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Who is Avicenna?

By Ken Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina or Ibn Seena, was a Persian doctor born in what today would be the extreme southern region of Russia. Avicenna is the name given to him in the West, but he is not commonly known by it in the Middle East or other parts of the world. His contributions to society include works in the fields of medicine, mathematics in philosophy.

Avicenna was born in approximately 980 C.E. It is said that by the time Avicenna was 10 years old, he was already well versed in the Koran and other Muslim texts. While a teenager, he studied a number of different subjects, eventually settling on medicine. He died in 1037.

Avicenna's best-known work is called the Canon of Medicine. At the time, the work was considered groundbreaking and described a number of illnesses, and even how they spread. For example, he noted that many diseases spread through soil and water. It even gives tips for the treatment of cancer.

Avicenna also wrote about treatment strategies for other diseases. Recognizing the contagious nature of some diseases, that they did not hit people simply by chance but because they had come into contact with another infected person or substance, caused him to promote quarantine. Of course, this was not a new practice necessarily. In the days of the Roman Empire, lepers were often quarantined. However, it did codify when quarantine may or may not be an effective strategy.

Avicenna also wrote an anthology of more than 700 drugs in the Canon of Medicine. The texts he wrote were considered good enough to be used as textbooks even hundreds of years into the future. In fact, his books were standard fare in universities even well after the Renaissance. Some have claimed that Avicenna's Canon of Medicine was regularly used as a medical reference far longer than any other work in the field.

Avicenna also dabbled in the field of psychology, noting a number of mental illnesses. He also detailed how emotions may effect the physical condition of a person. Some have credited him with coming up with the idea of love sickness, an affliction that he diagnosed in one of his patients that others had failed to notice.

However, Avicenna's works are not limited simply to matters of medicine. He also wrote works in physics, philosophy and mathematics. Thus he is known as a polymath, or one who pursues many different fields of study.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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Discussion Comments
By anon270207 — On May 21, 2012

Instead of visiting a hospital in Turkey named after him, go to Iran and pay a visit to the persian genius's grave in the city of Hamadan, firsthand!

By burcidi — On Feb 21, 2011

I think that Avicenna is one of the most important and most intelligent scholars of all time. There are many good autobiographies of his life and I've read several of them. His full name was Abu Ali al-Hussein bin Abdullah İbn-i Sina which tells you not only Avicenna or Ibn Sina's name but also his father's and grandfather's name (Abdullah being his father).

The reason that I find myself so impressed by Avicenna is because of his intelligence, his ability to memorize and remember information and also his independent character. Most scholars today actually consider him to be a genius or a child prodigy because he was able to learn so quickly and remember what he learned. I've heard that by the time he was 18 years old, he had already thought of all of the concepts of medicine, arithmetic and logic that he was to work on for the remainder of his life.

Apparently, Avicenna also had a very independent personality and always chose to think for himself. He actually came from a family of scholars and his father was a politician and an influential person but Avicenna chose to leave home and wander around Central Asia instead. I'm sure that at this time in history, one couldn't travel with piles of books from one place to the next. This means that Avicenna completed his studies and wrote his works completely from memory. I personally think that this is proof Avicenna's brilliance.

By burcinc — On Feb 20, 2011

I must have passed by Ibn Sina hospital in Ankara, Turkey a hundred times but never knew that it was named after such an important person. There are hospitals and health centers named after him in other cities and towns across Turkey as well. It's interesting that he is so well known there considering that Ibn Sina or Avicenna was Persian and not Turkish. But he lived much before the formation of modern day Turkey, so maybe its not so surprising after all. Rumi, the Persian poet was also born and lived in present day Turkey, although it was called something else then.

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