Ibn Sina’s 'Canon' book, a medical reference in Europe for 500 years!


Inside image of the Canon of Medicine book (Image Source)

The Sheikh al-Ra'is Sharaf al-Mulk Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn b. ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hasan b. ‘Ali Ibn Sina, in Latin he is know as Avicenna and his most famous works are those on philosophy and medicine.

His philosophical views have engaged the attention of Western thinkers over several centuries, and his books have been among the most important sources in philosophy.

In medicine, his encyclpedic book, al-Qanun (The Canon) - Al Qanun Fi Al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine) - was translated into Latin towards the end of the twelfth century CE, and became a reference source for medical studies in the universities of Europe until the end of the seventeenth century.

Ibn Sina, or Avicenna, lived in Hamadan and Jurjan from 980 to 1037 CE, and acquired great fame in mediaeval European medicine.

In al-Qanun, Ibn Sina basically followed the methodical, analytical line originated by al-Razi. AI-Qanun was, however, more broadly conceived than Al-Hawi (the Continens and included all branches of medical science.


An imaginary drawing of Ibn Sina

According to Desnos, most of the disesaes of the kidneys and bladder can be recognized in the systemic classification of renal diseases and the accounts of bladder diseases given by Ibn Sina in al-Qanun. He was also the first to point out the fact that haematuria may be due to causes outside the urinary system, for example, blood diseases.

Apart from the methodical classification and precise descriptions of aetiological factors and signs in his chapter on urinary disturbances, Ibn Sina pointed out the role of psychological factors in the treatment of certain cases of nocturnal nuresis.

Both Ibn Sina and al-Razi warned against catheterization in the presence of inflammation, as it increases the swelling and pain. To ensure gentle catheterisation, Ibn Sina designed catheters with rounded, firm tips and many side holes from the skin of certain marine and other animals.

The al-Hawi, at-Tasrif and al-Qanun were translated into Latin as early as 1150 CE by Gerard of Cremona and greatly influenced the European Mediaeval schools of medicine well into the eighteenth century. 

Read More: www.muslimheritage.com/article/ibn-sinas-canon-medicine


An illustrated page of the Canon in a Hebrew translation. The miniatures shown here are the three basic stages of a physician's visit with a patient: the examination of the patient, the consultation with attendants, and possibly a written prescription or treatment procedure.


Page from an illuminated manuscript of the Latin translation of the Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina 


Commemorative medal issued by the UNESCO in 1980 to mark the 1000th birth anniversary of Ibn Sina. The obverse depicts a scene showing Avicenna surrounded by his disciples, inspired by a miniature in a 17th-century Turkish manuscript; whilst on the reverse is a phrase by Avicenna in Arabic and Latin: "Cooperate for the well-being of the body and the survival of the human species". The UNESCO established the "Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science" in 2002. 


Illuminated opening of the first book of the Kitab al-Qanun fi al-tibb (The Canon on Medicine) by Ibn Sina. Undated, probably Iran, beginning of 15th century


First page of the Latin translation of the Canon: Liber Canonis, de Medicinis Cordialibus et Cantica, iam olim quidem a Gerardo Carmonensi ex arabico in latinum conversa

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