Konstantinos Paparounas, MD, PhD
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Paparounas K.; The Symbol of Modern Medicine. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:311. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-140-4-200402170-00023
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(4):311.
TO THE EDITOR:
I read with interest the article by Wilcox and Whitham (1) about the symbol of medicine. The double serpent and wings, the caduceus, which is often used as the insignia of many medical organizations, in fact has no medical relevance. The Latin word caduceus is an alteration of the Greek word karykeion, from karyx, meaning a “herald's wand.” According to Greek mythology, the caduceus was the magical rod of Hermes, who was the god of commerce, invention, cunning, and theft and who also served as messenger, scribe, and herald for the other gods (2). During the Middle Ages, the caduceus appeared on printers' signs and merchant ships, symbolizing their role as messengers and businessmen. Of interest, it has been placed on the front of commercial buildings such as banks, symbolizing Hermes as the patron of trade (3).
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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