The Physician-Architect Of Ancient Egypt | Polymath Studies

Imhotep was born to a family of commoners, whose trade was in architecture. He eventually became the vizier of Pharaoh Djoser.

He would become a rare case in Egyptian mythology, as a commoner who became deified as a god. In this case, as the god of medicine.

However, he was known in his time as both an architect and a physician; and in both of those times, he was needed.


He was said to have been responsible for the construction of the first pyramid, or at least what would become the pyramid. It served the purpose of housing the burial tomb of the Pharaoh Djoser.

It is located in Sakkara near Memphis. It is noticeable for its diversion of the traditional mastaba tombs, which were rectangular in shape. In this case, the Sakkara Pyramid has five mastabas that are stacked atop each other, with the interior composing of halls and corridors. It is generally agreed upon that Imhotep was responsible for this construction; and the fact that he was the first architect in history to employ stone columns as part of the architectural plan to support a building.


Although there is nothing written about Imhotep’s physician skills, he was nonetheless present during the Seven Year Famine. Even then, it is unknown what medical practices were performed by him, although the ancient Egyptians did have knowledge about surgery and medicinal herbs. Even when the Pharaoh petitions Imhotep for help, he tells him to honor the god Khnum, which supposedly stopped the famine.

Posthumously, Imhotep became revered as a god, specifically one who is worshiped within the context of helping families get pregnant. There were accounts of people praying underneath a tree in order to conceive.

Imhotepian Polymathy?

It cannot be said that Imhotep synthetized his role as a physician with the role as an architect, though nonetheless, Imhotep’s name continues to be echoed centuries later. There is the possibility that he may have done so, however since Imhotep lived many years before the Israelites settled in Egypt, there is not a lot of information. Any form of possibility can only be inferred based on context.


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