Biography of IBN Al-Nafis


Ala-al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (known as Ibn Al-Nafis) was born in 1213 A.D. in Damascus. He was educated at the Medical College Hospital (Bimaristan Al-Noori) founded by Noor al-Din Al-Zanki. Apart from medicine, Ibn al-Nafis learned jurisprudence, literature and theology. He thus became a renowned expert on the Shafi’i School of Jurisprudence as well as a reputed physician.

In 1236 Ibn Nafis moved to Egypt and worked in Al-Nassri Hospital then in Al-Mansouri Hospital where he became chief of physicians and the Sultan’s personal physician. When he died in 1288 A.D. he donated his house, library and clinic to the Mansuriya Hospital .

The most voluminous of his books is Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb, which was designed to be an encyclopedia comprising 300 volumes, but was not completed as a result of his death. The manuscript is available in Damascus. His book on ophthalmology is largely an original contribution and is also extant. His book that became most famous, however, was Mujaz al-Qanun (The Summary of Law) and a number of commentariesthat were written on this same topic. His commentaries include one on Hippocrates’ book, and several volumes on Ibn Sina’s Qanun, which are still extant. Likewise he wrote a commentary on Hunayn Ibn Ishaq’s book. Another famous book embodying his original contribution was on the effects of diet on health entitled Kitab al-Mukhtar fi al-Aghdhiya.

His major original contribution of great significance was his discovery of the pulmonary circulation, which was re-discovered by modern scienceafter a lapse of three centuries. He was the first to correctly describe the constitution of the lungs and gave a description of the bronchi and the interaction between the human body’s vessels for air and blood. He also elaborated on the function of the coronary arteries as suppliers of blood to the cardiac musculature.

Arab Discovery of the Pulmonary Circulation

It was commonly believed that the Discovery of Pulmonary Circulation that is, the movement of blood from the right to the left ventricles of the heart via the lungs,had its inception in Europe in the sixteenth century by Servetus, Vesalius, Colombo, and finally Harvey. However later it was found that 300 years before Servetus,Vesalius or Harvey (who was credited for correct explanation of pulmonary circulation) were born, an eminent physician of the thirteenth century: Ibn Al-Nafis explained correctly the Pulmonary Circulation (Encarta encyclopedia ,keyword=ibn nafis) .This fact has been now recognized by many of the historians but some black sheep’s still try to argue the fact.


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