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Ibn Zuhr and His Contributions to Medicine Essay


Born in Seville in 1094, Ibn Zuhr is one of the most renowned physicians and surgeons of his time. He was born in an elite family which had produced generations of professionals such as physicians, juries and poets (Abdel-Halim, 133). Later in his early 40s, he fled to Marrakesh where he was jailed for seven years. However, after the city of Seville was conquered by another dynasty in the year 1147, he returned there and devoted his life to practicing medicine (Bachour, 44). His legacy in medical practice did not end with his death since his daughter and his granddaughter also emerged as great physicians in Spain. This way, they continued to propagate their family legacy in medical practice (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 26).

His contributions are incalculable. In fact, although he was a renowned physician and surgeon, his prowess in writing and philosophy overshadowed all this (Abdel-Halim, 138). He wrote books that described his surgical operations, simplifying them for the benefit of the common men who could not understand medical jargons (Azar, 74). He clearly described major therapies in sequential basic steps, which would enable a man to undertake therapy without any help of a medical practitioner. Thus, his series of books were translated into different languages to aid other medical professionals in learning his techniques and procedures (Abdel-Halim, 135). This has made his contributions to the field of medicine popular and useful up to date with many generations learning and practicing them.

Thus, Ibn Zuhr was a man of many achievements. The contributions made by Ibn Zuhr to the field of medicine are numerous. However, the most famous of his contribution is the development of controversial surgical procedures (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 32). Most notable is animal testing, where he emerged as the first person to ever test surgical procedures in animals before practicing the same on people (Abdel-Halim, 140). He is famous for disliking and publicly opposing medical speculation (Azar, 80). Therefore, he insisted on practicality and precision. He first tested tracheotomy operation with a goat to verify whether breathing through the trachea is possible. Following the success of this experiment, he treated a girl who had cut her throat in an attempted murder (Bachour, 49). He later published this information in a book that served as the basis for the development of tracheotomy surgery (Abdel-Halim, 145).

Another contribution made consists in patient feeding. In the early days, it was difficult to feed patients who could not use their mouths. Therefore, it was very difficult to treat patients who could not receive food through normal feeding. Due to this, Ibn Zuhr tested whether direct feeding could be undertaken through the gullet. This way, he paved a way for feeding patients who could not receive food through their mouths (Azar, 77). Therefore, Ibn Zuhr goes down in history as the person who invented an alternative feeding method for humans.

Further, Ibn Zuhr developed proficiency in the treatment of bladder stone, where he performed surgical operations to remove it (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 54). However, he later experimented on medicinal treatment and eventually discovered that bladder stone was better treated using medicine instead of surgery. Ibn Zuhr was categorical on medical practices excellence arguing that it was not worth experimenting with people’s lives whenever a practitioner was not sure of the outcome (Bachour, 53). Therefore, he developed a well-structured training program for potential surgeons.

He is credited as the first physician to fully understand human anatomy. Therefore, Ibn Zuhr cultivated the culture of treating people based on a sound understanding of human anatomy as opposed to speculation (Abdel-Halim, 132). In the durations before his engagement as physician and surgeon, there was not a sound understanding of human body. Thus, he is renowned for undertaking human dissection after having tested the same with animals such as goats. In his search for precision and accuracy in treating people, he embarked on undertaking postmortem in an age when such complicated surgical operations were non-existent (Bachour, 50).

Contrary to many Muslim scholars who had contributions in different fields, Ibn Zuhr committed his life to the field of medical practice trying to perfect each surgical operation or practice that he developed (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 38). It is this focus in one field of practice that allowed him to make outstanding and original contributions. His practice of dissecting dead human bodies was excellent since he perfectly understood human body system. He perfected dissecting human body based on scientific principles contrary to using trial and error method or even speculation to achieve surgery (Azar, 73).

With his remarkable advances in the field of medicine, he produced a practical manual for use in treatment as well as dietary descriptions to be prescribed for cure of several diseases. He advocated for a moral, rational and empirical approach to medicine which would give practical results (77). While doing this, he was still greatly interested in ensuring that all medical procedures and techniques are practical and simplified to allow their access and use by the lay man (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 63).

Ibn Zuhr is also credited with discovering various types of cancer. He was the first medical practitioner to discover and describe esophageal cancer, which affects the esophagus and makes it difficult for people to swallow (Bachour, 54). Having discovered this cancer, which could not allow people to swallow food or drink, he embarked on looking for an alternative means of feeding individuals affected. He eventually came up with an idea that food could be transmitted through a pipe into the stomach (55). This made it possible for people suffering from this cancer to live since they could be fed through a pipe. In addition, he discovered cancer of the stomach (Glick, Livesey and Wallis, 30). He observed that many parts of the stomach could be affected by cancer, which hindered normal gastric functions (31).

In the field of parasitological studies, Ibn Zuhr is quoted as the pioneer, where he is credited with discovering itchy mites. He described their effects on the skin and documented the requisite treatment procedures (Azar, 80). Therefore, it is observable that he documented each medical procedure he invented for the benefit of others, who could be medical practitioners or common people. Therefore, Ibn Zuhr has emerged as the greatest surgeon and physician of the 12 century, who perfected medical practices during the times when it was unprecedented (Bachour, 55).

In conclusion, it must be highlighted that Ibn Zuhr is considered to be a legend in medicine. He committed his life to going an extra mile devising techniques, procedures and experiments used and known till now Thus, his contributions both in writing and medicine have impacted the medical practice for centuries.

Works Cited

Abdel-Halim, Re.” Contributions of Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) to the progress of surgery: a study and translations from his book Al-Taisir”. Saudi Med 26.9 (2005):133-149. Print.

Azar, Henry A. The Sage of Seville: Ibn Zuhr, His Time, and His Medical Legacy. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 2008. 72-81. Print.

Bachour, Tom. “The Contributions of Arab Physicians in Dermatology.” Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine 15. 2 (2002): 43-55. Print.

Glick, Thomas, Livesey, Steven and Wallis Faith. Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia. Routledge, 2005. 22-68. Print.

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