Avicenna (980–1037)
Named Aben Sina by Hebrew writers, but properly Ebor
Sina, or—to give his names in full—Al-Sheikh Al-Rayis Abu Ali
Al-Hossein ben Abdallah ben Sina. He was born at Kharmatain,
near Bokhara, in the year of the Hegira 370, or 980 C.E., and
was educated at Bokhara. He displayed such extraordinary precocity
that when he had reached his tenth year, he had completely
mastered the Quran and acquired a knowledge of algebra,
Muslim theology, and the His ab ul-Hind, or the
arithmetic of the Hindus. Under Abdallah Al-Natheli he studied
logic, Euclid, and the Almagest, and then, as a diversion, devoted
himself to the study of medicine.
He was only 21 when he composed his Kitab al-Majmu or,
The Book of the Sum Total, whose mysteries he afterward attempted
to clarify in a 20-volume commentary.
Avicenna’s reputation for wisdom and erudition was so great
that on the death of his father he was promoted by Sultan Magdal
Douleth to the high office of grand vizier, which he held
with advantage to the state until a political revolution accomplished
the downfall of the Samanide dynasty. He then abandoned
Bokhara and wandered from place to place, increasing
his store of knowledge but yielding himself to a life of sensuality.
About 1012 he retired to Jurjân, where he began his great
work on medicine, which is still considered one of the earliest
systems of that art with any pretensions to philosophical completeness.
It is arranged with singular clearness and presents a
very admirable résumé of the doctrines of the ancient Greek
physicians. Avicenna subsequently lived at Rai, Karzwîn, and Ispahan,
where he became physician to the Persian sovereign.
He is said to have been dismissed from this post on account of
his debauched living. He then retired to Hamadan, where,
worn out with years of sensual indulgence, he died, at the age
of 58.
Avicenna wrote nearly 100 works on philosophy, mathematics,
and medicine and at least seven treatises on the philosophers’
stone of alchemy. His Book of the Canon of Medicine acquired
European celebrity and has been translated into Latin
several times.

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