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 The Contribution of Islamic Civilization to Medicine    by Farid Sami Haddad (MD, FACS)

Contribution of physicians to non-medical subjects

Although the contributions of physicians were, for the most part, medical in nature, they also made important contributions to non-medical subjects, including astronomy, carpentry, mechanics, mathematics and philosophy. Al-Farabi (873-950), Avicenna (980-1037), Ibn Baja (d. 1138 AD), ibn Tufayl (1100-1185) and Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) made highly important contributions to philosophy. In fact, these physician-philosophers provided a vital link between Plato, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers on the one hand, and European philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), Roger Bacon (1561-1626), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Hegel (1770-1831), on the other.

The contributions to mathematics and mechanics by Qusta ibn Luqa, a famous physician from Balbak, are well known Thabit ibn Qurra translated the Elements of Euclid. Ibn al-Muhandis made the famous gates of the Nuri Hospital in Damascus. Ibn al-Sa'ati was entrusted with the responsibility of attending to the sundial of the Great Mosque of Damascus.

Muslim physicians also made significant contributions to field which are closely related to medicine. These include botany, chemistry, optics, physics, pharmacology, zoology and dentistry. A number of physico-chemical processes were discovered or invented during the Islamic era. These include calcination, crystalliztion, distillation, evaporation, filtration, precipitation and sublimation. Many new chemical substances, such as alcohol, aqua regis, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, potash, and sulphuric acid were first prepared during the Islamic era.

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