History of Medicine
Some 1200 years ago, Baghdad became a veritable seedbed of medical learning, cross-fertilized by Persian-Mesopotamian, Byzantine-Greek, and Indian traditions. Under enlightened caliphs, the fabled city drew Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scribes and scholars who cooperated on making available a wealth of texts, an enterprise facilitated by the recent introduction of paper. The most productive workshop was that of Hunayn ibn Ishaq al-'Ibadi (809?-873), whose simple but lucid synopsis, Questions on Medicine, reinforced the impact of numerous translations. Together with the explosion of reading materials, Hunayn's organization of the subject matter inspired the composition of encyclopedias, such as The Royal Book of All Medicine by Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (known in the West as Haly Abbas, d. 994) and the Canon of Medicine by ibn Sina (Avicenna, d. 1037), which would be consulted for centuries. Ibn Sina and later philosophers, most notably ibn Rushd (Averroes, d. 1198) and Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, d. 1204), expanded the range of theoretical medicine. Practical teaching was enriched above all by the clinical observations of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya or al-Razi (Rasis, d. ca. 925), "The Experienced One"; by the pharmacology of Yuhanna ibn Masawayh (Mesue, d. 857); and by the surgery of Abu l'Qasim (Albucasis, d. 1009). The gist of these writings survives to this day in the "Greek" or "Unani" medicine of South Asia. Arabic medicine also flowed westwards, to Damascus and Cairo, Kairouan, Palermo, and Cordoba. Its influx into Latin Europe began with the translations of Constantine the African (d. 1087) at Monte Cassino. While these seem not to have immediately affected discourse in relatively nearby Salerno, Constantine's version of The Royal Book of Haly Abbas, titled Pantegni, exerted a strong influence on the first universities. Subsequently, the university curriculum drew extensively on a second wave of Arabic works which were translated in twelfth-century Spain, particularly in Toledo.
Ali ibn al-'Abbas al-Majusi, fl. 940-980 (known as Haly Abas). Kamil al-sina'ah al-tibbiyah. [The complete book of the medical art].
May 15, 1208.
Known as the Royal book [Kitab al-Malaki], because it was dedicated to a Prince of Shiraz, this well-organized compendium of medical theory and practice purported to contain everything a physician needed to know for proceeding with treatment.
Avicenna. Canon medicinae.
(DeRicci NLM 1. Schullian 495.)
The section of the Canon displayed here deals with the popular subject of regimen, i.e. diet and healthy living.
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, 865?-925? (known as Razi). al-Juz al-thalith min kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb. [The third part of the comprehensive book on medicine].
Nov. 30, 1094.
Rhazes is noteworthy for his clinical observations. This part of his encyclopedia, the oldest item in the NLM collection, deals with gastro-intestinal diseases.