Avicenna, The Prince of Medicine

Every age has its defining genius, every culture its own Aristotle, Leonardo or Goethe. For classical Islam, one of those figures is unquestionably Ibn Sina or Avicenna (his Latinized name). A marvelous man by whose eighteenth birthday his fame as a physician was so great that he was summoned to treat the dying Samanid king of Bukhara (976-97 A.C) when all the talented court physicians had given up hope of his recovery. To the great astonishment of all, he was given the privilege of using the court's remarkable library which was the highest award for his future successes.



It is hard to describe Avicenna in any word but superlative. He wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. His intellectual achievements encompassed not only medicine, but philosophy, law, science, music, poetry, mathematics, and statecraft. Even his life was the stuff of legends.


Avicennaو Ibn Sina, scientist, Muslim


The only source of information for the first part of Avicenna's life is his autobiography, as written down by his student Juzjani. Now let's have a glimpse at his life in his own words:


“My father Abdullah was from Bukhara. Bukhara at that time was one of the greatest cities in Persia. He was appointed as a Samanid governor married to my mother Setareh, and I was born there in 980 A.D. They called me Hussain, some years later my father was posted to Bukhara, where I received my early education in literature and Quran. From the very beginning I made such remarkable progress in my education that at the age of 10, I had completely memorized the Quran. Abu Abdullah al Natili, a leading philosopher of his time, visited Bukhara and stayed at our home. I learned logic, geometry, and astronomy from him. I soon surpassed my teacher and studied medicine, physics, and metaphysics by myself and mastered all these subjects before I was 17 years old. Then, I started writing at the age of 21”.



Ibn Sina's chief work is the monumental "Al-Qanun," which is over one million words in length, in medicine. The instructions of this book were Europe's pharmacopeia for five centuries after his death.  Al-Qanun discusses the whole field of medicine in an attempt to codify all the existing medical knowledge.



Another important work, a commentary on the work of Aristotle, was designed to set out the philosophies of ancient Greeks. Al Kitab ash-Shifa (the book of healing) is the most extended treatise on philosophy ever written by a single man.


Avicenna, Ibn Sina, doctor, scientist, Muslim

In the end, the repeated travels and exacting political and intellectual preoccupations of Ibn Sina deteriorated his health. He was suffering from colic, and he made some extraordinary efforts towards his treatment.


He became bedridden in Hamadan (Iran), and died at the age of 57 in 1037 A.D., being the victim of a disease in which he was a specialist. His grave in Hamadan is yearly visited by a large number of admirers.


As one of the historians said, Avicenna is like a meteor, which flashed across the sky, illuminating the whole world with his brilliance, and in whose afterglow we still perceive the world around us.



[1] http://www.britannica.com/biography/Avicenna