Imhotep, the Original Genius of Geniuses


In writing the Lexi Catt series about famous scientists who made significant contributions to the field of medicine, I had to make some tough choices.

For example, I thought about writing the story of Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray. But the trouble with that story was that the story ended with the discovery. Roentgen gave away the concept, which was generous of him, but he did not develop it himself. His story was short-lived. But it led me to Marie Curie who used the x-ray as a means of saving countless lives in World War I. Her story was rich in character and detail.

A similar choice occurred with the story of Lexi and Imhotep. I harbour some regrets in not telling his personal story. I made the choice to invent Imhotep’s descendant, and set my story during Ramses II reign, because there was so much more information available about that era, and Ramses II did encourage community health. There was almost no information available about Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty, which was when the original Imhotep lived. My regret was placated by writing Imhotep’s real story in the Pawscript of Lexi and Imhotep to the Rescue! Luckily, Imhotep wrote “books” on papyrus paper, and so passed on his medical knowledge. He also wrote books on philosophy. Has those books survived, I might have written about him directly. Imhotep was a dedicated physician. He saved the Queen’s life during childbirth, and that of her baby, who was the future Pharaoh Djoser. Unfortunately, his own wife and baby died in childbirth at the same time. (I did not feel that this fact was appropriate to include in a story for children.)

King Djoser experienced seven years of drought before he asked his physician and vizier Imhotep for advice. This story was most interesting but had little to do with the science of medicine. Imhotep was a practical man, but he also knew the value of faith and hope as they supported positive attitudes. So he first advised the King to appeal to the gods with offerings and ceremonies. Then, while the king attended to creating positive outlooks, Imhotep, being practical, created better storage facilities for food supplies, and improved the irrigation system. It is said that he invented the Shaduf, an irrigation tool which is still used today in parts of rural Egypt and Africa.

When King Djoser wanted a more imposing tomb for himself, he once more asked Imhotep for one that would last longer than the mud brick of the day. Imhotep invented the first stone building—the step pyramid—and he invented the tools and the method to build it.

Though one reference referred vaguely to Imhotep’s children, there was nothing in my sources to indicate how or where he lived, or what he thought. It’s a pity those papyrus books he wrote on philosophy were lost. I’m sure he was a remarkable man.



Lexi Catt’s Meowmoirs – Tales of Heroic Scientists

Lexi Series

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