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Arabic Medicine and its Transfer to Europe

Philippe Provençal


Arabic Medicine is defined as the medicinal tradition and knowledge found in classical Islamic civilization, and for which classical Arabic was the written medium. This paper describes Arabic Medicine, its origin in Classical Antiquity, its evolution during the Classical Islamic period going from 750 CE to approximately 1400 CE, and how this medical tradition was brought to Europe during the late Middle Ages. After the Arab conquests following the advent of Islam, the medical traditions of the conquered lands were studied and medical texts were translated to Arabic. The main contributors were classical Greek medical texts, and Arabic Medicine continued the Hippocratic–Galenic tradition from Antiquity, although to this tradition was added materials from Persian and Indian origins. The different medical traditions were subsequently integrated in the works of important scholars like ar-Razi, al-Majusi, and Ibn Sina and augmented with original research and new discoveries. Establishing modern-style hospitals must be regarded as one of the great achievements in classical Islamic civilization, not only permitting an effective treatment of patients but also allowing medical teaching as well as original research. From 1077 CE and especially in the tenth century, important Arabic medical texts written were translated into Latin and gave the impetus to new academic medical teachings and activities in Europe.

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