Imhotep “The Father of Medicine”

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  1. OckyDub

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    Imhotep (fl. 27th century b.c.e.) priest-physician, vizier, and designer of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

    Imhotep was an official of the Third Dynasty (2649– 2575 b.c.e.) who served four pharaohs of Egypt. He was best known as the vizier and high priest of the god Ptah—a creator deity, worshipped since the earliest time on the Nile and popular for centuries—in the reign of DJoser (2630–2611 b.c.e.). Imhotep designed and supervised the building of the step pyramid at Saqqara as Djoser’s mortuary complex.

    “The Father of Medicine” on the Nile, Imhotep was one of the pioneers who introduced the traditions of giving diagnoses, procedures, prescriptions, and therapeutic care. He dismissed the magical spells of the past and provided physicians with methods for dealing with diseases, wounds, and disabilities that came with advanced age. Although no copy of the work has been preserved, Imhotep’s medical primer, serving as a textbook for beginning physicians, was quoted widely by generations of Egyptians. (He is also the reputed author of other medical texts, such as the edwin smith papyrus.) Medical clinics and shrines were opened in his name all across the nation and many of those on the Nile remained opened for centuries.

    Article by Margaret Bunson

    Further reading: Allen, James, et al. The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000; Hurry, Jamieson. Imhotep: The Vizier and Physician of King Zoser. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2000.
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