Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi : biography
Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi (936–1013), () also known in the West as Albucasis, was an Arab Muslim physician 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. His greatest contribution to medicine is the Kitab al-Tasrif, a thirty-volume encyclopedia of medical practices. 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.
He was the first physician to describe an ectopic pregnancy, and the first physician to identify the hereditary nature of haemophilia.
Al-Zahrawi was the "most frequently cited surgical authority of the Middle Ages".
Donald Campbell, a historian of Arabic medicine, described Al-Zahrawi’s influence on Europe as follows: 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).
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."
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.
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. Albucasis was 77 years old when he died
On Surgery and Instruments
On Surgery and Instruments is an illustrated surgical guide written by Albucasis, known in Arabic as ‘al-Zahrāwī’. Albucasis 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.