(936 – 1013)

From ancient Egypt to modern Europe, medical sciences have produced outstanding practitioners over the millennia. And in terms of surgical achievements, Abu al-Qasim Ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi, is arguably without equal. Born during the Islamic Golden Age and known to medieval Europeans as “Albucasis”, he is widely regarded as the “father of modern surgery”. His 30-volume flagship, titled Kitab al-Tasrif, is one of the most impressive encyclopedias in the entire history of science. Its concluding volume remained the world’s most authoritative surgical textbook for more than 500 years. Al-Zahrawi also initiated many techniques, practises and implements which not only revolutionized medicine and surgery, but are still in use today. Among others, he was the first physician to accurately describe the abnormality of ectopic pregnancy and the hereditary links of haemophilia. Likewise, several surgical procedures such as cataract removals, caesarean sections, precise cannulae and cauterizations owe their early developments to him. After exploring both transient and permanent paralysis, he delved into pharmacy: discovering several therapeutic and cosmetic substances as a result. This interest in pharmacy led him to research chemistry and other pure sciences such as astronomy. As court physician to Abd al-Rahman III (the Emir of Córdoba as well as the greatest Caliph of the then Umayyad-Arab-Muslim dynasty of Spain), al-Zahrawi had access to vast libraries from which he learnt a lot. Although his enormous influence as a clinician relegated all his non-medical works to mere historical footnotes, these contributions did inspire younger contemporaries such as: Maslama al-Majriti and al-Husain Ibn al-Wafid.

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