The Hippocratic Oath is popularly imagined as beginning with, or at least involving, the command “First, do no harm.” In fact, nothing like it appears among the original Greek words attributed to Hippocrates; the Latin phrase primum non nocere seems to have been added in the seventh century. But the principle makes a highly suitable starting point for Dominic Walliman’s video tour above of his new Comprehensive Map of Medicine. A physicist and science writer, Walliman has previously been featured many times here on Open Culture for his Youtube channel Domain of Science and his maps of other fields, from physics, chemistry, and biology to mathematics, engineering, and computer science.
This new map marks a return after what, to Walliman’s fans, felt like a long hiatus indeed. The prolonged absence speaks to the ambition of the project, whose subject demands the integration of a large number of fields and sub-fields both theoretical and practical.
For medicine existed long before science — science as we know it today, at least— and two and a half millennia after the time of Hippocrates, the connections and interactions between the realm of medicine presided over by doctors and that presided over by scientists are complex and not easily understood by the public. Hence the importance of Walliman’s clarity of visual explanation, as it has evolved throughout his scientific map-making career, as well as his clarity of verbal explanation, on display through all 50 minutes of this video.
As Walliman emphasizes right at the outset, he isn’t a medical doctor — but he is a “doctor” in the sense that he has a PhD, and intellectually, he comes more than well-placed to understand how each part of medicine relates to the others. This is especially true of a lesser-known area of study like medical physics, whose fruits include imaging techniques like X-ray, MRI, CT, and ultrasound, with which many of us have first-hand experience as patients. Few non-specialists will ever be directly involved in the practice of, say, biology or engineering, but in the twenty-first century, it’s the rare human being indeed who never encounters the reality of medicine. The next time you find yourself in treatment, it certainly couldn’t do any harm to orient yourself on its map.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.