Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (Avicenna)



Known as Avicenna in the West, he was born in Bukhara in today's Uzbekistan. He wrote on theology, metaphysics, astronomy, philology, poetry and medicine, including al-Qanuun fil Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), a codification of all existing medical knowledge that was used as a reference in Europe well into the 15th century.


He composed the famous al -Urjuza, or Cantica on Medicine, in which he used Arabic poetry as mnemonics to facilitate learning medical facts.


He wrote a total of 276 books, 43 of which are on medicine

Of his many original contributions are the following:


*First to describe ocular muscles.


*First to differentiate obstructive and non-obstructive jaundice.


*First to describe meningitis and associated neck stiffness.


*Differentiated two types of paralysis: Primary (cerebral), secondary (extra-cerebral)


*Differentiated two types: grand mal & petit mal.


*Identified three stages of grand mal epilepsy: aura phase, clonic phase, relaxation phase.


*Recommended swimming in water tanks with electric eel for treatment of epilepsy.


*Divided headache into three types: ordinary, secondary to brain damage, and shaqiqa (migraine).


*Described coitus headache.


*Described beneficial effects of cold compressors on headache.


*Formulated a hypothesis about the pathophysiology of migraine (shaqiqa). “Migraine is due to hyper excitability of brain tissue which causes brain to react unusually to noises and light stimuli.


*Classified nerves into spinal & cranial.


*Differentiated central and peripheral facial palsy.


*Recommended massage of the face as treatment, and surgery on the facial nerve when nerve is completely paralyzed.

References: Haddad, S.I. History of Arab Medicine,1975; Al-Kurdi, A. et al. Neuroscience 9:1, 2004.