Penn State

Nasrollah Ghahramani - Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Book Title: The Canon of Medicine (al-Qanun fi’l-tibb)

Author: Avicenna

Book Description:

The universal genius and great Persian physician, Pur Sina (Abu-Ali/Ibn Sina), known as Avicenna and acknowledged as the “Prince of Physicians,” is one of the most influential philosopher-scientists of all times. He was born in 980 near Bokhara and died in 1037 in Hamadan, Iran. Avicenna’s The Canon of Medicine, a masterpiece completed in 1025, is a well-organized encyclopedic description of knowledge that influenced the practice and scholarship of medicine for centuries. In this comprehensive textbook, through thoughtful observation and detailed description, Avicenna expanded on the traditions of Aristotle, Hippocrates and Galen. The Canon contains enlightening ideas about the distinction between similar manifestations of different diseases, the concept of contagiousness, description of disorders ranging from those of the mind, nerves, and skin, to disorders of teeth and gums. It also provides a systematic account of the effects of 760 drugs. Originally written in Arabic, it was later translated into many other languages, including Avicenna's native Persian, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, English, and Chinese. After translation into Latin in the 12th century, it rapidly became the premier textbook of medicine in European universities until as late as 1650. It maintained its influence on medical knowledge until the early 19th century. Sir William Osler, noted as the “Father of modern medicine,” has described The Canon as a book that has remained “a medical bible for a longer time than any other work.” Avicenna was a physician, astronomer, chemist, philosopher, logician, mathematician, physicist, and poet. A prolific writer in all fields, he captured the knowledge of the time in well-organized texts. As a medical educator, I have always been fascinated by the life and works of Avicenna and have selected his textbook as a tribute to a true scholar who has contributed immensely to the scholarship of medicine.

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