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Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi(936 – 1013), ( ) also known in the West as Abulcasis, was an Andalusianmarker physician, surgeon, chemist, cosmetologist, and scientist. He is considered the father of modern surgery, and as Islam's greatest medieval surgeon, whose comprehensive medical texts shaped both Islamic and European surgical procedures up until the Renaissance. His greatest contribution to history is the Kitab al-Tasrif, a thirty-volume encyclopedia of medical practices.

Biography

Abū al-Qāsim was born in the city of El Zahramarker, six miles northwest of Córdobamarker, Spainmarker. He was descended from the Ansar Arab tribe who settled earlier in Spain.Few details remain regarding his life, aside from his published work, due to the destruction of El-Zahra during later Spanishmarker-Moorish conflicts. His name first appears in the writings of Abu Muhammad bin Hazm (993 – 1064), who listed him among the greatest physicians of Moorish Spainmarker. But we have the first detailed biography of al-Zahrawī from al-Ḥumaydī's Jadhwat al-Muqtabis (On Andalusian Savants), completed six decades after al-Zahrawī's death.

He lived most of his life in Córdoba. It is also where he studied, taught and practiced medicine and surgery until shortly before his death in about 1013, two years after the sacking of El-Zahra.

The street in Córdoba where he lived is named in his honor as "Calle Albucasis". On this street he lived in house no. 6, which is preserved today by the Spanish Tourist Board with a bronze plaque (awarded in January 1977) which reads: "This was the house where lived Abul-Qasim."

Works

Abū al-Qāsim was a court physician to the Andalusianmarker caliph Al-Hakam II. He devoted his entire life and genius to the advancement of medicine as a whole and surgery in particular. His best work was the Kitab al-Tasrif. It is a medical encyclopaedia spanning 30 volumes which included sections on surgery, medicine, orthopedics, ophthalmology, pharmacology, nutrition etc.

In the 14th century, the Frenchmarker surgeon Guy de Chauliac quoted al-Tasrif over 200 times. Pietro Argallata (d. 1453) described Abū al-Qāsim as "without doubt the chief of all surgeons". In an earlier work, he is credited to be the first to describe ectopic pregnancy in 963, in those days a fatal affliction. Abū al-Qāsim's influence continued for at least five centuries, extending into the Renaissance, evidenced by al-Tasrif's frequent reference by Frenchmarker surgeon Jaques Delechamps (1513-1588).

Page from a 1531 Latin translation by Peter Argellata of El Zahrawi's treatise on surgical and medical instruments.


Kitab al-Tasrif

Abū al-Qāsim's thirty-chapter medical treatise, Kitab al-Tasrif, completed in the year 1000, covered a broad range of medical topics, including dentistry and childbirth, which contained data that had accumulated during a career that spanned almost 50 years of training, teaching and practice. In it he also wrote of the importance of a positive doctor-patient relationship and wrote affectionately of his students, whom he referred to as "my children". He also emphasized the importance of treating patients irrespective of their social status. He encouraged the close observation of individual cases in order to make the most accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment.

Al-Tasrif was later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century, and illustrated. For perhaps five centuries during the European Middle Ages, it was the primary source for European medical knowledge, and served as a reference for doctors and surgeons.

Not always properly credited, Abū Al-Qāsim's al-Tasrif described both what would later became known as "Kocher's method" for treating a dislocated shoulder and "Walcher position" in obstetrics. Al-Tasrif described how to ligature blood vessels almost 600 years before Ambroise Paré, and was the first recorded book to document several dental devices and explain the hereditary nature of haemophilia.

Liber Servitoris

In pharmacy and pharmacology, Abū al-Qāsim al-Zahrawī pioneered the preparation of medicines by sublimation and distillation. His Liber Servitoris is of particular interest, as it provides the reader with recipes and explains how to prepare the 'simples' from which were compounded the complex drugs then generally used.

Advances in surgery

Abū al-Qāsim was a surgeon and specialized in curing disease by cauterization. He also invented several devices used during surgery, for the purpose of:
  • inspection of the interior of the urethra
  • applying and removing foreign bodies from the throat
  • inspection of the ear


Abū al-Qāsim also described the use of forceps in vaginal deliveries.

Surgical instruments

In his Al-Tasrif (The Method of Medicine), he introduced his famous collection of over 200 surgical instruments. Many of these instruments were never used before by any previous surgeons. Hamidan, for example, listed at least twenty six innovative surgical instruments that Abulcasis introduced.

Abu al-Qasim's use of catgut for internal stitching is still practised in modern surgery. The catgut appears to be the only natural substance capable of dissolving and is acceptable by the body. Abū al-Qāsim also invented the forceps for extracting a dead fetus, as illustrated in the Al-Tasrif.

In the Al-Tasrif (1000), Abū al-Qāsim introduced the use of ligature for the blood control of arteries in lieu of cauterization. The surgical needle was invented and described by Abū al-Qāsim in his Al-Tasrif.

Abū al-Qāsim devised about 200 new surgical instruments such as scalpels, curettes, retractor, spoons, sound, hooks, rods and specula.

See also



Notes

  1. A. Martin-Araguz, C. Bustamante-Martinez, Ajo V. Fernandez-Armayor, J. M. Moreno-Martinez (2002). "Neuroscience in al-Andalus and its influence on medieval scholastic medicine", Revista de neurología 34 (9), p. 877-892.
  2. Levey M. (1973), Early Arabic Pharmacology, E. J. Brill, Leiden.
  3. Assisted delivery has walked a long and winding road, OBG Management, Vol. 19, No. 6, June 2007, p. 84.
  4. Ingrid Hehmeyer and Aliya Khan (2007). "Islam's forgotten contributions to medical science", Canadian Medical Association Journal 176 (10).
  5. Rabie E. Abdel-Halim, Ali S. Altwaijiri, Salah R. Elfaqih, Ahmad H. Mitwall (2003), "Extraction of urinary bladder described by Abul-Qasim Khalaf Alzahrawi (Albucasis) (325-404 H, 930-1013 AD)", Saudi Medical Journal 24 (12): 1283-1291 [1289].
  6. A. I. Makki. "Needles & Pins", AlShindagah 68, January-February 2006.
  7. Khaled al-Hadidi (1978), "The Role of Muslem Scholars in Oto-rhino-Laryngology", The Egyptian Journal of O.R.L. 4 (1), p. 1-15. (cf. Ear, Nose and Throat Medical Practice in Muslim Heritage, Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization.)


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