Abu Marwan Abdal Malik Ibn Zuhr,
known in the west as Avenzoar, was born in Seville in 1094 CE. He
received his education at the University of Cordoba, specializing
Ibn Zuhr came from a highly educated family which produced many
good physicians including two female physicians who served at the
palace of Almohad ruler.
He started his medical practice in Seville, but after some time he
fell out of favor of the ruling king, so he had to flee from
Seville but he was apprehended and jailed in Marrakesh for a long
period of time.
After about two decade Almohad dynasty conquered Seville and Ibn
Zuhr returned to his beloved city again. He devoted his time in
medical practice, research and teaching till he died in the year
Ibn Zuhr was one of the greatest physicians and surgeons of “the
Muslim golden era,” and is considered the father of Experimental
Contrary to the general practice of the Muslim scholars of that
time, he confined his work to medicine and surgery only.
He was highly critical of the four humors theory, which was
supported by the Greek philosophers like Hippocrates and Galen.
Ibn Sina was also a supporter of this theory which later proved to
be incorrect. As a physician, he made several discoveries and
breakthroughs. He was the first physician to describe correctly
the cause of scabies, and explained that the disease is caused by
some sort of parasite, thus he may be regarded as the first
Likewise, he developed a method of direct feeding through the
gullet in cases where normal feeding was not possible. He also
gave clinical descriptions of tumors, intestinal phthisis,
inflammation of the middle ear, etc.
Ibn Zuhr’s chief contribution can be found in the monumental work
Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (Book of Simplification
concerning Therapeutics and Diet). In it, he described several
original contributions he had made. The book gives in detail
pathological conditions, followed by therapy. Ibn Zuhr gave the
idea of performing experimental surgery on animals. He invented
the surgical procedure of tracheotomy, and perfected it by doing
the experiment on goats–thus he brought in the era of experimental
He was one of the first physicians who tried to establish surgery
as an independent field of medicine and suggested training courses
meant especially for future surgeons.
Parenteral procedure (delivery of medicine to desired part of
body) had never been tried on a patient before, Ibn Zuhr was first
to try it by using a silver needle, which he invented. He
described in detail about this new method in his book titled
Method of Preparing Medicines and Diet.
Neurological disorders were not very well understood in the Middle
Ages. Ibn Zuhr was the first to give accurate descriptions of the
mental disorders which included thrombophlebitis, meningitis and
other related diseases.
He also formulated the medicine for these kinds of diseases, thus
he is credited for the contribution to the modern
neuropharmacology. He wrote a book on early pharmacopoeia (The Art
of Drug Compounding) became the standard book on this subject for
a long time.
Modern anesthesia was developed in Muslim Andalusia, in which Ibn
Zuhr had great contributions along with al-Zahrawi, another
Andalusian surgen. Ibn Zuhr used both oral and inhalant anesthesia
and performed many surgeries with the use of narcotics soaked in
sponges placed on the face of the patient.
He perfected the procedure by adjusting the dose and
concentration, and thus made the original contribution in the
field of anesthesiology which made surgery practical.
In the Middle Ages, dissection of the human body was considered a
taboo, so physicians never undertook this project. Ibn Zuhr broke
the tradition and conducted dissection and postmortem autopsy on
human bodies and brought the field of medicine to the modern age.
Dissection of bodies brought some new information to the medical
science which was not available before.
Ibn Zuhr authored many other books related to medicine. His book
Kitab al-Iqtisad fi Islah al-Anfus wa al-Ajsad (Book of the Middle
Course Concerning the Reformation of Souls and Bodies) gives a
summary of diseases, therapeutics and hygiene, written especially
for the benefit of the layman and physician. His other book, Kitab
al-Aghziya (Book on Foodstuffs) describes different types of food
and drugs and their effects on health and the human body.
Ibn Zuhr in his works lays stress on observation and experiment,
and his contribution greatly influenced medical science for
several centuries–both in the East and the West. His books were
translated into Latin and Hebrew and remained popular in Europe as
late as the binging of the l8th century.
Ibn Zuhr was one of the greatest physicians and surgeons of the
Middle Ages–he made so many important original contributions to
Hamza Sheth is a
co-researcher at post graduation level. Department of
Pharmacology, Luqman college of Pharmacy, Gulbarga. Karnataka
He blogs at