To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.chemeurope.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
Ibn Sīnā's works numbered almost 450 volumes on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. In particular, 150 volumes of his surviving works concentrate on philosophy and 40 of them concentrate on medicine. His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia, and The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many Islamic and European universities up until the early 19th century. Ibn Sīnā developed a medical system that combined his own personal experience with that of Islamic medicine, the medical system of the Greek physician Galen, Aristotelian metaphysics, and ancient Persian, Mesopotamian and Indian medicine. He was also the founder of Avicennian logic and the philosophical school of Avicennism, which were influential among both Muslim and Scholastic thinkers.
Ibn Sīnā is regarded as a father of early modern medicine, particularly for his introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, his discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of contagious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine, evidence-based medicine, clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, efficacy tests, clinical pharmacology, neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome, and the importance of dietetics and the influence of climate and environment on health. He is also considered the father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics, and regarded as a pioneer of aromatherapy.
George Sarton, the father of the history of science, wrote in the Introduction to the History of Science:
Additional recommended knowledge
Ibn Sīnā's life is known to us from authoritative sources. A biography, which is widely considered by foremost Arabicists to have been composed by a disciple and later redacted, covers his first thirty years, and the rest are documented by his disciple al-Juzjani, who was also his secretary and his friend.
He was born in Persia around 980 (370 AH) in Afshana, his mother's home, a small city now part of Uzbekistan. His father, a respected Ismaili or Sunni scholar of Balkh, an important town of the Persian state of Khorasan, now part of Afghanistan, was at the time of his son's birth the governor in one of the Samanid Nuh ibn Mansur's estates. He had his son very carefully educated at Bukhara. Ibn Sina himself may have been either a Hanafi Sunni or Twelver Shia. Ibn Sina's independent thought was served by an extraordinary intelligence and memory, which allowed him to overtake his teachers at the age of fourteen. As he said in his autobiography there wasn't anything which he hadn't learned when he reached eighteen.
Ibn Sīnā was put under the charge of a tutor, and his precocity soon made him the marvel of his neighbours; he displayed exceptional intellectual behaviour and was a child prodigy who had memorized the Qur'an by the age of 7 and a great deal of Persian poetry as well. He learned Indian arithmetic from an Indian greengrocer, and he began to learn more from a wandering scholar who gained a livelihood by curing the sick and teaching the young. He also studied Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) under the Hanafi scholar Ismail al-Zahid.
He was greatly troubled by the Metaphysics of Aristotle, which he could not understand until he read al-Farabi's commentary on the work. For the next year and a half, he studied philosophy, in which he encountered greater obstacles. In such moments of baffled inquiry, he would leave his books, perform the requisite ablutions (wudu), then go to the mosque, and continue in prayer (salah) till light broke on his difficulties. Deep into the night he would continue his studies, and even in his dreams problems would pursue him and work out their solution. Forty times, it is said, he read through the Metaphysics of Aristotle, till the words were imprinted on his memory; but their meaning was hopelessly obscure, until one day they found illumination, from the little commentary by Farabi, which he bought at a bookstall for the small sum of three dirhams. So great was his joy at the discovery, thus made by help of a work from which he had expected only mystery, that he hastened to return thanks to God, and bestowed alms upon the poor.
He turned to medicine at 16, and not only learned medical theory, but also by gratuitous attendance on the sick had, according to his own account, discovered new methods of treatment. The teenager achieved full status as a physician at age 18 and found that "Medicine is no hard and thorny science, like mathematics and metaphysics, so I soon made great progress; I became an excellent doctor and began to treat patients, using approved remedies." The youthful physician's fame spread quickly, and he treated many patients without asking for payment.
His first appointment was that of physician to the emir, who owed him his recovery from a dangerous illness (997). Ibn Sina's chief reward for this service was access to the royal library of the Samanids, well-known patrons of scholarship and scholars. When the library was destroyed by fire not long after, the enemies of Ibn Sina accused him of burning it, in order for ever to conceal the sources of his knowledge. Meanwhile, he assisted his father in his financial labours, but still found time to write some of his earliest works.
