Also popularly known as ‘Avicenna’, Ibn Sina was indeed a true polymath with his contributions ranging from medicine, psychology and pharmacology to geology, physics, astronomy, chemistry and philosophy. He was also a poet, an Islamic scholar and theologian.
His most important contribution to medical science was his famous book Al Qanun Fi Al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine). This book is an immense five volume encyclopedia of medicine containing over a million words. It comprises of medical knowledge available from ancient and Muslim sources. His other major work is “The Book of Healing”, a scientific and philosophical encyclopedia.
This great scientist was born in around 980 A.D in the village of Afshana, near Bukhara, now in Uzbekistan, which is also his mother’s hometown. His father, Abdullah an advocate of the Ismaili sect, was from Balkh which is now a part of Afghanistan. Ibn Sina received his early education in his home town and by the age of ten he became a Quran Hafiz (he had memorized the Quran). He had exceptional intellectual skills which enabled him to overtake his teachers at the age of fourteen. During the next few years he devoted himself to Muslim jurisprudence, philosophy and natural science and studied logic, Euclid, and Ptolemy’s Almagest.
Ibn Sina was an extremely religious man. When he was still young, Ibn Sina was highly baffled by the work of Aristotle on metaphysics so much so that he would pray to God to guide him. Finally after reading a manual by a famous philosopher al-Farabi, he found the solutions to his difficulties.
Contributions and Achievements
At the age of sixteen he dedicated all his efforts to learn medicine and by the time he was eighteen gained the status of a reputed physician. During this time he cured Nuh II, Ruler of the Samanids, of an illness in which all the renowned physicians had given up hope. On this great effort, the Amir wished to reward him, and the young physician requested consent to use his exclusively stocked royal library.
On his father’s death, when Ibn Sina was twenty-two years old, he moved to Jurjan near the Caspian Sea where he lectured on logic and astronomy. Here he also met his famous contemporary Abu Rayhan al-Biruni. Later he travelled to Rey and then to Hamadan (both in present day Iran), where he wrote and taught his works. Here he also cured Shams al-Dawla, the Emir of Hamadan, from a severe illness.
From Hamadan, he moved to Isfahan (now in central Iran), where he finished his epic writings. Nevertheless, he continued to travel and too much mental exertion as well as political chaos affected his health. The last decade or so of his life, he spent in the service of a military commander Ala al-Dawla Muhammad. He served him as a physician and general literary and scientific consultant, including during his campaigns. He died during June 1037 A.D, aged 58 and was buried in Hamedan, Iran.
Avicenna’s most important contribution to medical science was his famous book Al Qanun Fi Al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), known as the “Canon” in the West. This book was an immense five volume encyclopedia of medicine including over a million words. It comprised of medical knowledge available from ancient and Muslim sources. This book was translated into Latin in the twelfth century and was used as the standard medical text in European universities until the mid-seventeenth century.
His other major work was “The Book of Healing”, a scientific and philosophical encyclopedia. This book was intended to ‘heal’ the soul. It was split into four parts: logic, natural sciences, mathematics and metaphysics. In his book, he developed his own system of logic, Avicennian logic. In astronomy, he proposed that Venus was closer to the Sun than the Earth. He invented an instrument for observing the coordinates of a star. He made several astronomical observations and stated that the stars were self-luminous. In mathematics, Avicenna explained the arithmetical concept and application of the “casting out of nines”. Ibn Sina also contributed to poetry, religion and music. In total, Avicenna wrote over 400 works, of which around 240 have survived.