Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi

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Not to be confused with al-Zawahiri.
Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi
Albucasis.gif
Born 936 CE
Died 1013 CE
Ethnicity Arab
Era Islamic Golden Age
Region Al-Andalus, Caliphate of Córdoba
Jurisprudence Sunni Islam
Notable idea(s) Founder of modern surgical and medical instruments; Father of Surgery
Notable work(s) Kitab al-Tasrif

Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi (936–1013), (Arabic: أبو القاسم خلف بن العباس الزهراوي‎) also known in the West as Albucasis, was an Arab Muslim physician and surgeon who lived in Al-Andalus. He is considered the greatest medieval surgeon to have appeared from the Islamic World, and has been described by many as the father of modern surgery.[1] His greatest contribution to medicine is the Kitab al-Tasrif, a thirty-volume encyclopedia of medical practices.[2] His pioneering contributions to the field of surgical procedures and instruments had an enormous impact in the East and West well into the modern period, where some of his discoveries are still applied in medicine to this day.[3]

He was the first physician to describe an ectopic pregnancy, and the first physician to identify the hereditary nature of haemophilia.[3]

Biography[edit]

Abū Al-Qāsim was born in the city El-Zahra, six miles northwest of Córdoba, Andalusia. The nisba (attributive title), Al-Ansari, suggests origin from the Medinian tribe of Al-Ansar.[4]

He lived most of his life in Córdoba. It is also where he studied, taught and practiced medicine and surgery until shortly before his death in about 1013, two years after the sacking of El-Zahra.

Few details remain regarding his life, aside from his published work, due to the destruction of El-Zahra during later Castillian-Andalusian conflicts. His name first appears in the writings of Abu Muhammad bin Hazm (993 – 1064), who listed him among the greatest physicians of Moorish Spain. But we have the first detailed biography of al-Zahrawī from al-Ḥumaydī's Jadhwat al-Muqtabis (On Andalusian Savants), completed six decades after al-Zahrawī's death.

He was a contemporary of Andalusian chemists such as Ibn al-Wafid, Maslamah Ibn Ahmad al-Majriti and Artephius.

Works[edit]

Abū al-Qāsim was a court physician to the Andalusian caliph Al-Hakam II. He devoted his entire life and genius to the advancement of medicine as a whole and surgery in particular. His best work was the Kitab al-Tasrif, discussed below.

Abū al-Qāsim specialized in curing disease by cauterization. He invented several devices used during surgery, for purposes such as inspection of the interior of the urethra, applying and removing foreign bodies from the throat, inspection of the ear, etc. He is also credited to be the first to describe ectopic pregnancy in 963, in those days a fatal affliction.[3]

Al-Zahrawi was the first to illustrate the various cannulae and the first to treat a wart with an iron tube and caustic metal as a boring instrument. He was also the first to draw hooks with a double tip for use in surgery.[5]

Page from a 1531 Latin translation by Peter Argellata of El Zahrawi's treatise on surgical and medical instruments.

Kitab al-Tasrif[edit]

Main article: Al-Tasrif

Abū al-Qāsim's thirty-chapter medical treatise, Kitab al-Tasrif, completed in the year 1000, covered a broad range of medical topics, including dentistry and childbirth, which contained data that had accumulated during a career that spanned almost 50 years of training, teaching and practice. In it he also wrote of the importance of a positive doctor-patient relationship and wrote affectionately of his students, whom he referred to as "my children". He also emphasized the importance of treating patients irrespective of their social status. He encouraged the close observation of individual cases in order to make the most accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment.

Al-Tasrif was later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century, and illustrated. For perhaps five centuries during the European Middle Ages, it was the primary source for European medical knowledge, and served as a reference for doctors and surgeons.