When Ibn Sina was 22 years old, he lost his father. The Samanid dynasty came to its end in December 1004. Ibn Sina seems to have declined the offers of Mahmud of Ghazni, and proceeded westwards to Urgench in the modern Uzbekistan, where the vizier, regarded as a friend of scholars, gave him a small monthly stipend. The pay was small, however, so Ibn Sina wandered from place to place through the districts of Nishapur and Merv to the borders of Khorasan, seeking an opening for his talents. Shams al-Ma'äli Kavuus, the generous ruler of Dailam and central Persia, himself a poet and a scholar, with whom Ibn Sina had expected to find an asylum, was about that date (1052) starved to death by his troops who had revolted. Ibn Sina himself was at this season stricken down by a severe illness. Finally, at Gorgan, near the Caspian Sea, Ibn Sina met with a friend, who bought a dwelling near his own house in which Ibn Sina lectured on logic and astronomy. Several of Ibn Sina's treatises were written for this patron; and the commencement of his Canon of Medicine also dates from his stay in Hyrcania.
Ibn Sina subsequently settled at Rai, in the vicinity of modern Tehran, (present day capital of Iran), the home town of Rhazes; where Majd Addaula, a son of the last Buwayhid emir, was nominal ruler under the regency of his mother (Seyyedeh Khatun). About thirty of Ibn Sina's shorter works are said to have been composed in Rai. Constant feuds which raged between the regent and her second son, Shams al-Daula, however, compelled the scholar to quit the place. After a brief sojourn at Qazvin he passed southwards to Hamadãn where Shams al-Daula, another Buwayhid emir, had established himself. At first, Ibn Sina entered into the service of a high-born lady; but the emir, hearing of his arrival, called him in as medical attendant, and sent him back with presents to his dwelling. Ibn Sina was even raised to the office of vizier. The emir consented that he should be banished from the country. Ibn Sina, however, remained hidden for forty days in a sheikh's house, till a fresh attack of illness induced the emir to restore him to his post. Even during this perturbed time, Ibn Sina persevered with his studies and teaching. Every evening, extracts from his great works, the Canon and the Sanatio, were dictated and explained to his pupils. On the death of the emir, Ibn Sina ceased to be vizier and hid himself in the house of an apothecary, where, with intense assiduity, he continued the composition of his works.
Meanwhile, he had written to Abu Ya'far, the prefect of the dynamic city of Isfahan, offering his services. The new emir of Hamadan, hearing of this correspondence and discovering where Ibn Sina was hidden, incarcerated him in a fortress. War meanwhile continued between the rulers of Isfahan and Hamadãn; in 1024 the former captured Hamadan and its towns, expelling the Tajik mercenaries. When the storm had passed, Ibn Sina returned with the emir to Hamadan, and carried on his literary labours. Later, however, accompanied by his brother, a favourite pupil, and two slaves, Ibn Sina escaped out of the city in the dress of a Sufi ascetic. After a perilous journey, they reached Isfahan, receiving an honourable welcome from the prince.
The remaining ten or twelve years of Ibn Sīnā's life were spent in the service of Abu Ja'far 'Ala Addaula, whom he accompanied as physician and general literary and scientific adviser, even in his numerous campaigns.
During these years he began to study literary matters and philology, instigated, it is asserted, by criticisms on his style. He contrasts with the nobler and more intellectual character of Averroes. A severe colic, which seized him on the march of the army against Hamadãn, was checked by remedies so violent that Ibn Sina could scarcely stand. On a similar occasion the disease returned; with difficulty he reached Hamadãn, where, finding the disease gaining ground, he refused to keep up the regimen imposed, and resigned himself to his fate.
