Legend states that Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) taught medicine under the branches of a sycamore tree
One has towered above Medical Science Building II for almost four decades; another at the North Campus Research Complex is just a sapling, barely tall enough to provide shade.
Yet, two trees on opposite ends of the medical campus share a unique history —and family tree — dating back 2,500 years.
Legend states that Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) taught medicine under the branches of a sycamore tree. Just after World War II ended, John B. Sarracino (M.D. 1944) brought to campus a cutting taken from the “Hippocratic Tree” on the Greek Isle of Kos. It was planted in 1980 at the dedication of Medical Science Building II. There, it has grown in a quiet space near the circle drive.
Attempts to grow additional trees from its cuttings were unsuccessful. In 2014, however, Ian Ashken, director of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and his wife, Nancy Ashken, a U-M alumna, partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide a direct descendant — a clone — from the original “Hippocratic Tree” to the University of Michigan Medical School.
The tree was planted on the NCRC grounds near Building 18 during a ceremony featuring Ian Ashken, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Co-founder David Milarch, UMMS Dean James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., and Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor and founding director of the U-M Center for the History of Medicine.
The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has produced additional clones for planting, as living legacies, at universities, hospitals and other medical institutions in honor of Hippocrates’ vision and work.
In addition to these sister trees, the U-M medical campus also is home to a bust of Hippocrates and plaques are posted nearby with the Hippocratic Oath in Greek and English.