The Great Physicians of Islamic Medicine

Husain F. Nagamia

Source: Islamic Medicine History and Current Practice

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The era of Islamic Medicine produced some very famous and notable physicians. These physicians were not only responsible to get all the existing information on Medicine of the time together but add to this knowledge by their own astute observations, experimentation and skills. Many of them were skilled in medical writing and produced encyclopedic works which became standard texts and reference works for centuries.

With the coming of European Rennaicanse they formed the basis on which the European authors gained insight into the medicine of the ‘ancients’ or early Greek authors whose works were only preserved in Arabic.

In addition many re-discoveries took place which had already been recorded by the Islamic physicians but hitherto had been unknown until recently uncovered.

The classical example of the discovery of pulmonary circulation originally given to Servetus was found to have been succinctly described by Ibn Nafis an Islamic Physician who lived centuries earlier.

Ibn Nafis repudiated the earlier concepts held by Galen and described the lesser circulation so succinctly that nothing more could be added until Malphigi could describe the alveoli and the pulmonary capillaries with the advent of the microscope discovered by Anthony Von Luwenheek in mid-19th Century.

Some of them form the basis of instruction of students of Tibb and Hikma the traditional Islamic Medicine practiced in the subcontinent of India and Pakistan, even today under the banner of Tibb or Unani Medicine.

It would be out of scope for us in this chapter to describe the accomplishments of each of these physicians; however we will proceed with giving you the salient accomplishments of some of the most notable amongst them. For sake of classification the historic periods of the Islamic Physicians can be divided into three parts:

1. The period of Islamic Renaissance: From the beginning of Islam to the end of the Abbasid dynasty.

2. The period of Islamic Epoch: When all sciences including Medicine reached the pinnacle of development under the Islamic patronage.

3. The period of decline: during which the knowledge of Islamic Medicine was translated into European languages and became the basis of further development and discoveries and ultimately led to basis for the development of Modern Medicine.

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