Google Doodle celebrates Persian polymath Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Ati Metwaly, Tuesday 7 Aug 2018

The doodle is released on what would have been Ibn Sina's 1038th birthday


Google is celebrating the great Persian philosopher and physician Ibn Sina, known to the Western world as Avicenna, with a doodle displayed on the search engine's front page in the Middle East and North Africa.

Born in 980, Ibn Sina was one of the most important figures during what is considered the Islamic Golden Age, and whose discoveries and theories have influenced modern medicine and medical philosophy.

His works include over 450 treatises on a variety of subjects, mainly philosophy and medicine. Only 240 of his researches have survived.

"Avicenna was a polymath who clearly thrived in the intellectual and courtly circles," explains the BBC documentary Islam and Science, which focuses on the scientific achievements of Muslim scholars between the 8th and 14th centuries.

Born in Afšana, a village near Bukhara in what is today Uzbekistan, Ibn Sina was a self-taught polymath with a passion for medicine since his teenage years.

He began his interest in the field with a detailed study of Aristotle’s Metaphysics before he began exploring works of other Greek scholars as well as scholars from other great civilisations including India and China. His knowledge of the foreign cultures' theories was based on the large "translation movement" initiated by the sultans of the era.

In 1025, he completed his Qanun Fel Teb (Canon of Medicine), in which he collected all the knowledge of medicine and medical philosophy that existed at the time and expanded on them with his own theories and approaches to the subject.

Qanun Fel Teb is known for its unique encyclopaedic organisation and focus on details. For instance, it enumerates different kind of headaches and recommends treatments for each. The same applies to numerous other ailments and diseases known at the time. His research combines the scientific approach promoted by the Islamic Golden Age's rulers and courtiers with the philosophy behind many illnesses.

Google explains that "this pioneering study [Qanun Fel Teb] was translated into Latin in the 12th century, and became the predominant text used in European medical courses until the 17th century. The first work to identify contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, to hypothesise that soil and water spread sickness, and to set forth the basics of anatomy, paediatrics, and gynaecology, the ‘Canon’ is now credited as forming the basis of Western medicine."

Qanun Fel Teb explains the structure of the body and functions of many organs. These theories were largely used until new research in medicine started taking over throughout the 19th century in Europe, especially due to the discovery of bacteria and viruses. However, despite the significant progress in medicine in our age, many theories put forward by Ibn Sina have been proven correct.

His work is undeniably a landmark of Islamic civilisation as it gathered all knowledge of the time and laid the groundwork for further development. "The Canon gave future generations something to rewrite," the BBC programme explains.

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