Episode #9 of the course “Unknown Scientists Who Changed The World”
The most important medical textbook for nearly 500 years was written by Avicenna. From the 12th to 17th centuries, students all across the Middle East and Europe relied on The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia.
His full name, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Sīnā, Avicenna of Ibn-Sīnā was born in 980 in Afšana, a village near Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan. A devout Muslim, Avicenna had memorized the entire Qur’an by the age of 10. He started studying medicine when he was 16. Through a combination of learning medical theory and visitations with the sick, he discovered new methods of treatment and became a fully-qualified physician at age 18. Avicenna read everything he could get his hands on and considered himself an expert in many fields besides medicine, including philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, geography, geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics, and poetry. He passed away at the age of 57 in 1037.
The Canon of Medicine was the first book of its kind. At over a million words, it was elaborately divided and subdivided into 14 volumes. The book is known for its description of contagious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and quarantine procedures to limit the spread of infectious diseases, as well as the testing of medicines.
Avicenna also wrote The Book of Healing, which covered a number of topics such as earth sciences, the philosophy of science, and logic, physics, and psychology. He also formed the foundation of what later became aromatherapy by producing essential oils such as rose essence. Avicenna lived during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age, and his collection of works certainly reflects that.
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