Ibn Sina was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, and the father of early modern medicine
Hyderabad: It was the Persian scholar of medicine, Ibn Sina (980-1037) who first came up with the idea of quarantine to prevent spread of diseases. He suspected that some diseases were spread by microorganisms; to prevent human-to-human contamination, he came up with the method of isolating people for 40 days. He called this method al-Arba’iniya (“the forty”).
Hence, the origin of the methods currently being used in
much of the world to fight pandemics have their origins in the Islamic world.
Ibn Sina is also known as Abu Ali Sina and often known in
the west as Avicenna. He was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the
most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic
Golden Age, and the father of early modern medicine.
In the article ‘Ibn Sina: An Exemplary Scientist’ published
in ‘the fountain’ authors Ihsan Ali / Ahmet Guclu quoted, Richard Colgan’s book
‘Advice to the Young Physician’ published from New York, in which the author
wrote: “Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in Latin and in the West) in his
masterpiece The Canon of Medicine (United States National Library of Medicine,
MS A 53) states that “Body secretions of a host organism (e.g., human
being) are contaminated by tainted foreign organisms that are not visible by
naked eye before the infection.” Let’s paraphrase this millennium-old
statement as “Infections are caused by the contamination of body
secretions of host organisms by foreign tainted microorganisms.” It is quite
impressive that this definition is almost the same definition we use today for
infections and more importantly that Ibn Sina hypothesized on the existence of
microorganisms. Ibn Sina went even further to hypothesize that microbial
diseases (e.g. tuberculosis) could be contagious and that those who are
infected should be quarantined. Let’s briefly review the discovery of
microorganisms and be further astonished with the intuition and vision of the
“Father of Early Modern Medicine”.
The authors further quoted Robert Koch’s book ‘A Life in
Medicine and Bacteriology’ published from Washington, D.C. which read: “In the
seventeenth century, nearly seven centuries after Ibn Sina, the Dutch scientist
Anton van Leeuwenhoek (also referred to as the “Father of
Microbiology”) observed microorganisms under a microscope (van Leeuwenhoek
1980). With his fundamental discovery, he showed that there were living
organisms that were not visible to the naked eye. What van Leeuwenhoek did not
realize was that these microorganisms (e.g. pathogen: a disease causing
microbe) could actually be the cause of infections. This is contrary to the
discoveries made by Ibn Sina seven centuries earlier that microorganisms could
be the cause of infections despite the extremely limited evidence for the
existence of microorganisms at the time. Nearly two centuries after
Leeuwenhoek’s first observation of microorganisms, in 1876, Robert Koch, a
German physician, postulated that microorganisms could actually be the cause of
infection and therefore disease by his fundamental observation that the blood
of an infected animal that contained pathogenic bacteria that, when transferred
to a healthy animal caused the recipient animal to become sick.”
Ibn Sina’s gigantic medical encyclopedia al-Qanun fi al-Tibb
(The Canon of Medicine), comprising of upwards of a million words, has been
used as the standard medical textbook up until the seventeenth century and is
still widely considered a valuable resource for the study of medicine.
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