The greatest physicians and clinicians of the Muslim golden era
The World’s First Parasitologist
Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik Ibn Zuhr was born at Seville in 1091/c. 1094 C.E. After completing his education and specializing in medicine, he entered the service of Almoravides (Al-Murabatun), but after their defeat by the Al-Mohades (Al-Muwahadun), he served under 'Abd al-Mu'min, the first Muwahid ruler. He died in Seville in 1161/c. 1162 C.E. As confirmed by George Sarton, he was not a Jew, but an orthodox Muslim.
Ibn Zuhr was one of the greatest physicians and clinicians of the Muslim golden era and has rather been held by some historians of science as the greatest of them. Contrary to the general practice of the Muslim scholars of that era, he confined his work to only one field medicine. This enabled him to produce works of everlasting fame.
As a physician, he made several discoveries and breakthroughs. He described correctly, for the first time, scabies, the itch mite and may thus be regarded as the first parasitologist. Likewise, he prescribed tracheotomy and direct feeding through the gullet and rectum in the cases where normal feeding was not possible. He also gave clinical descriptions of mediastinal tumours, intestinal phthisis, inflammation of the middle ear, pericarditis, etc.
His contribution was chiefly contained in the monumental works written by him; out of these, however, only three are extant.
Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (Book of Simplification concerning Therapeutics and Diet), written at the request of
Ibn Rushd (Averroes), is the most important work of Ibn Zuhr. It describes several of Ibn Zuhr's original contributions. The book gives in detail pathological conditions, followed by therapy. His
Kitab al-Iqtisad fi Islah al-Anfus wa al-Ajsad (Book of the Middle Course concerning the Reformation of Souls and the Bodies) gives a summary of diseases, therapeutics and hygiene written specially for the benefit of the layman. Its initial part is a valuable discourse on psychology. Kitab al-Aghthiya (Book on Foodstuffs) describes different types of food and drugs and their effects on health.
Ibn Zuhr in his works lays stress on observation and experiment and his contribution greatly influenced the medical science for several centuries both in the East and the West. His books were translated into Latin and Hebrew and remained popular in Europe as late as the advent of the 18th century.