From Gods To Avicenna

Originating as divine and supernatural, Greek medicine changed and moved toward analysis and logical thinking during the period 800 B.C. to 460 C.E.

Thales (636-546 B.C.), philosopher and scientist, undertakes examination about the laws of nature and physics. He supposed that water (moisture) was the first element from which the world was formed.

Empedocles (Agrigento c.495- c.435 B.C.) philosopher and physician, who lived in Sicily, wrote “On Nature” and “On Purification“. Its system was based on the interaction of the four elements (fire, air, earth and water), called by him “rhizomata” (roots) under the influence of love and hate (attraction and repulsion). He studied circulation of the blood and atmospheric pressure, foreshadowed view of evolution. He was the founder of Italian medicine.

In 460 B.C. was born Hippocrates on the island of Kos. He wrote the famous "Hippocratic Oath." Its sixty works are collected in the Corpus Hippocraticum. Hippocrates supported the humoral theory in which our body is governed from four various humors (blood, yellow bile, black bile, flegma), which, when arranged in different ways, lead to health or the disease.

Medicine owes to him the art of clinical inspection and observation, therefore he may justly called the "Father of Clinical Medicine". In Regimen in Health, Hippocrates wrote:

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.“

The Ancient Greek world comprised Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and parts of Italy and consequently these concepts were widened in every part of the Mediterranean Area.

Abu Ali al-Hussein Ibn Sina famous with the name “ Avicenna“, was born in Persia in the 980 to Afshana near Bukhara, Uzbekistan. By the age of eighteen years he was possessor of an immenses philosophical-scientific understanding and undertook the medical profession.

Avicenna was studious of Hippocrates and Galen therefore developed the theory of four humors and the derived complexions. Avicenna was also known to fuse philosophy and medicine. Like Aristotle and Plato in reasoning, his infuence on western medicine was enormous, primarily through a work that soon became the predominant medical texts in universities: “The Qanun fit at-tibb.“

Translated from Gerardo of Cremona in Latin with the name of “Canon Medicinae“, the work, which systematized ancient medical thought, is composed of five books.

The first book describes theoretical medicine, the second simple medicine, the third has diseases and their localization, the fourth has general diseases, and the fifth has pharmacology.

The Qanun results be connected undoubtedly to the Aristotelian tradition. The Canon, in the words of Dr. William Osler, has remained "a medical Bible for a longer time than any other work" and is said to have influenced Leonardo da Vinci. Avicenna wrote also a Poem of the medicine (al-Urguza fi at-tibb), a medical treaty in verses where the medicine is defined like the art to conserve the health and eventually to recover the disease appeared in the body.

He was the first doctor to detect the presence of sugar in diabetic urine, but last but not least, he was also poet, philosopher in addition to physician. Avicenna died in June 1037 at fifty-eighth years, his body was buried in Hamadan, Iran.

Abstract Poster Session
Presented to 21st World Congress of Dermatology
Prof. Camillo O. Di Cicco
Member of American Association for the History of Medicine