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.