Ibn Sina

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Abu Ali Al-Husayn Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina, (980-1037) also known as Avicenna from the Hebrew Aven Sina, was a middle-eastern medical doctor, philosopher and writer. He has been called the "prince of physicians", and his Canon of Medicine is revered by William Osler as "the most famous medical textbook ever written". [1]

Early Life

Born in the village of Afzhana, he moved at the age of five, with his parents Abdullah and Sitareh, to Bukhara, then the capital and intellectual centre of the Samanid dynasty. He was a child prodigy; by age 10 he had memorized the Qur'an along with other Persian and Arabic literature. As a result of his remarkable progress, his father decided to hire a private teacher, al-Natali, who taught him arithmetic, geometry, logic, natural sciences and astronomy. He also studied Muslim jurisprudence, philosophy and the Almagest.

He began studying medicine at age 17, and took to it so well that by age 18, he was summoned to treat the Samanid ruler, Nuh ibn Mansur, whose court physicians had been unable to cure him. In gratitude for successful treatment, the ruler granted Ibn Sina free access to the rich literature of his library, which Ibn Sina absorbed like a sponge. A few years later Ibn Sina was writing his first books. He continued to write prolifically.

Later career

After his father died, he left Bukhara and joined the court of Ali ibn Ma'mun, ruler of Khiva. Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna was gathering poets and other intellectuals, and attempted to demand that Ibn Sina join his court. Ibn Sina instead fled, to Gurgan and later Jurjan, where he joined with his lifetime companion Juzjani. He practiced medicine in Ray until it was besieged, then moved to Hamadan, where he was made Prime Minister after curing Amir Shamsud-Dawala of colic.

The military opposed Ibn Sina's appointment to the office of Prime Minister. They mutinied and Ibn Sina was imprisoned. Later, however, the Amir became ill with colic again, summoned Ibn Sina from prison to treat him, and re-instated him as Prime Minister.

After the Amir's death, Ibn Sina moved to Isfahan, where he lived for 15 years, serving Prince 'Al-ul-din. He died at the age of 58 while travelling towards his former home Hamadan, where his remains rest.


His books are voluminous and well-organized. His Shifa (Healing of the Soul) ambitiously summarizes all of scientific knowledge of the time, and is divided into sections for logic, physics, mathematics and metaphysics; each of these being further divided into sections for specific disciplines. The other of his two most important books, the Canon of Medicine, systematically covers the medical and pharmacological knowledge of the time, as well as Ibn Sina's own astute observations, and has been called the most famous medical textbook ever written. He also wrote numerous other books: on mathematics, jurisprudence, ethics and other topics.