Not always properly credited, Abū Al-Qāsim's al-Tasrif described both what would later became known as "Kocher's method" for treating a dislocated shoulder and "Walcher position" in obstetrics. Al-Tasrif described how to ligature blood vessels almost 600 years before Ambroise Paré, and was the first recorded book to document several dental devices and explain the hereditary nature of haemophilia.[3] He was also the first to describe a surgical procedure for ligating the temporal artery for migraine, also almost 600 years before Pare recorded that he had ligated his own temporal artery for headache that conforms to current descriptions of migraine.[6] Abū al-Qāsim was therefore the first to describe the migraine surgery procedure that is enjoying a revival in the 21st century, spearheaded by Elliot Shevel a South African surgeon.

Abū al-Qāsim also described the use of forceps in vaginal deliveries.[7] He introduced over 200 surgical instruments.[8] Many of these instruments were never used before by any previous surgeons.[8]

His use of catgut for internal stitching is still practised in modern surgery. The catgut appears to be the only natural substance capable of dissolving and is acceptable by the body. Abū al-Qāsim also invented the forceps for extracting a dead fetus, as illustrated in the Al-Tasrif.[9]

Liber Servitoris[edit]

In pharmacy and pharmacology, Abū al-Qāsim al-Zahrawī pioneered the preparation of medicines by sublimation and distillation. His Liber Servitoris is of particular interest, as it provides the reader with recipes and explains how to prepare the "simples" from which were compounded the complex drugs then generally used.[10][11][12]

Legacy[edit]

Al-Zahrawi was the "most frequently cited surgical authority of the Middle Ages".[13]

Donald Campbell, a historian of Arabic medicine, described Al-Zahrawi's influence on Europe as follows:[14]

The chief influence of Albucasis on the medical system of Europe was that his lucidity and method of presentation awakened a prepossession in favour of Arabic literature among the scholars of the West: the methods of Albucasis eclipsed those of Galen and maintained a dominant position in medical Europe for five hundred years, i.e long after it had passed its usefulness. He, however, helped to raise the status of surgery in Christian Europe; in his book on fractures and luxations, he states that ‘this part of surgery has passed into the hands of vulgar and uncultivated minds, for which reason it has fallen into contempt.’ The surgery of Albucasis became firmly grafted on Europe after the time of Guy de Chauliac (d.1368).

In the 14th century, the French surgeon Guy de Chauliac quoted al-Tasrif over 200 times. Pietro Argallata (d. 1453) described Abū al-Qāsim as "without doubt the chief of all surgeons". Abū al-Qāsim's influence continued for at least five centuries, extending into the Renaissance, evidenced by al-Tasrif's frequent reference by French surgeon Jacques Delechamps (1513–1588).[15]

The street in Córdoba where he lived is named in his honor as "Calle Albucasis". On this street he lived in house no. 6, which is preserved today by the Spanish Tourist Board with a bronze plaque (awarded in January 1977) which reads: "This was the house where Abul-Qasim lived."[citation needed]

On Surgery and Instruments[edit]

On Surgery and Instruments is an illustrated surgical guide written by Al-Zahrāwī. On Surgery and Instruments contributed many technological innovations, notably which tools to use in specific surgeries. In On Surgery and Instruments, he draws diagrams of each tool used in different procedures to clarify how to carry out the steps of each treatment. The full text consists of three books, intended for medical students looking to gain more knowledge within the field of surgery regarding procedures and the necessary tools.

Al-Zahrāwī claims that his knowledge comes from careful reading of previous medical texts as well as his own experience: “…whatever skill I have, I have derived for myself by my long reading of the books of the Ancients and my thirst to understand them until I extracted the knowledge of it from them. Then through the whole of my life I have adhered to experience and practice…I have made it accessible for you and rescued it from the abyss of prolixity”.[16]

Tone[edit]

Throughout the text, Al-Zahrāwī uses an authoritative tone to declare his expertise on the topic. For example, when introducing topics or describing procedures, Al-Zahrāwī often warns the reader of the skills necessary to complete the task. In chapter forty-eight, On cauterization for numbness, he defines the required knowledge for the procedure in a commanding tone: “This should not be attempted except by one who has a good knowledge of the anatomy of the limbs and of the exits of the nerves that move the body”.[17] He invents a criterion to generate a standard of skill level, indicating that he himself has surpassed it due to training and experience. As such, he reiterates his preeminence by implying that he is part of an exclusive group of learned surgeons capable of correctly completing this cautery. In another instance, he states that the procedure should be avoided completely by incompetent surgeons: “However, no one should attempt this operation unless he has had long training and practice in the use of cautery”.[18]

