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Avicenna

Doctors and medicine

Avicenna
Born:
 August c. 980 Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan
Died:
June 1037, Hamadan, Iran

Avicenna (Arabic: Ibn Sīnā) was an Iranian physician and the most famous and influential of the philosopher-scientists of Islam. He was particularly noted for his contributions in the fields of Aristotelian philosophy and medicine.

Avicenna (Ibn-Sina)

He composed the Kitāb al-shifā’ (Book of Healing), a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia, and Al-Qānūn f ī al-tibb (The Canon of Medicine), which is among the most famous books in the history of medicine. Avicenna’s Book of Healingis probably the largest work of its kind ever written by one man. It discusses logic, the natural sciences, including psychology, the quadrivium (geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, and music), and metaphysics, but there is no real exposition of ethics or of politics. His thought in this work owes a great deal to Aristotle but also to other Greek influences and to Neoplatonism.

The Canon of Medicine is the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. It is a systematic encyclopaedia based for the most part on the achievements of Greek physicians of the Roman imperial age and on other Arabic works and, to a lesser extent, on his own experience (his own clinical notes were lost during his journeys). Occupied during the day with his duties at court as both physician and administrator, Avicenna spent almost every night with his students composing these and other works and carrying out general philosophical and scientific discussions related to them.

Avicenna’s Book of Healing was translated partially into Latin in the 12th century, and the complete Canon appeared in the same century. These translations and others spread the thought of Avicenna far and wide in the West.

His thought, blended with that of St. Augustine, the Christian philosopher and theologian, was a basic ingredient in the thought of many of the medieval Scholastics, especially in the Franciscan schools. In medicine, the Canon became the medical authority for several centuries, and Avicenna enjoyed an undisputed place of honour equaled only by the early Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. In the East his dominating influence in medicine, philosophy, and theology has lasted over the ages and is still alive within the circles of Islamic thought.

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