reported that he cleared plague from the city of Athens by using fire and he did the same thing at his birthplace with the method of disinfection by smoke: «δι' άψεως πυρών και υποκαπνισμών» "dia apseos pyron ke hypokapnismon". Overall, his insight observed through his biomedical comments reveals an admirable precursor to modern medicine.

Key words: Ancient Greece, Elements, Empedocles, Philosopher, Roots.

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