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Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā), 980 — 1037 AD
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, September 2018


See also Galen | History of medicine portal | Hua Tuo | Maimonides | Osler Library of the History of Medicine | Sushruta

Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā) (980 — 1037 AD), Persian physician, philosopher and author, is one of the most influential figures in the history of medicine. Avicenna was born in Bukhara into a modest family and his father, a government official, arranged to have him educated by various scholars. Avicenna had mastered physics, mathematics, logic and metaphysics as a teenager, and by sixteen, began to study medicine. By the age of 21 Avicenna had written his "Canon of medicine", which for several centuries remained an authority in the study of medicine. Avicenna was also widely-known for his 450 treatises on subjects that show the scope of his self-education and scholarship. Of 240 texts that have survived, 150 concentrate on philosophy and 40 deal with medicine.

Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine is an early example of an Arabo-Islamic text infused with Galenic principles. It contains five books ranging from anatomy to pharmacology, and was praised in Islamic circles and later in Europe where it was considered a seminal text for eight centuries. Throughout this period, the Canon was widely consulted for information about quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases, contagion and sexually transmitted diseases. It is notable for its treatment of pharmaceuticals and the use of concepts such as clinical trials and efficacy testing.

Avicenna's Canon of medicine

The Canon uses aspects of the ancient theory of the four temperaments and extends it to encompass emotional aspects, mental health, attitudes, self-awareness, movements and dreams. The Canon summarizes Avicenna's own theory of four temperaments in a table as follows:

Avicenna's four primary temperaments
Evidence Hot Cold Moist Dry
Morbid states inflammation becomes febrile fevers related to serious humour, rheumatism fatigue (medical), lassitude loss of vigour
Functional power deficient energy deficient digestive power difficult digestion
Subjective sensations bitter taste, excessive thirst, heart burn lack of desire for fluids mucous, connective tissue, sleepiness insomnia, wakefulness
Physical signs high pulse rate, fatigue, lassitude flaccid joints diarrhea, swollen eyelids, rough skin, acquired habit rough skin, acquired habit
Foods & medicines calefacients] harmful, infrigidants beneficial infrigidants harmful, calefacients beneficial moist articles harmful dry regimen harmful, humectants beneficial
Relation to weather worse in summer worse in winter bad in autumn

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