ABU AL-QASIM AL-ZAHRAVI (Albucasis) (936 - 1013
Abul Qasim Al-Zahravi, known in the West as Albucasis,
was undoubtably the greatest surgeon of the Middle Ages.
He is best known for several original breakthroughs
in surgery, as an inventor of several surgical instruments,
and for his famous Medical Encyclopedia. Al-Zahravi
is considered as Father of Modern Surgery.
His full name was Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahravi.
He was born and brought up in Zahra, the royal suburb
of Cordova (Arabic Qurtuba), the capital of Muslim Spain.
As we know from the history, Zahra competed in grandeur
and magnificence with Baghdad and Constantinople. Al-Zahravi
served in the capacity of the court physician to King
Al-Hakam-II of Spain. After a long and distinguished
medical career he died in 1013 C.E.
Al-Zahravi was a prominent surgeon. Patients and students
from all parts of Europe came to him for treatment and
advice. According to Will Durant, Cordova was in this
period the favorite resort of Europeans for surgical
operations. Dr. Campbell in 'History of Arab Medicine'
says that Al-Zahravi's principles of medical science
surpassed those of Galen in the European medical curriculum.
Al-Zahravi is famous for his thirty-volume medical
encyclopedia 'Al-Tasrif li man ajaz an-il-talif (the
English translation of the title would read 'An aid
to him who lacks the capacity to read big books'). Three
volumes of this vast encyclopedia deal with the surgical
knowledge including his own inventions and procedures.
The last volume contains many diagrams and illustrations
of more than two hundred surgical instruments, most
of which he developed. Al-Zahravi gave detailed description
of many surgical operations and their treatment, including
cauterization, removal of stone from the bladder, surgery
of eye, ear and throat, midwifery, removal of the dead
foetus, amputation, dissection of animals, and stypics.
As an inventor of many surgical instruments, Al-Zahravi
is famous for developing instruments for internal examination
of the ear, internal inspection of the urethra and for
applying or removing foreign bodies from the throat.
He introduced such new procedures as cauterization of
wounds, crushing stones inside the bladder, the vivisection
and dissection. He applied cauterization procedure to
as many as 50 different operations. In addition, Al-Zahravi
discussed the preparation of medicines and the application
of such techniques as sublimation and decantation. He
prescribed the use of diuretics, sudorifics, purgatives,
the absorption of pure wine and hot baths. Al-Zahravi
was the first to give detailed description hemophilia
and was the first to use silk thread for stitching wounds.
Al-Zahravi was also an expert in oral surgery and dentistry.
Al-Tasrif contains sketches of complex instruments that
he developed. He discussed the problem of non-aligned
or deformed teeth and procedures to rectify these defects.
In addition, he developed the procedure for preparing
and setting artificial teeth made from animal bones.
Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187) translated Al-Tasrif
into Latin in the Middle Ages. It was then translated
into Hebrew, French, English and into Latin dialect
of the Provencal. Al-Zahravi's Al-Tasrif was an essential
component of the medical curriculum in European countries
for many centuries. The famous French surgeon Guy de
Chauliac (1300-1368) appended its Latin edition to his
own book on surgery. Several editions of this book (surgical
chapters) were published including one at Venice (1497),
at Basel (1541) and at Oxford (1778). This book was
taught for approximately five centuries as a standard
textbook on surgery at universities of Salerno in Italy,
Montpellier in France, and several European universities.