live blog: the hippocratic oak

 

In front of the imposing castle of the Knights of Saint John on the island of Kos stands an enormous plane tree, spindly, ungainly and estimated to be the unusually august age of 500 years old. (plane trees, I have since learned, tend to meet their demise around the century mark.) Propped up by skeletal scaffolding it’s known as the Tree of Hippocrates and is descended from a tree first planted by the famous Greek physician – often called the father of Western medicine – who in the 5th Century BC taught his students under its shade. Given that Hippocrates is generally credited with being the first person to believe that diseases were caused naturally and not due to superstitions or the petty cruelty of the gods, this living monument seems altogether more fitting than anything man-made.

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