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 SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS 3

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Kawthar
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PostSubject: SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS 3   Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:06 am

During the tenth century in particular, al-Andalus produced a large number of excellent physicians, some of whom studied Greek medical works translated at the famous House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Among them was Ibn Shuhayd, who in a fundamental work recommended drugs be used only if the patient did not respond to diet and urged that only simple drugs be employed in all cases but the most serious. Another important figure was Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, the most famous surgeon of the Middle Ages. Known in the West as Abulcasis and Al-bucasis, he was the author of the Tasrif, a book that, translated into Latin, became the leading medical text European universities during the later Middle Ages. Its section on surgery contains illustrations of surgical instruments of elegant, functional design and great precision.

Other chapters describe amputations, ophthalmic and dental surgery, and the treatment of wounds and fractures. Ibn Zuhr, known as Avenzoar, was the first to describe pericardial abscesses and to recommend tracheotomy when necessary as well as being a skilled practical physician, and Ibn Rushd wrote an important book on medical theories and precepts. The last of the great Andalusian physicians, Ibn al-Khatib, also a noted historian, poet, and statesman, wrote an important book on the theory of contagion in which he said: "The fact infection becomes clear to the investigator, whereas he who is not in contact remains safe," and described how transmission is effected through garments, vessels, and earrings.

Islamic Spain made contributions to medical ethics and hygiene as well. One of the most eminent theologians and jurists, Ibn Hazm, insisted that moral qualities were mandatory in a physician. A doctor, he wrote, should be kind, understanding, friendly, and able to endure insults and adverse criticism. Furthermore, he went on, a doctor should keep his hair and fingernails short, wear clean clothes, and behave with dignity.

As an outgrowth of medicine, Andalusian scientists also interested themselves in botany. Ibn al-Baytar, for example, the most famous Andalusian botanist, wrote a book called Simple Drugs and Food, an alphabetically arranged compendium of medicinal plants, most of which were native to Spain and North Africa, and which he had spent a lifetime gathering. In another treatise Ibn al-'Awwam lists hundreds of species of plants and gives precise instructions regarding their cultivation and use. He writes, for example, of how to graft trees, produce hybrids, stop blights and insect pests, and make perfume.

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