IMHOTEP THE PHYSICAN: Archetype of the Great Man 

                 by Charles S. Finch

"The beginnings of the healing profession are lost in the dim mists of prehistoric antiquity. The accumulated observations and trials of thousands of years brought a wealth of healing knowledge to mankind and by the historical era, medicine as a systematic discipline, as a veritable science, had emerged. As with so many other human achievements, this occurred first in the Nile Valley, reaching its highest level of development – until modern times – in Egypt, land of the pharaohs. When Egyptian dynastic history begins, medicine is already an established, fully-formed science. This we know from the most important medical text-books of ancient Egypt, now known as the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which are in fact copies of medical papyri which date back to pre-pyramid times, to the very earliest historical dynasties. ...From the beginning of her history, Egypt possesses a mature, well-validated system of medicine containing a systematic pathology, a completely-formulated pharmacopeia, a formal knowledge of anatomy and physiology, a large medical literature, a well-defined medical teaching curriculum, and a skill in surgery and trauma that is hardly matched outside Africa until our own time.”

“There is a 2400 year span from Hippocrates to modern medicine and the mature medical science that exists at the start of the dynastic period in Egypt would have had a pedigree at least as long. If we date the onset of Egyptian dynastic history around the first known calendar date of 4236 B.C., rather than the conventional 3200 B.C., our best educated guess would push the origins of Egyptian medicine back, close to 7000 B.C.”

“No individual more fully embodies the highest and finest of Egyptian medicine than the figure of Imhotep. In truth, he is the world’s first universal genius of whom we have any knowledge. As vizier to the pharaoh Djoser, he was a statesman of the first rank; as designer and builder of the world’s first great edifice in stone, the step-pyramid of Saqqara, he was an architect of transcendent genius; as a renowned purveyor of wise sayings and parables he was the epitome of the sage; and finally, as the divinely-gifted physician he was accorded that rarest of honours in ancient Egypt, deification as the god of healing. ...As a healer his powers as a physician made such an impression on succeeding generations both in and out of Egypt that he was eventually deified in his own country. The reputed clinical or scientific primacy of the Hippocratic school was finally laid to rest in 1930 when J. H. Breasted translated the Edwin Smith Papyrus, a document whose original antedated Hippocrates by over 2500 years. The diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic methodology revealed in this document demonstrated that even in own day, our physicians have not surpa

ssed the clinical acumen of the priest-physician of the Nile Valley, of who Imhotep was the epitome. The Egyptian priests told Solon, the great Greek lawgiver, that the Greeks were “as children” compared to the Egyptians, and is clear from what has just been said that Hippocrates in no way merits the title “Father of Medicine”, either by virtue of his antiquity of the level of his scientific thought. If such a title belongs to anyone, it belongs to Imhotep. In spite of their propaganda in favour of Hippocrates (today), the Greeks themselves knew this.”

“Imhotep’s name in Egyptian was “Iu-em-hetep” which means “he who comes in peace”. This name became Hellenized as “Imouthes” and conventionalized in modern times as “Imhotep”. In the case of Imhotep we see one of the earliest examples in which there is a merging of an historical man and a pre-extant deity.”

“All things considered, it is no wonder that the Greeks made Asclepios their Imhotep: there was a pronounced reverence among them for things Egyptian and all of their important healing symbols were prefigured in Egypt. Their names were used interchangeable so ubiquitously that in the Greek mind they were one and the same.” 

“Greek thought and philosophy, both esoteric and exoteric, was lifted bodily out of the Egyptian world system and no one figured more prominently in this process than Imhotep as man, god, sage, and symbol. ... He seems to have achieved a perfect synthesis of mind, intellect, and soul, so much so, that men thought they saw in him the spark of divinity. The centuries, rather than dimming this spark in men’s minds, seemed to have fanned it to a bright flame and as a consequence, Imhotep the man became Imhotep the god.... As physician, builder and sage, he was the archetype of the Great Man.”


A complimentary note from J. B. Hurry on Imhotep:



“STRANGE it is that the claims of Imhotep to be recognized as the tutelary deity of medicine have been so neglected. Many centuries before the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, long before the recognition of Askleios by the Greeks as their legendary god of medicine, long before the days of Homer, long before the birth of Hippocrates, there lived in Egypt a magician-physician so famous for his skill in healing disease that he became recognized eventually as the Egyptian god of medicine. To him surely belongs the highest place in our hagiology; to him should physicians all the world over look up {to} as the patron spirit of the ars medinci, as the emblematic god of medicine.”

“Surely the time has come to do justice to the venerable figure described in the above pages, and to elevate Imhotep to the place of honour which is his due.”

Hurry B. Jamieson, IMHOTEP: The Egyptian God Of Medicine,   By Jamieson B. Hurry, Chicago: ARES Publishers, Inc. 1987 (1st Ed. 1926). P. 88-89.



Finch, S. Charles, THE AFRICAN BACKGROUND TO MEDICAL SCIENCE: Essays on African History, Science & Civilization, Karnak House, London, 1990.  P. 71-91.


ARF EDITORAL NOTE:  The medical schools in Afrika still take the Hippocratic oath upon successful completion of their medical studies because they do not know that 2500 years before Hipprocrates there existed the true father of medicine named Im en hotep (Imhotep) who was an Afrikan. When they come to know the correct history through the study of Khemetology, ARF believes the medical institutions will reconstruct the proper oath to honour the true father of medicine, Imhotep.

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