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The Four Humours: Whose Idea? What Were They?


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#1 Craziness

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Posted 10 October 2004 - 12:52 PM

'The Four Humours were liquids within the body- blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These could be connected to the four seasons of the year: Yellow Bile with summer, black bile with autumn, phlegm with winter and blood with spring.'

I'm confused as to why yellow bile was connected with the summer and blood connected with spring. I thought blood was connected to summer because of the heat that made ones face red. It's not so important i guess i was just interested...

I was also wondering why the theory of The Four Humours is such an important theory. I know it was used in medical history for over 2000 years, but it wasn't right and so why do people say this was the reason Hippocrates could be discribed as the greatest doctor of all time; if in the end it only prevented medicine moving forward because it was a umm.... sacred writing (?) that could not be debated about for those 2000 years.

And finally i was wondering where i could find more information about hippocrates and the four humours.

Any help would be appriciated!

#2 Mrs Faithorn

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Posted 10 October 2004 - 01:34 PM

There are several teachers who answer questions here who teach 'Medicine Through Time'. I feel sure they will be able to answer your questions properly and Iwill see if I can get one of them on the Forum as as soon as poss.

In the meantime here is the list of hits I got when I did a Google search for Hippocrates +"Four Humours"
http://www.google.co.....Four Humours"

Whilst waiting for more specialised help you might try exploring those links?

#3 Mr. Wichard

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 04:24 PM

Always remember that things do not have to be right to have an impact. The Theory of the Four Humours is seen as a 'turning point' in the development of medicine because it marked the change from supernatural to natural explanations fro the cause of illness.

Others (like the Church) picked up the Theory because it fitted with their views but that is not why it's important.

#4 Mr. Wichard

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 10:57 AM

why do people say this was the reason Hippocrates could be discribed as the greatest doctor of all time

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A few text books suggest that Hippocrates invented the Theory of the Four Humours. There is no doubt from the Hippocratic Collection that he supported the theory but there is no real evidence that he created it. You need to be careful on this point.

#5 cassie

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 07:18 AM

i don't know what is meant by purging and what black bile is. please help!

#6 cassie

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 08:51 AM

what is black bile? also what is meant by purging,

plese help

#7 Mr Moorhouse

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 10:32 PM

The theory of the 4 humours was based on 4 types of fluid within the body. Blakc Bile is one of these. Black Bile is associated with Cold and dry illnesses, like a dry cough etc... All you need to know for the exam is what the beliefs about the humours were - this is explained really well on this page.

Purging is basically gettng rid of the cause of illness. So it could be making a patient vomit, for example. There are examples of this being used from Egyptian times through to the modern day - an egyptian mixture of various herbs, pine kernales etc... today we use the good'ole stomach pump...

#8 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 12:45 AM

what is black bile? also what is meant by purging,

plese help

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Bile is a brown fluid produced by the liver. It is stored in the gall bladder and is released as needed into the intestine to help you digest your food.
- Bile salts (an element of bile) break down fats
- Bile pigments (another element of bile) break down old red blood cells that are passed into the gut to be poo-ed out.
(from Hutchinson Encyslopaedia).
Actually, I have always wondered whether the Greeks meant this by black bile. How did they know? I suspect that they were looking more at the four visible liquids they could see coming out of the human body, thus:
Phlegm - snot
Blood - blood
Black bile - diarrhoea
Yellow bile - vomit
(what do you think???)

Purging is usually making someone do a poo by giving them a laxative.

#9 Mr Field

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 10:09 PM

Cassie - try looking at the previous question you asked - it has been answered twice for you!

#10 gcsehistorystudent

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 03:30 PM

My textbook says that Aristotle is responsible for the theory of the four humours and that the work of Hippocrates helped Aristotle to develop the theory, because Hippocrates said that the body was made from 4 elements. Other sources of information say it the other way around, that Hippocrates developed the theory from the work of Aristotle. Please help, which version is correct...or are both true in that Hippocrates said about the elements, so Aristotle developed the theory, and then Hippocrates used Aristotle's theory to treat patients. I am studying OCR and their specification does not specify. Please help

#11 gcsehistorystudent

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 05:07 PM

I am studying gcse medicine with ocr. My textbook says that Hippocrates is only associated with the four humours because he occasionally mentioned that the body consists of four elements which should be balanced. It says that "a later philosopher" Aristotle actually developd the theory (insinuating that Hippocrates was dead when he developed it into the theory we recognise today- that associates seasons, elements and fluids.). Is this correct? other sources say that Hippocrates used the theory based on the ideas of Aristotle. Please could you help clear up my confusion. The exam is on friday and i would appreciate help asap. thanks.