Al-Zahrāwī was not afraid to depart from old practice, for example, he openly disparages the opinion that cauterization should only be used in the spring season: “…the Ancients…[affirmed] that spring was the best. Myself, I say that cautery is suitable at all times”.[19] Four pages later, he again opposes the opinion that gold is the best material for cauterization, stating that iron is actually his preferred metal: “therefore in our own opinion cauterization is swifter and more successful with iron”.[20] In chapter twenty-nine, On cauterization for pleurisy, he states: “Now one of the Ancients mentioned that there were some people who used an iron cautery shaped like a probe, and introduced it red hot into the intercostal space until it reached the abscess itself and evacuated the pus…but in this perforation with the cautery there is a danger either that the patient may die on the spot or that an incurable fistula may raise at the place”.[21]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ahmad, Z. (St Thomas' Hospital) (2007), "Al-Zahrawi - The Father of Surgery", ANZ Journal of Surgery 77 (Suppl. 1): A83, doi:10.1111/j.1445-2197.2007.04130_8.x 
  2. ^ al-Zahrāwī, Abū al-Qāsim Khalaf ibn ʻAbbās; Studies, Gustave E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern (1973). Albucasis on surgery and instruments. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01532-6. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Cosman, Madeleine Pelner; Jones, Linda Gale (2008). Handbook to Life in the Medieval World. Handbook to Life Series 2. Infobase Publishing. pp. 528–530. ISBN 0-8160-4887-8. 
  4. ^ Hamarneh, Sami Khalaf; Sonnedecker, Glenn (1963). A Pharmaceutical View of Abulcasis Al-Zahrāwī Moorish Spain: With a Special Reference to the "Adhān". Brill Archive. p. 15. 
  5. ^ Missori, Paolo; Brunetto, Giacoma M.; Domenicucci, Maurizio (7 February 2012). "Origin of the Cannula for Tracheotomy During the Middle Ages and Renaissance". World Journal of Surgery 36 (4): 928–934. doi:10.1007/s00268-012-1435-1. 
  6. ^ Shevel, E; Spierings, EH (April 2004). "Role of the extracranial arteries in migraine headache: a review.". Cranio : the journal of craniomandibular practice 22 (2): 132–6. doi:10.1179/crn.2004.017. PMID 15134413. 
  7. ^ Assisted delivery has walked a long and winding road, OBG Management, Vol. 19, No. 6, June 2007, p. 84.
  8. ^ a b Holmes-Walker, Anthony (2004). Life-enhancing plastics : plastics and other materials in medical applications. London: Imperial College Press. p. 176. ISBN 1-86094-462-0. 
  9. ^ Ingrid Hehmeyer and Aliya Khan (2007). "Islam's forgotten contributions to medical science", Canadian Medical Association Journal 176 (10).
  10. ^ Levey M. (1973), Early Arabic Pharmacology, E. J. Brill, Leiden.[page needed]
  11. ^ A Pharmaceutical View of Abulcasis Al-zahrawi in Moorish Spain. Brill Archive. pp. 19–. 
  12. ^ See:Luisa Arvide
  13. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander, ed. (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 586. ISBN 1598843370. 
  14. ^ Campbell, Donald (2001). Arabian Medicine and Its Influence on the Middle Ages: Trubner's Oriental Series. London: Routledge. p. 88. ISBN 0415244625. 
  15. ^ Badeau, John Stothoff; Hayes, John Richard (1983). Hayes, John Richard, ed. The Genius of Arab civilization: source of Renaissance (2nd ed. ed.). MIT Press. p. 200. ISBN 0262580632. 
  16. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (676)
  17. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (146)
  18. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (8)
  19. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (10)
  20. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (14)
  21. ^ Abū Al-Qāsim Khalaf Ibn ʾabbās Al-Zahrāwī. Albucasis on Surgery and Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. (90)

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]