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Imhotep (c. 2667-2648 BCE)

Imhotep was an Egyptian architect and priest who is thought to have died around 2648 BCE.

Imhotep was chief architect to the Egyptian pharaoh and was responsible for the Step Pyramid. During his lifetime he was often represented as a priest and was considered a man of great learning. He does not seem to have practised as a doctor during his life, but medical texts describing the diagnosis and treatment of over 200 diseases were attributed to him. After his death Imhotep began to be worshipped as a god, and miracles were reported at his shrines.

When the Greeks conquered Egypt in 332 BCE, they saw many similarities between Imhotep and their medical god Asklepios and continued to build temples to him.

In 1930 a papyrus named after the American collector Edwin Smith was translated. Written about 1700 BCE, it described Egyptian surgical and medical practice, with little of the magical content that was normally associated with Egyptian medicine. The work described ideas at least a thousand years old, which have been attributed to Imhotep. However, as with Hippocrates, it is not clear whether Imhotep himself, or his students or followers, wrote the text.

 

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