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Philosopher/Physician Avicenna

Although his name is relatively unknown in the West, Avicenna û or Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina to give him his Arabic name û made substantial contributions to medicine, many of which would find their way into Western practice and remain influential well through the Renaissance and into the first years of the modernist world. This paper examines the work and enduring contributions of this 10th- and 11th-century Iranian Islamic philosopher and physician.

Born near Bukhoro (now in Uzbekistan) as the son of a government official, Avicenna studied medicine and philosophy in his natal town. Because his parentsÆ house was a meeting place for intellectuals, he was able to profit from the teachings of (and conversations with) masters in many different disciplines. He was surrounded from birth with the learning and the questions of his age, and so his later accomplishments should not be entirely surprising.

A precocious child with an exceptional memory (which he would retain all his life), he had memorized the QurÆan and a large body of Arabic poetry by the age of 10 and then switched to the study of logic and metaphysics, first with the aid of teachers and then on his own as he outpaced his instructors. At the age of 16 he began the study and practice of medicine (incorporating ideas both from the Greeks and from the Arabic practices of medicine). At the age of 18 he began to study Islamic law and completed his preliminary medical studies and was quickly rewarded for his medical abilities with the post of court physician to the Samanid ruler of Bukhoro.

He remained in this position until the fall of the Samanid Empire in 999, and spent the last 14 years of his life as scientific adviser and physician to the ruler of Isfahan (Wickens, 1952, p. 18).

Particularly helpful in his intellectual development was his gaining access to the rich royal library of the Samanids û the first great native dynasty that arose in Iran ...

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