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Ibn Sina (Avicenna) : The prince of physicians

Arab and Muslim Physicians and Scholars
Ann Saudi Med 27(2) March-April 2007
Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina,
known in the West as Avicenna, was one of
the most eminent Muslim physicians and phi--
losophers of his days whose influence on Islamic and
European medicine persisted for centuries. He was
named by his students and followers as “Al Shaikh Al
Ra’ees” or the master wise man. e Europeans called
him the “Prince of Physicians”. As a thinker, he repre--
sented the culmination of Islamic renaissance, and was
described as having the mind of Goethe and the genius
of Leonardo da Vinci.1
Ibn Sina was born in 980 AD in the village of
Afshanah near the city of Bukhara in Central Asia, the
capital of the Samani kingdom at that time, in the pres--
ent country of Uzbekistan. His father, Abdullah, was
from the city of Balkh and worked as a local governor
for a village near Bukhara. His mother was a Tadjik
woman named Sitara. Abdullah realized that his son
was a prodigy child and was keen on getting the best
tutors for his genius son. At the age of ten, he finished
studying and memorizing the Koran by heart and was
proficient in Arabic language and its literature classics.
In the following 6 years, he devoted his time for study--
ing Islamic law and jurisprudence, philosophy, logic and
natural sciences. At the age of thirteen, he started study--
ing the medical sciences. By the age of eighteen, he was
a well established physician and his reputation became
well known in his country and beyond. He was quoted
as stating that: “Medicine is no hard and thorny science
like mathematics and metaphysics, so I soon made great
progress; I became an excellent physician and began to
treat patients using approved remedies”.2
When the Sultan of Bukhara, Nuh Ibn Mansour of
the Samanid dynasty, became seriously ill, Ibn Sina was
summoned to treat him. After the recovery of the Sultan,
Ibn Sina was rewarded and was given access to the royal
library, a treasure trove for Ibn Sina who read its rare
manuscripts and unique books thus adding more to his
knowledge. After the Sultan’s death, and the defeat of
the Samanid dynasty at the hands of the Turkish leader
Ibn Sina (Avicenna): The Prince Of Physicians
Samir S. Amr,* Abdelghani Tbakhi †
From the *Dhahran Health Center, Saudi Aramco Medical Services Organization, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and †Department of Pathology, King
Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Correspondence and reprint requests: Samir S. Amr, MD Saudi Aramco P.O. Box 8341 Dhahran 31311, Saudi Arabia T: +966 3 877-6789 F:
+966 3 877-6783
Ann Saudi Med 2007;27(2): 134-135
Mahmoud Ghaznawi, Ibn Sina moved to Jerjan near
the Capsian Sea. He lectured there on astronomy and
logic and wrote the first part of his book Al Qanun
al Tibb, better known in the West as “Canon, his most
significant medical work. Later, he moved to Al-Rayy
(near modern Tehran) and had a medical practice there.
He authored about 30 books during his stay there. He
then moved to Hamadan. He cured its ruler Prince
Emir Shams al-Dawlah of the Buyid dynasty from a
severe colic. He became the Emir’s private physician and
confidant and was appointed as a Grand Viser (Prime
Minister). When Shams al-Dawlah died, Ibn Sina
A portrait of Al Hussain Ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina
Arab and Muslim Physicians and Scholars
Ann Saudi Med 27(2) March-April 2007 135
wrote to the ruler of Isfahan for a position at his court.
When the Emir of Hamadan became aware of this, he
imprisoned Ibn Sina. While in prison , he wrote several
books. After his release, he went to Isfahan. He spent
his final years serving its ruler Emir Ala al-Dawlah. He
died in 1037 AD at the age of 57. He was burried in
the city of Hamadan. A monument was erected in that
city near the site of his grave.