#12 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 06:16 PM

I always taught my pupils the following, from the original SHP Medicine through Time books:

The Theory of the Four Humours grew out of Greek philosophy about where we come from:
1. c.585 BC: Thales realised the importance of water to al life.
2. c.560 BC: Anaximander developed the idea of four elements - water, earth, air and fire.
3. c.530 BC: Pythagoras developed the idea of balances and opposites in matters of health.
4. c.430 BC: Hippocrates developed the idea of the Four Humours

Man's body has blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These make up his body and through them he feels illness or enjoys health. When all the humours are properly balanced and mingled, he feels the most perfect health. Illness occurs when one of the humours is in excess, or is reduced in amount, or is entirely missing from the body.

Hippocrates, 'On the Constitution of Man'
(ignore the BBC Bitesize date of c.500bc - Hippocrates wasn't born until 460bc)


5. c.330 BC: Aristotle linked the four humours to men's personalities - choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic)


Hippocrates CANNOT have based his ideas on those of Aristotle because Aristotle came after Hippocrates!
However, you need to be aware that not all the books attirbuted to Hippocrates were written by Hippocrates. Some were written by his disciples after his death, but were attributed to him
Nevertheless, you can at this level safely saythat Hippocrates developed the idea of the four humours (= bodily fluids).

So what did your textbook mean?
Have you come across the word 'humour' meaning 'mood' - as in: 'He was in a bad humour'?
Aristotle DID develop the theory of the four 'humours' in this sense of the word (= the 'four temperaments'), and he did develop that from Hippocrates' theory of the four humours (in the sense of four liquids).
Hope that's not too confusing!!!

Try also this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humorism

#13 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 06:18 PM

I've answered this in your other post, gcsehistorystudent

#14 lonely_tears

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 11:44 AM

I've answered this in your other post, gcsehistorystudent

Hipocrates. this probably wont come up anyway. most likely is industrial revolutio or later. good luck! totally in the same place as yoo :(

#15 sandi

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 07:43 PM

I always taught my pupils the following, from the original SHP Medicine through Time books:

The Theory of the Four Humours grew out of Greek philosophy about where we come from:
1. c.585 BC: Thales realised the importance of water to al life.
2. c.560 BC: Anaximander developed the idea of four elements - water, earth, air and fire.
3. c.530 BC: Pythagoras developed the idea of balances and opposites in matters of health.
4. c.430 BC: Hippocrates developed the idea of the Four Humours

Man's body has blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These make up his body and through them he feels illness or enjoys health. When all the humours are properly balanced and mingled, he feels the most perfect health. Illness occurs when one of the humours is in excess, or is reduced in amount, or is entirely missing from the body.

Hippocrates, 'On the Constitution of Man'
(ignore the BBC Bitesize date of c.500bc - Hippocrates wasn't born until 460bc)


5. c.330 BC: Aristotle linked the four humours to men's personalities - choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic)


hello...
your five points did make it easier for me to understand a bit better... but im still a wee bit confused...
i have a question..
in my textbook 'history of medicine and nursing' there is a little chart that also has the organs, seasons and periods of life(childhood,youth,manhood and old age) ... (besides all the others you mentioned like the four elements, the four humors and the four personalities)

my question now... cuz i cant figure it out in any books... who developed the idea to consider the four organs, seasons and periods of life ? and when ? and why ? the only thing i could find out was that the greek used to only have three seasons til around 500 BC i think it was when they changed it to four... why did they do that ? just so it would fit into the chart ? im confused about the chronicl how the whole teaching developed ... like when they added what... or rather who added when what and why ??

or if you have any suggestions for other web sites or books on the topic i would love to hear about them :o)

dont stress about answering quickly... i got no exam anytime soon... i was just curious about it... i was looking around the net for some answers to my questions... then i found this forum... so i thought i'd ask for help here

thank you

-sandi




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