Islamic Influence In Western Medicine Essay

2444 words - 10 pages

Just as the Arabs preserved the knowledge of the Greek and Roman civilizations, the Europeans were able to use and build off the knowledge built in the Islamic world. This wealth of knowledge was the collection of ideas pulled from every corner of the Islamic empire. Rulers collected Greek, Chinese, Indian, and Persian literary works in vast libraries for the education of the masses. Western Europe slowly learned bits and pieces of this knowledge through trade and diffusion of culture. One medium through which the west learned a great deal was the translated medical texts from scholars such as Ib n Sina (Avicenna). Europeans, from Italy to the British Isles, were able to improve their ...view middle of the document...

However, in the medieval Islamic empire many surgeons were making careful and quantitative observations to treat diseases. For instance, Physician Avicenna wrote many medical doctrines and was the founder of many surgeries. He revolutionized ways of performing surgeries such as removal of kidney stones, intubation and the use of clinical trials for medicine (1). His book Cannon of Medicine was still in use in universities in the 17th century. This book gave a base off which Europeans could learn and pioneer their own medical practices.
Disease often consumed cities in Europe and the Catholic Church often blamed the suffering on the sinfulness of the people. The Catholic Church would profit off this idea and as a result, the church taught repentance as the only way to stay healthy. Nevertheless, as more knowledge from the Islamic world traveled to Europe, ways of disease prevention and understanding began to diffuse. The largest gain made through use of Arabic texts was the introduction of a simplified version of the scientific method. An organized method to prove scientific questions aided in the treatment of disease, as well as in all areas of science. Up until the mid 15th century, scholars believed that blood traveled from the right side of the heart to the left through the septum. It was not until a physician, Ib n al-Nafis, made careful observations and noted that blood could not pass through the septum. He discovered blood had to travel from heart to lungs then return to the heart (1). This was a major breakthrough at the time. This discovery led to better understanding of fluid dynamics of blood as well as understanding that air diffused into blood (1). Such uses of observation and experimentation proved to be pertinent to the way Europeans thought and developed. Europeans built off Ib n al-Nafis work by creating tests for blood pressure, and how blood circulates throughout the body. The Europeans discovered the path that blood travels after leaving the heart flowing to every inch of the body. Through the system of arteries from large to small forming into capillaries then carried back to the heart through veins.
Islamic scholars used texts from ancient Greece to base their medical knowledge (4). They then built off this knowledge and began disproving their predecessors. Galen, a Greek scholar of the 2nd century introduced the idea of four humors that consisted of four elements blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Each of the four humors had two temperaments or qualities; blood was said to warm and moist, yellow bile was warm and dry, black bile was cold and dry, and phlegm was said to be cold and moist(4). If a humor were out of balance, a person would appear to be sick. One of the first challenges to Galen was from Rhazes in the 9th century. He was the first physician to refute the theory of four humors in his Doubts about Galen. He carried out an experiment that would upset this system by inserting a liquid with a different...

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