His friends advised him to slow down and take life moderately. He refused, however, stating that: "I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one with length". On his deathbed remorse seized him; he bestowed his goods on the poor, restored unjust gains, freed his slaves, and every third day till his death listened to the reading of the Qur'an. He died in June 1037, in his fifty-eighth year, and was buried in Hamedan, Iran.
About 100 treatises were ascribed to Ibn Sina. Some of them are tracts of a few pages, others are works extending through several volumes. The best-known amongst them, and that to which Ibn Sina owed his European reputation, is his 14-volume The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text in Europe and the Islamic world up until the 18th century. The book is known for its introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, the discovery of contagious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of infectious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine, clinical trials, neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome in the diagnosis of specific diseases, and the first descriptions on bacteria and viral organisms. It classifies and describes diseases, and outlines their assumed causes. Hygiene, simple and complex medicines, and functions of parts of the body are also covered. In this, Ibn Sīnā is credited as being the first to correctly document the anatomy of the human eye, along with descriptions of eye afflictions such as cataracts. It asserts that tuberculosis was contagious, which was later disputed by Europeans, but turned out to be true. It also describes the symptoms and complications of diabetes. Both forms of facial paralysis were described in-depth. In addition, the workings of the heart as a valve are described.
The Canon of Medicine was the first book dealing with experimental medicine, evidence-based medicine, randomized controlled trials, and efficacy tests, and it laid out the following rules and principles for testing the effectiveness of new drugs and medications, which still form the basis of clinical pharmacology and modern clinical trials:
An Arabic edition of the Canon appeared at Rome in 1593, and a Hebrew version at Naples in 1491. Of the Latin version there were about thirty editions, founded on the original translation by Gerard de Sablonetta. In the 15th century a commentary on the text of the Canon was composed. Other medical works translated into Latin are the Medicamenta Cordialia, Canticum de Medicina, and the Tractatus de Syrupo Acetoso.
It was mainly accident which determined that from the 12th to the 18th century, Ibn Sīnā should be the guide of medical study in European universities, and eclipse the names of Rhazes, Ali ibn al-Abbas and Averroes. His work is not essentially different from that of his predecessor Rhazes, because he presented the doctrine of Galen, and through Galen the doctrine of Hippocrates, modified by the system of Aristotle, as well as the Indian doctrines of Sushruta and Charaka. But the Canon of Ibn Sīnā is distinguished from the Al-Hawi (Continens) or Summary of Rhazes by its greater method, due perhaps to the logical studies of the former.
The work has been variously appreciated in subsequent ages, some regarding it as a treasury of wisdom, and others, like Averroes, holding it useful only as waste paper. In modern times it has been seen of mainly historic interest as most of its tenets have been disproved or expanded upon by scientific medicine. The vice of the book is excessive classification of bodily faculties, and over-subtlety in the discrimination of diseases. It includes five books; of which the first and second discuss physiology, pathology and hygiene, the third and fourth deal with the methods of treating disease, and the fifth describes the composition and preparation of remedies. This last part contains some personal observations.
He is, like all his countrymen, ample in the enumeration of symptoms, and is said to be inferior to Ali in practical medicine and surgery. He introduced into medical theory the four causes of the Peripatetic system. Of natural history and botany he pretended to no special knowledge. Up to the year 1650, or thereabouts, the Canon was still used as a textbook in the universities of Leuven and Montpellier.
In the museum at Bukhara, there are displays showing many of his writings, surgical instruments from the period and paintings of patients undergoing treatment. Ibn Sīnā was interested in the effect of the mind on the body, and wrote a great deal on psychology, likely influencing Ibn Tufayl and Ibn Bajjah. He also introduced medical herbs.
Astronomy and Astrology
In 1070, Abu Ubayd al-Juzjani, a pupil of Ibn Sīnā, claimed that his teacher Ibn Sīnā had solved the equant problem in Ptolemy's planetary model.
The study of astrology was refuted by Avicenna. His reasons were both due to the methods used by astrologers being conjectural rather than empirical and also due to the views of astrologers conflicting with orthodox Islam. He also cited passages from the Qur'an in order to justify his refutation of astrology on both scientific and religious grounds.
