The Life of Avicenna.
Abn Ali Al Hosain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina, or in
Latin abbreviated to Avicenna. Arabian physician and philosopher, born at
Kharmaithen, in the province of Bokhara, 980; died at Hamadan, in Northern
Avicenna's lived during a period of great
political instability, which profoundly influenced his life. The Samanid
dynasty, the first Iranian native dynasty to arise after the Muslim Arab
conquest, controlled Transoxania and Khorasan from about
Avicenna was a very precocious youth; by the
age of ten he had memorised the Koran and most of the Arabic poetry which
he had read. When Avicenna reached the age of thirteen he began to study
medicine and by the age of sixteen he commenced treating patients.
Avicenna's skill in medicine proved to be of
great value to him; his reputation caused the Samanid ruler Nuh ibn Mansur
to seek him out to treat an illness that the court physicians had been
unable to deal with. After Avicenna's treatment proved successful, he was,
as a reward, allowed to use the Royal Library of the Samanids (books were
very precious before the advent of printing, as they had to be hand
copied). This was a unequalled opportunity for Avicenna and assisted him
in the development of his great diversity of learning.
After this period of wandering, Avicenna moved
to Hamadan in west-central Iran, where he worked for a while as a court
physician. He so impressed the ruling Buyid prince, Shams ad-Dawlah, that
he appointed him twice as vizier.
After his flight to Isafan in 1022, Avicenna entered the court of the local prince Ala al-Dwla and spent the last years of his life in comparative peace. At Isfahan he completed the literary works that he had begun at Hamadan and also wrote many other works on philosophy, medicine and the Arabic language. It was customary for a court physician to accompany his patron on military campaigns and many of Avicenna's works were composed on these campaigns. It was on one such military campaign that he took ill and, despite his efforts to save himself, died of a mysterious illness, reportedly a colic. He may, however, have been poisoned by one of his servants.
The two most important works
of Avicenna are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, both of
which he commenced in Hamadan. The Book of Healing is a scientific
encyclopaedia which covers logic, the natural sciences, psychology,
geometry, astronomy, arithmetic and music. The Canon of Medicine is the
most famous single book in the history of medicine, which remained the
principal authority in medical schools in both Europe and Asia until the
late 18th. century.
Avicenna also made a number of discoveries related to astronomy. For example, he deducted from his observation of Venus crossing the surface of the Sun that Venus must be closer to the Earth than the Sun. He also correctly postulated that light travels at a finite velocity.
Avicenna sought to integrate all aspects of
science and religion in a grand unified philosophy. With this philosophy
he attempted to reconcile the natural science of the day with religious
law, the organisation of state and metaphysics and to answer the question
of the ultimate destiny of man.
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