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Med Arh. 2008;62(4):244-9.

Why historians of medicine called Ibn al-Nafis second Avicenna?

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Sarajevo, B&H. imasic@lol.ba

Abstract

At the end of IX and beginning of the X century begins development and renaissance of the medicine called Arabic, and which main representatives were: Ali at-Taberi, Ahmed at-Taberi, Ar-Razi (Rhazes), Ali ibn al-Abbas al-Magusi (Haly), ibn al-Baitar, ibn al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis), ibn Sina (Avicenna), ibn al-Haitam (Alhazen), ibn Abi al-Ala Zuhr (Avenzor), ibn Rushd (Averroes) and ibn al-Nafis. Doctors Taberi, Magusi and Razi were born as Persians. Each of the listed great doctors of the Arab medicine in their own way made legacy to the medical science and profession, and left lasting impression in the history of medicine. Majority of them is well known in the West well and have their place in the text-books as donors of significant medical treasure, without which medicine would probably, especially the one at the Middle dark century, be pale and prosaic, insufficiently studied and misunderstood, etc. Abdullah ibn Sina (Avicenna) remained unsurpassed in the series of above listed. Close to him can only come Alauddin ibn al-Nafis, who will in mid-XII century rebut some of the theories made by Avicenna and all his predecessors, from which he collected material for his big al-Kanun fit-tibb (Cannon of medicine). Cannon will be commended for centuries and fulfilled with new knowledge. One of the numerous and perhaps the best comments-Excerpts is from Nafis-Mugaz al-Quanun, article published as a reprint in War Sarajevo under the siege during 1995 in Bosnian language, translated from Arabic by the professor Sacir Sikiric and chief physician Hamdija Karamehmedovic in 1961. Today, at least 740 years since professor from Cairo and director of the Hospital A-Mansuri in Cairo Alauddin ibn Nefis (1210-1288), in his paper about pulse described small (pulmonary) blood circulatory system and coronary circulation. At the most popular search engines very often we can find its name, especially in English language. Majority of quotes about al-Nafis are on Arabic or Turkish language, although Ibn Nafis discovery is of world wide importance. Author of this article is among rare ones who in some of the indexed magazines emphasized of that event, and on that debated also some authors from Great Britain and USA in the respectable magazine Annals of Internal medicine. Citations in majority mentioning other two "describers" or "discoverers" of pulmonary blood circulation, Miguel de Servet (1511-1553), physician and theologian, and William Harvey (1578-1657), which in his paper "An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Hearth and Blood in Animals" published in 1628 described blood circulatory system. Ibn Nafis is due to its scientific work called "Second Avicenna". Some of his papers, during centuries were translated into Latin, and some published as a reprint in Arabic language. Significance of Nafis epochal discovery is the fact that it is solely based on deductive impressions, because his description of the small circulation is not occurred by in vitro observation on corps during section. It is known that he did not pay attention to the Galen theories about blood circulation. His prophecy sentence say: "If I don't know that my work will not last up to ten thousand years after me, I would not write them" Sapient sat. Searching the newest data about all three authors: Alauddin ibn Nafis (1210-1288), Michael Servetus (1511-1533) and William Harvey (1628) in the prestige Wikipedia I manage to link several most relevant facts, based on which we can in more details explain to whom from these three authors the glory and the right to call them self first describer of the pulmonary and cardiac circulation belongs. About Servetus and Harvey there is much more data than on ibn Nafis, about which on Google there are mainly references in Arabic and Turkish language, and my four references on Bosnian, with the abstracts in English. Probably the language barrier was one of the key reasons that we know so little about Nafis and so little is written, although respectable professor Fuat Sezgin from Frankfurt in 1997 published comprehensive monograph about this great physician, scientist and explorer, in which papers we can clearly recognize detailed description of the pulmonary and cardiac circulation. Also, I personally published separate monographs about this scientist, and which can be found on www. avicenapublisher.org.

PMID:
19145813
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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