Caduceus Rod of Asclepius Some Common Myths Thought to be True - Myth 64
Myth 64: The Caduceus is a Symbol of Medicine

The acduceus, a symbol featuring two snakes around a staff, is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine instead of the Rod of Asclepius, which features a single snake around a staff. This error was popularized largely because of its adoption in the insignia of the US Army medical corps at the insistence of an officer. (By the way, it's pronounced "kah-DOO-shuss.")

Walter J Friedlander wrote a book called "The Golden Wand of Medicine." In it, he discovered that more than 60% of hospitals in the country use the caduceus in the logo for their hospitals.

Caduceus Rod of Asclepius

The cover illustration on the Hopkins Medicine magazine (Winter 2011) is that of a Caduceus, with caution tape replacing the two serpents. Please note that the Caduceus is a symbol for commerce and negotiation, not the symbol for medicine. The traditional symbol for medicine is the rod of Asclepius, a single serpent entwined around a staff. As I am sure you are aware, the misconception that the Caduceus is the symbol of medicine stems from the adoption of the Caduceus by a U.S. Army Medical Corps officer in 1902 as a symbol for that group. Since the Caduceus is associated with commerce, theft, deception, and death, we, in medicine, are well advised not to use it to represent our profession.

The Greek god Hermes, is most commonly associated with The Caduceus. Like Iris, Hermes is a bearer of The Caduceus. He too was a herald of the gods, bearing messages from them to humanity. He was known as the god of commerce, thieves, sports, travellers and boundary crossings. He was also the god of invention, weights and measures and had a reputation as a sly trickster! 4 Small wonder that the Western medical profession would rather not associate itself with the god of tricksters, cunning, commerce and thieves. At the very least, it is an embarrassing identification.

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