It is claimed that Ibn Sina had written about 450
works, of which 240 had survived.3 Some bibliogra--
phers list only 21 major and 24 minor works dealing
with philosophy, medicine, astronomy, geometry, theol--
ogy, philology and art. He wrote several books on phi--
losophy, the most significant was “Kitab al Shifa” (e
Book of Healing). It was a philosophical encyclopedia
that brought Aristotelian and Platonian philosophi--
cal traditions together with Islamic theology in divid--
ing the field of knowledge into theoretical knowledge
(physics, metaphysics and mathematics) and practical
knowledge (ethics, economics and politics). Another
book on philosophy was “Kitab al-Isharat wa al tanbi--
hat” (Book of Directives and Remarks).
However, his book Al Qanun fi al Tibb or simply
the Canon is the most influential medical book ever
written by a Muslim physician. It is a one million word
medical encyclopedia representing a summation of
Arabian medicine with its Greek roots, modified by
the personal observations of Ibn Sina. is book was
translated to Latin in the 12th century by Gerard of
Cremona. It became the textbook for medical educa--
tion in Europe from the 12th to the 17th century. It
is stated that in the last 30 years of the 15th century,
the Canon passed through 15 Latin editions and one
Hebrew edition. e Canon is divided into five books,
including medical therapeutics, with 760 drugs listed.
e books are:
Book I:
Part 1:
e Institutes of Medicine: Definition of medicine, its
task, its relation to philosophy. e elements, juices, and
temperaments. e organs and their functions.
Part 2: Causes and symptoms of diseases.
Part 3: General dietetics and prophylaxis.
Part 4: General erapeutics.
Book II: On the simple medications and their actions.
Book III: e diseases of the brain, the eye, the ear, the
throat and oral cavity, the respiratory organs, the heart,
the breast, the stomach, the liver, the spleen, the intes--
tine, the kidneys and the genital organs.
Book VI:
Part 1: On fevers.
Part 2: Symptoms and prognosis.
Part 3: On sediments.
Part 4: On wounds.
Part 5: On dislocations.
Part 6: On poisons and cosmetics.
Book V: On compounding of medications.
In his book, Ibn Sina correctly documented the
anatomy of the eye along with description of ophthal--
mic conditions such as cataracts. He stated that tuber--
culosis was contagious. He described the symptoms of
diabetes, and gave descriptions of the types of facial
paralysis. He described several psychiatric disorders
including the so-called disorder of love, which he con--
sidered as an obsessive disorder resembling severe de--
pression. He described a cachectic debilitated male pa--
tient with fever. By reaching to his loved one, he quickly
regained his health and strength.4 Eight chapters in the
Canon dealt with the functional neuroanatomy of the
spine including the structure of the vertebrae and the
various parts of the vertebral column and its biome--
chanics.5 Other authors wrote about Ibn Sina contri--
butions to perinatal medicine, including binding of
infants, their sleeping quarters, bathing and feeding as
well as on causes of deformity.6 At the millenium of his
birth in 1980, numerous articles were published in his
honor in numerous languages, a tribute for this great
Muslim physician.
1. Smith RD: Avicenna and the Canon of Medicine:
A millenial tribute. West J Med 1980; 133:367-370
2. Tan SY:Avicenna (980-1037): Prince of physi--
cians. Singapore Med J 2002; 43:445-446
3. Namazi MR; Images in Psychiatry: Avicenna,
980-1037. Am J Psychiatry 2001; 158: 1796
4. Shoja MM, Tubbs RS: Images in Psychiatry:The
disorder of love in the Canon of Avicenna (A.D.
980-1037). Am J Psychiatry 2007;164: 228.
5. Naderi S, Acar F, Mertol T, Arda MN: Functional
anatomy of the spine by Avicenna in his eleventh
century treatise Al-Qanun fi Al-Tibb (The Canon of
Medicine). Neurosurgery 2003; 52:1449-1454
6. Dunn PM: Avicenna (AD 980-1037) and Arabic
perinatal medicine. Arch Dis Child 1997; 77: 75-76
... Originally written in Arabic, the book was later translated into a number of other languages including Persian, Latin, Chinese, Hebrew, German, French, and English.[6] Avicenna was one of the most eminent Muslim physicians and philosophers of his days, whose influence on Islamic and European medicine persisted for centuries.[7] ...