Chemistry and Aromatherapy
Among his works refuting alchemy, Liber Aboali Abincine de Anima in arte Alchemiae was the most influential, having influenced later medieval chemists and alchemists such as Vincent of Beauvais.
Ibn Sīnā wrote on the earth sciences in The Book of Healing, in which he hypothesized on two geological causes of mountains:
Neuroscience and Psychology
In neuroscience and psychology, Avicenna was a pioneer of neuropsychiatry. He first described numerous neuropsychiatric conditions, including hallucination, insomnia, mania, nightmare, melancholia, dementia, epilepsy, paralysis, stroke, vertigo and tremor.
Avicenna was also a pioneer in psychophysiology and psychosomatic medicine. He recognized 'physiological psychology' in the treatment of illnesses involving emotions, and developed a system for associating changes in the pulse rate with inner feelings, which is seen as an anticipation of the word association test attributed to Carl Jung. Avicenna is reported to have treated a very ill patient by "feeling the patient's pulse and reciting aloud to him the names of provinces, districts, towns, streets, and people." He noticed how the patient's pulse increased when certain names were mentioned, from which Avicenna deduced that the patient was in love with a girl whose home Avicenna was "able to locate by the digital examination." Avicenna advised the patient to marry the girl he is in love with, and the patient soon recovered from his illness after his marriage.
In mechanics, Ibn Sīnā developed an elaborate theory of motion, in which he made a distinction between the inclination and force of a projectile, and concluded that motion was a result of an inclination (mayl) transferred to the projectile by the thrower, and that projectile motion in a vacuum would not cease. He viewed inclination as a permanent force whose effect is dissipated by external forces such as air resistance. His theory of motion was thus consistent with the concept of inertia in Newton's first law of motion. Ibn Sīnā also referred to mayl to as being proportional to weight times velocity, a precursor to the concept of momentum in Newton's second law of motion. Ibn Sīnā's theory of mayl was further developed by Jean Buridan in his theory of impetus.
In optics, Ibn Sina discovered that the speed of light is finite, as he "observed that if the perception of light is due to the emission of some sort of particles by a luminous source, the speed of light must be finite." He also provided a sophisticated explanation for the rainbow phenomenon. Carl Benjamin Boyer described Ibn Sīnā's theory on the rainbow as follows:
Ibn Sīnā wrote extensively on early Islamic philosophy, especially the subjects logic, ethics, and metaphysics, including treatises named Logic and Metaphysics. Most of his works were written in Arabic - which was the de facto scientific language of that time, and some were written in the Persian language. Of linguistic significance even to this day are a few books that he wrote in nearly pure Persian language (particularly the Danishnamah-yi 'Ala', Philosophy for Ala' ad-Dawla'). Ibn Sīnā's commentaries on Aristotle often corrected the philosopher, encouraging a lively debate in the spirit of ijtihad.
In the medieval Islamic world, due to Avicenna's successful reconciliation between Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism along with Kalam, Avicennism eventually became the leading school of Islamic philosophy by the 12th century, with Avicenna becoming a central authority on philosophy.
Avicennism was also influential in medieval Europe, particular his doctrines on the nature of the soul and his existence-essence distinction, along with the debates and censure that they raised in scholastic Europe. This was particularly the case in Paris, where Avicennism was later proscribed in 1210. Nevertheless, his psychology and theory of knowledge influenced William of Auvergne and Albertus Magnus, while his metaphysics had an impact on the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
Early Islamic philosophy, imbued as it is with Islamic theology, distinguishes more clearly than Aristotelianism the difference between essence and existence. Whereas existence is the domain of the contingent and the accidental, essence endures within a being beyond the accidental. The philosophy of Ibn Sīnā, particularly that part relating to metaphysics, owes much to to al-Farabi. The search for a truly definitive Islamic philosophy can be seen in what is left to us of his work.
