History of pathology in Iran

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Pathology (Aseeb Shenasi in Persian) as a science of discovering the reasons for an illness has attracted the attention of physicians since the time of antiquity. The Egyptian Edwin Smith Papyrus (1700BC), the oldest known medical document, contains references to mechanisms and causes of various diseases including tumors of the breast, wound healing, and infection. Despite this long-standing interest, significant progress in our understanding of the science of pathology has come only in the last quarter of the second millennium, in which anatomic explorations have become available and have featured the gross appearance of organs. Later, morbid anatomy facilitated recognition of the macroscopic characteristic of diseased organ and tissue, enabling pathology to become a new tool for the recognition and interpretation of diseases. Subsequently, during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, morbid histology became known to physicians, including Rudolf Virchow who was inspired to formulate the cellular theory of diseases, pathology, as a clinical science, has become a powerful skeleton for the diagnosis and management of diseases.[1]

Since the beginning of the new era in Iranian medical education, pathology has been an integral part of teaching and practicing medicine. Pathology developed from merely theoretical lectures to an active tool in learning the mechanisms of diseases, and their behavior, management, and control.

Pathology in Persia[edit]

Despite the great expansion and better understanding of medical sciences in Persia, particularly during the Islamic period, we know very little of the approach to pathology in this period. There is good evidence of gross descriptions of diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, pulmonary tuberculosis, pleural effusion, and others in the famous Iranian medical texts such as “Kanon” of Ibn-Sina and “Almasoodi” of Razi.

However, there are no data available as to how these early Persian scientists obtained this knowledge as dissection of the human dead body was prohibited during that period. It is believed that this degree of knowledge is obtainable only through physical examination, surgery, or postmortem observations.[2]

Pathology in modern Iran[edit]

History of Pathology in Iran dates back to early 20th century when Professor Mostafa Habibi founded Clinical Anatomy in Iran.

Before 1933, pathology was not in the standard curriculum of medical schools in Iran. However histology and anatomy was included in the medical education system of Iran. In 1934, Professor Ali Falati taught the first clinical anatomy course at Tehran University. His work was later on followed by Mostafa Habibi who got at that time chair of histology and embryology at Tehran Medical School.

In 1947 Professor Habibi died unexpectedly due to heart attack. The pathology chair at Tehran University was unoccupied for six years. Then two of Habibi's best students, Professors Armin and Rahmatian started their professional careers as pathology lecturers. Professor Rahmatian with his colleagues, Professor Shamsa, established the first pathology laboratory in Hezar Takhtekhabi Hospital in 1953. The lab was equipped with electron microscope and had histopathology and cytopathology sections. At the same time they established the cancer chair at Tehran Medical School. The lab trained numerous Iranian medical scientists as well as many people from middle eastern countries, such as Turkey, Pakistan and also Egypt.

In parallel with the establishment of the hospital pathology lab, Professor Armin established a pathology lab on the campus of Tehran University.

These two labs trained many students who then joined other medical schools throughout the country.

Another notable figure who had a huge impact on the status of pathology in Iran is Professor Moslem Bahadori. Bahadori who was an expert both in clinical medicine and molecular pathology, made a significant attempt to bridge between clinicians and molecular pathology and pathophysiology in Iran. He also promoted research in the filed and did world class research at Tehran Medical School.


We will try to develop perfectly in the students the sense of devotion, patriotism, discipline, and reverence to science, teacher, and colleague as well as the sense of helping poor people and patients. (Quoted from the inaugural address of Prof. M. Habibi at the Tabriz Medical School in 1947)

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