... Avicenna’s innovative ideas on public health and preventive medicine have been the subject of other studies.[22][23] The Canon also devoted a chapter to the care of newborn infants, their hygiene, breastfeeding and upbringing.[7] In the field of neurosurgery, Avicenna provided extremely systematic knowledge on head traumas through his observations and experiences.[24] ...
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Physicians in ancient Persia played an important role in the development of medicine in the medieval era. One of the most influential figures of this era was Abu Ali Sina or Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in the western world. The author of more than 200 books on medicine and philosophy, Avicenna followed and further expanded on the tradition of western philosophy and medicine introduced by Aristotle, Hippocrates and Galen. Few researchers have looked into the different medical issues in his best known work, the Canon of Medicine, particularly with regard to ophthalmology. In this analysis, Avicenna's views on and contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts in his Canon were elucidated. We first reviewed an electronic copy of the Canon and then reviewed other important sources in traditional medicine including the Kamel-al-Sanaeh, Al-Havi (Continents) and Zakhireh-kharazmshahi, available in the Avicenna Special Traditional Medicine Library of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. We also searched Medline, Embase, Scopus, Iranmedex and Science Iranian Database (SID) with these keywords: "traditional medicine," "Avicenna," "cataract", "Canon", "history", "ophthalmology" and "eye disorders". According to the Canon, nozul-al-maa or cataract is an obstructive disease in which external moisture accumulates between the aqueous humor and the corneal membrane and prevents images from entering the eye. Avicenna classified cataracts on the basis of size, density and color. According to size, he identified two types of cataracts including complete and partial obstruction. According to the Canon, surgical intervention was necessary only for certain indications. Avicenna believed that opacity in the initial stages of cataract could be diminished by medicines and foods, and described several medicines for cataracts. He believed that surgery should be postponed until the liquid accumulation stopped, and the cataract reached its mature state. After surgery, according to Avicenna, the patient should avoid headache-inducing situations because headaches could lead to edema of the layers of the eye. He further emphasized that the patient's psychological status played an important role in the success of surgery. An important aspect of Avicenna's contribution to the medical management of cataracts was that he believed they could be cured by medication and nutrition in their early stages without the need for surgery. He also considered the patient's mental status as an important factor contributing to the postoperative prognosis. Our review of Avicenna's writings on eye disorders in the Canon of Medicine suggests that he had a rigorous approach to the diagnosis and management of patients suffering from eye disorders.
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Background Today, the attention of researchers has been drawn to the use of medicinal plant for the treatment of kidney stones. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of five plants used in traditional medicine on the dissolution of calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones. Then, the ability of more effective plants to dissolve stones collected from patients after Percutaneous Nephrolithotripsy was investigated. Methods The aerial part of plants were extracted by maceration method. The synthesized stones in laboratory were incubated with different concentrations of the extract. Next, the concentrations of calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate were measured by a calcium kit and BT 3000. The effect of the extract with the best activity on the stones collected from the patients was also studied. The composition of clinical stones was determined by colorimetric method. The total phenolic content (TPC) of the extracts was determined. Results The highest dissolution of calcium oxalate stones was observed by the G. struthium extract and the highest dissolution of calcium phosphate stones by the A. euchroma and A. officinalis root extracts. The dissolution percentage of clinical stones by the A. euchroma extract was significantly higher than other extract ( P < 0.05). The highest TPC was observed in A. euchroma extract ( P < 0.05) . Conclusion The A. euchroma extract exhibited the greatest dissolution activity on laboratory calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones as well as clinical stones made of high amounts of calcium oxalate. Therefore, the extract can be effective in preventing and treating kidney stones .
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The history of spinal surgery is an important part of the spine-related sciences. The development of treatment strategies for spine-related disorders is acquired from the Western literature. In this article, an Eastern physician, Ibn Sina, who is known as Avicenna in the West, and his treatise, Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (the Canons of Medicine), are presented. Eight chapters of this book regarding the functional neuroanatomy of the spine were reviewed and are presented to give insight into the development of the understanding of spinal anatomy and biomechanics.
Images in Psychiatry: The disorder of love in the Canon of Avicenna (A.D. 980-1037)
  • M M Shoja
  • R S Tubbs