Avicenna Science of the Ancient Arabic World

By: Miles Orwig
Science of the Ancient Arabic World
• ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā or Avicenna was born in
August 980 C.E.
• He was the son of Abdullah who was a local
governor of the town Kharmaithan. They
later moved to the city of Bukhara.
• Avicenna grew up during the Persian
Renaissance and the Islamic Golden Age.
• He wrote the al-Qanun more widely known
as the Cannon of Medicine.
• He invented steam distillation.
This is the area
where Bukhara was
located. It was
roughly on the
border of
Uzbekistan and
Early Life
• Avicenna was a very bright young child. At the age of
ten he boasted that he had read the entire Quran.
• One day a man by the name of Nateli came to the town
of Bukhara where Avicenna’s family moved to live.
• Nateli was a renown philosopher of the time.
Avicenna’s father asked Nateli to teach his son and
invited him to live in their house.
• After experiencing Avicenna’s high intelligence Nateli
told his father that he should not engage in anything
but learning. Avicenna engaged himself and became a
well learned man
Early Life Continued
• One day a reining prince of the
land by the name of Nuh ibn
Mansur fell ill. His physicians
immediately called for Avicenna
to help. Avicenna successfully
treated the prince and, as a
reward, was given access to the
library of the Saminad rulers.
• It was in this library where
Avicenna spent spent his time
“I saw books whose very
names are as yet unknown to
many—works which I had never
seen before and not seen since. I
read these books, taking notes
of their contents.” -Avicenna
Writing and Temperament
• Avicenna grew up in a household that had
unorthodox religious views. This element of
his atmosphere shows in his thoughts and
• Avicenna studied many topics including
philosophy, theology, geometry, and medicine.
• He believed that philosophy religion and
science were all related. This is known as a
holistic view.
Ancient Science of the Persian
• Avicenna grew up in the Persian Renaissance,
a time where an explosion of knowledge
• Breakthroughs were made in philosophy,
science, mathematics, and medicine.
• Arabic society was change by new
technologies in the fields of science, medicine,
and reason.
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Healthcare in the Ancient Arabic World
Ancient Healthcare Continued
Canon of Medicine
Avicenna pioneered the idea of
taking pulse from the wrist. He
reasoned that the wrist was
easily accessible and did not
stress the patient out by having
to expose his or her body.
Avicenna also created the idea
of intubation. Intubation is the
process of inserting a tube into
the trachea of a patient to
facilitate breathing. This
method is still used today.
Canon of Medicine
In the Canon of Medicine Avicenna presents
many groundbreaking ideas.
He discovered that many diseases had a
contagious nature. For example he proposed
that tuberculoses was contagious
In order to combat the contagious nature of
tuberculosis and other diseases he proposed
the idea of quarantine to limit the spread of
the disease. Avicenna realized that
tuberculosis was spread through water and
food so he quarantined these resources too.
He also introduced the world to
experimental medicine and clinical
He proposed seven rules one must
follow when testing new drugs. These
seven rules laid down the foundation of
modern experimental pharmacology
Seven Rules of Testing Drugs
“The drug must be free from any extraneous accidental quality.”
"It must be used on a simple, not a composite, disease.”
"The drug must be tested with two contrary types of diseases,
because sometimes a drug cures one disease by Its essential
qualities and another by its accidental ones.”
"The quality of the drug must correspond to the strength of the
disease. For example, there are some drugs whose heat is less
than the coldness of certain diseases, so that they would have no
effect on them.”
"The time of action must be observed, so that essence and
accident are not confused.”
"The effect of the drug must be seen to occur constantly or in
many cases, for if this did not happen, it was an accidental effect.”
"The experimentation must be done with the human body, for
testing a drug on a lion or a horse might not prove anything about
its effect on man."
Steam Distillation
• Avicenna invented the
method of steam
distillation to manufacture
essential oils.
• Steam distillation works by
bubbling steam through a
heated mixture of raw
materials. The steam will
cause some of the
compound within the raw
material to vaporize with
the steam
• When the steam is
condensed the compound
within the steam
condenses to a liquid state
which results in a oily layer
above the water
Click here for more on steam distillation
Steam Distillation of Essential Oils
Another Steam Distillation Apparatus
Click here for more distillation information
What Happened to Islamic Science?
• Many of the masterworks of the Islamic
Golden Age have been lost.
• The Islamic world has been decimated by war
for almost one thousand years.
• Among the most destructive violent events
are the Crusades and the Mongol Invasion.
The Crusades
• A martial society developed in Europe around 1000
C.E. Noble aristocrats fought each other for land.
• In order to shift noble violence away from Christendom
Pope Urban II urged Western knights to use their arms
to take the holy land back from the Muslims. In return
the pope promised the nights wealth and forgiveness
of their sins.
• Jerusalem is the holy land of Judaism, Christianity and
Islam. The fight for Jerusalem left Arabic social
structure in shambles. They did not have enough time
to establish stability for the next conflict was on the
Mongol Invasion
• In 1258 the Mongol’s ravaged the town of Bagdad
and then overtook most of the middle east.
• After many decades the Mongol invasion fizzled
• However the middle east was in shambles. The
irrigation system of the great Mesopotamia were
permanently destroyed by the warfare.
• With scattered governments and dwindling
resources the Islamic Golden Age was officially at
an end.
• Describe two inventions by Avicenna.
• Give an example of a modern medical technology you
feel strongly relates to the medicine of ancient Arabia.
Explain the correlations.
• Compare the ethics of medicine today to the medical
ethics practiced during the Islamic Golden Age. Do you
think our modern society is more ethically evolved?
Explain…(hint: health insurance, pharmaceutical
companies, privatization.)
• Draw the process of steam distillation to the best of
your ability. Include captions that explain the function
of each part of the steam distillation apparatus.
• Describe a historical event you believe had the biggest
impact on the fall of Arabic Civilization.
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Smith, Richard D. "Avicenna and the Canon of Medicine: A Millennial Tribute." The Western Journal of Medicine. Web. 21
Mar. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1272342/pdf/westjmed00230-0091.pdf>.
"Avicenna." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. Ed. Ray Abruzzi and Michael J. McGandy. Macmillan-Thomson Gale, 2003.
eNotes.com. 2006. 23 Mar, 2011 <http://www.enotes.com/science-religion-encyclopedia/ avicenna>
"Avicenna's "Canon of Medicine"" THEOSOPHY 37.4 (1949): 163-69. Print.
"Medicine in Medieval Islam." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
Degrees, Exploiting Online. "People Worth Knowing: Avicenna." Zen College Life: Online Schools, Degrees and Colleges
Reviewed and Explored. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://www.zencollegelife.com/people-worth-knowing/>.
"Distillation in the Manufacture of Essential Oils." Essential Oils by Esoteric Oils for Aromatherapy. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.
"Distillation - Organic Compounds | Tutorvista.com." Tutorvista.com - Online Tutoring, Homework Help for Math, Science,
English from Best Online Tutor. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://www.tutorvista.com/content/chemistry/chemistry-iii/organiccompounds/distillation.php>.
"Medicine in Medieval Islam." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.

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