Following al-Farabi's lead, Avicenna initiated a full-fledged inquiry into the question of being, in which he distinguished between essence (Mahiat) and existence (Wujud). He argued that the fact of existence can not be inferred from or accounted for by the essence of existing things and that form and matter by themselves cannot interact and originate the movement of the universe or the progressive actualization of existing things. Existence must, therefore, be due to an agent-cause that necessitates, imparts, gives, or adds existence to an essence. To do so, the cause must be an existing thing and coexist with its effect. 
Avicenna discussed the topic of logic in Islamic philosophy extensively in his works, and developed his own system of logic known as "Avicennian logic" as an alternative to Aristotelian logic. By the 12th century, Avicennian logic had replaced Aristotelian logic as the dominant system of logic in the Islamic world. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, Avicennian logic was also influential in Europe.
Ibn Sina developed an early theory on hypothetical syllogism, which formed the basis of his early risk factor analysis. He also developed an early theory on propositional calculus, which was an area of logic not covered in the Aristotelian tradition. The first criticisms of Aristotelian logic were also written by Ibn Sina, who developed an original theory on temporal modal syllogism. Ibn Sina also contributed inventively to the development of inductive logic, being the first to describe the methods of agreement, difference and concomitant variation which are critical to inductive logic and the scientific method.
Ibn Sina and Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī engaged in a written debate, with al-Biruni mostly criticizing Aristotelian natural philosophy and the Peripatetic school, while Avicenna and his student Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-Ma'sumi respond to al-Biruni's criticisms in writing. Al-Biruni began by asking Avicenna eighteen questions, ten of which were criticisms of Aristotle's On the Heavens.
Ibn Sīnā was a devout Muslim and sought to reconcile rational philosophy with Islamic theology. His aim was to prove the existence of God and his creation of the world scientifically and through reason and logic. Avicenna wrote a number of treatises dealing with Islamic theology. These included treatises on the Islamic prophets, who he viewed as "inspired philosophers", and on various scientific and philosophical interpretations of the Qur'an, such as how Quranic cosmology corresponds to his own philosophical system.
Ibn Sīnā memorized the Qur'an by the age of seven, and as an adult, he wrote five treatises commenting on suras from the Qur'an. One of these texts included the Proof of Prophecies, in which he comments on several Quranic verses and holds the Qur'an in high esteem. Avicenna argued that the Islamic prophets should be considered higher than philosophers.
While he was imprisoned in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadhan, Avicenna wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul. He referred to the living human intelligence, particularly the active intellect, which he believed to be the hypostasis by which God communicates truth to the human mind and imparts order and intelligibility to nature. His "Floating Man" thought experiment tells its readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance.
In the chapters on mechanics and engineering in his encyclopedia Mi'yar al-'aql (The Measure of the Mind), Avicenna writes an analysis on the ilm al-hiyal (science of ingenious devices) and makes the first successful attempt to classify simple machines and their combinations. He first describes and illustrates the five constituent simple machines: the lever, pulley, screw, wedge, and windlass. He then analyzes all the combinations of these simple machines, such as the windlass-screw, windlass-pulley and windlass-lever for example. He is also the first to describe a mechanism which is essentially a combination of all of these simple machines (except for the wedge).
Almost half of Ibn Sīnā's works are versified. His poems appear in both Arabic and Persian. As an example, Edward Granville Browne claims that the following verses are incorrectly attributed to Omar Khayyám, and were originally written by Ibn Sīnā:
از قعر گل سیاه تا اوج زحل,
کردم همه مشکلات گیتی را حل,
بیرون جستم زقید هر مکر و حیل,
هر بند گشاده شد مگر بند اجل.
When some of his opponents blame him for blasphemy, he says 
کفر چو منی گزاف و آسان نبود
The blasphemy of somebody like me is not easy and exorbitant
محکمتر از ایمان من ایمان نبود
There isn't any stronger faith than my faith
در دهر چو من یکی و آن هم کافر
There is just one person like me in the world and that one is blasphemer
پس در همه دهر یک مسلمان نبود
Then there isn't one Muslim in the whole world.
