Life and Accomplishments of Ibn Sina
Sometimes (our desperate struggle for) the advancement in our goals can leave little room to remember the humble beginnings that incited the burning passion for such success. Often political agendas (such as the battle for the ‘superior race’) can be the reasons for which outstanding contributions of many a pioneering scientist is concealed, leading the people to simply reap the benefits of success without realising the real cause for the success(es). Rarely are their accomplishments acknowledged in formal education, and if at all mentioned, their names are Latinized or changed with the effect of obscuring their identity and origin.
Time and (silent?) history has witnessed the parables of such personalities that, without their break-through magnanimous contributions to the field of science, psychology, mathematics and all other dimensions, the European Renaissance itself would not have begun and come to maturity.
One such personality was Abu Ali Al-Hussain Ibn AbdAllaah Ibn Sina (commonly known by the Latinised name ‘Avicenna’) – also addressed as ‘Ibn Sina’ by his contemporaries. Born in 980 A.D. at Afshana near Bukhara and deceased in 1037 A.D. at Hamadan. Receiving his education in Bukhara, he became well versed in various sciences by the age of ten and started studying philosophy and various related subjects and learned logic from famous philosopher Abu AbdAllaah Natili.
At the age of only seventeen he received the opportunity to cure the King from an illness that all the well known physicians of time had given up hope on. Thus he became famous throughout the medicinal and scientific world. His expertise and contributions led to his being compared to Galen.
At his time, he was the most famous physician, philosopher, encyclopaedist, mathematician and astronomer. After his father’s death he commenced writing. Amongst his revolutionary writings was ‘Al-Qanun fit-Tibb’ (known as ‘The Canon’ in the West) - bringing together and critically surveying the entire medical knowledge available from the ancient times until that time. Due to its intrinsic value, systematic approach and formal perfection, it superseded the works of Galen and enjoyed supremacy for over six centuries. Additionally, this masterpiece was rich with the author’s own contribution such as distribution of diseases by water and soil, interaction between psychology and health and the recognition of the contagious nature of tuberculosis and phthisis.
As the famous medical expert describes, Al-Qanun fit-Tibb is the most famous medical text book ever written. It comprised of five books, the first - general medical principles, second with materia medica, third on diseases occurring in a particular part of the body, the fourth on diseases not specific to one bodily part (such as fevers), in addition, to traumatic injuries such as fractures and dislocations of bones and joints And the final book contains formulas giving recipes for compound remedies.
Having made rich contributions to anatomy, gynaecology and child health, he was the first to describe meningitis and pharmacological methods and the book’s description of over 760 drugs and their usages made it the most authentic medical source for centuries. This book was in use by medical schools at Louvain and Montpellier until the 17th century. The Journal of UNESCO claims in the October issue, 1980, that Al-Qanun remained in use in Brussels University even until 1909.
Ordinarily this may not be so significant – especially with the availability of modern day technology but Ibn Sina’s discoveries and conclusions/deductions were made at a time when there were no technological advances.
His medical contributions did not stop there. The monumental philosophical literature Kitab al-Shifa embodied the vast field of knowledge from philosophy to science – classifying everything into theoretical knowledge: mathematics, physics and metaphysics;