George Sarton, the father of the history of science, described Ibn Sīnā as "one of the greatest thinkers and medical scholars in history" and called him "the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times." He was one of the Islamic world's leading writers in the field of medicine. He was influenced by the approach of Hippocrates and Galen, as well as Sushruta and Charaka. Along with Rhazes, Abulcasis, Ibn al-Nafis, and al-Ibadi, Ibn Sīnā is considered an important compiler of early Muslim medicine. He is remembered in Western history of medicine as a major historical figure who made important contributions to medicine and the European Renaissance. Ibn Sīnā is also considered the father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics.
In Iran, he is considered a national icon, and is often regarded as one of the greatest Persians to have ever lived. Many portraits and statues remain in Iran today. An impressive monument to the life and works of the man who is known as the 'doctor of doctors' still stands outside the Bukhara museum and his portrait hangs in the Hall of the Avicenna Faculty of Medicine in the University of Paris. There is also a crater on the moon named the Avicenna crater. Bu-Ali Sina University in Hamedan (Iran), the ibn Sīnā Tajik State Medical University in Dushanbe (The capital of the Republic of Tajikistan), Avicenna School in Karachi, Pakistan and Ibne Sina Balkh Medical School in his native province of Balkh in Afghanistan are all named in his honor.
Scarcely any member of the Muslim circle of the sciences, including theology, philology, mathematics, astronomy, physics, and music, was left untouched by the treatises of Ibn Sīnā. This vast quantity of works - be they full-blown treatises or opuscula - vary so much in style and content (if one were to compare between the 'ahd made with his disciple Bahmanyar to uphold philosophical integrity with the Provenance and Direction, for example) that Yahya (formerly Jean) Michot has accused him of "neurological bipolarity".
Ibn Sīnā's works numbered almost 450 volumes on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. In particular, 150 volumes of his surviving works concentrate on philosophy and 40 of them concentrate on medicine. His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia, and The Canon of Medicine,
Ibn Sīnā wrote at least one treatise on alchemy, but several others have been falsely attributed to him. His book on animals was translated by Michael Scot. His Logic, Metaphysics, Physics, and De Caelo, are treatises giving a synoptic view of Aristotelian doctrine, though the Metaphysics demonstrates a significant departure from the brand of Neoplatonism known as Aristotelianism in Ibn Sīnā's world; Arabic philosophers have hinted at the idea that Ibn Sīnā was attempting to "re-Aristotelianise" Muslim philosophy in its entirety, unlike his predecessors, who accepted the conflation of Platonic, Aristotelian, Neo- and Middle-Platonic works transmitted into the Muslim world.
The Logic and Metaphysics have been printed more than once, the latter, e.g., at Venice in 1493, 1495, and 1546. Some of his shorter essays on medicine, logic, etc., take a poetical form (the poem on logic was published by Schmoelders in 1836). Two encyclopaedic treatises, dealing with philosophy, are often mentioned. The larger, Al-Shifa' (Sanatio), exists nearly complete in manuscript in the Bodleian Library and elsewhere; part of it on the De Anima appeared at Pavia (1490) as the Liber Sextus Naturalium, and the long account of Ibn Sina's philosophy given by Muhammad al-Shahrastani seems to be mainly an analysis, and in many places a reproduction, of the Al-Shifa'. A shorter form of the work is known as the An-najat (Liberatio). The Latin editions of part of these works have been modified by the corrections which the monastic editors confess that they applied. There is also a حكمت مشرقيه (hikmat-al-mashriqqiyya, in Latin Philosophia Orientalis), mentioned by Roger Bacon, the majority of which is lost in antiquity, which according to Averroes was pantheistic in tone.
List of Works
This is the list of some of Avicenna's well-known works:
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Avicenna". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|