Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi

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Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi : biography

865 – 925
Razi gives also a list of apparatus used in alchemy. This consists of 2 classes:
  1. Instruments used for the dissolving and melting of metals such as the Blacksmith’s hearth, bellows, crucible, thongs (tongue or ladle), macerator, stirring rod, cutter, grinder (pestle), file, shears, descensory and semi-cylindrical iron mould.
  2. Utensils used to carry out the process of transmutation and various parts of the distilling apparatus: the retort, alembic, shallow iron pan, potters kiln and blowers, large oven, cylindrical stove, glass cups, flasks, phials, beakers, glass funnel, crucible, alundel, heating lamps, mortar, cauldron, hair-cloth, sand- and water-bath, sieve, flat stone mortar and chafing-dish.
  • Secret of Secrets (Sirr Al-asrar)
This is Razi’s most famous book which has gained a lot of recognition in the West. Here he gives systematic attention to basic chemical operations important to the history of pharmacy.

Books on alchemy

Here is a list of Razi’s known books on alchemy, mostly in Persian:

  • Modkhele Taalimi
  • Elaleh Ma’aaden
  • Isbaate Sanaa’at
  • Ketabeh Sang
  • Ketabe Tadbir
  • Ketabe Aksir
  • Ketabe Sharafe Sanaa’at
  • Ketabe Tartib, Ketabe Rahat, The Simple Book
  • Ketabe Tadabir
  • Ketabe Shavahed
  • Ketabe Azmayeshe Zar va Sim (Experimentation on Gold)
  • Ketabe Serre Hakimaan
  • Ketabe Serr (The Book of Secrets)
  • Ketabe Serre Serr (The Secret of Secrets)
  • The First Book on Experiments
  • The Second Book on Experiments
  • Resaale’ei Be Faan
  • Arezooyeh Arezookhah
  • A letter to Vazir Ghasem ben Abidellah
  • Ketabe Tabvib

Biography

Razi was born in the silk road passing city of Rey.Richter-Bernburg His name Razi in Persian means "from the city of Rey", an ancient town called Ragha in old Persian and Ragâ in Avestan.

p. 8. See also ( excerpt: "the question of the identification of Avestan Raya with the Raga in the inscription of Darius I at Bīsotūn [...] with Ray[...] has by no means been settled.") It is located on the southern slopes of the Alborz Range situated near Tehran, Iran. In this city (like Ibn Sina) he accomplished most of his work. Free Health Encyclopedia, 2006 

He studied medicine under Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari, known as Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari or Ali ibn Sahl, (Cf. al-Qifti, Usaibi’ah), a physician and philosopher born in Merv about 192 AH (808 C.E.) (d. approx. 240 AH (855 C.E.)). Ali ibn Sahl belonged to the medical school of Tabaristan or Hyrcania.

Razi became famous in his native city as a physician. He became Director of the hospital of Rey (Cf. ibn Juljul, al-Qifti, ibn abi Usaibi’ah), during the reign of Mansur ibn Ishaq ibn Ahmad ibn Asad who was Governor of Rey from 290-296 AH (902-908 C.E.) on behalf of his cousin Ahmad ibn Isma’il ibn Ahmad, second Samanian ruler. Razi dedicated his al-Tibb al-‘Mansuri to Mansur ibn Ishaq ibn Ahmad, which was verified in a handwritten manuscript of his book. This was refuted by ibn al-Nadim’, but al-Qifti and ibn abi Usaibi’ah confirmed that the named Mansur was indeed Mansur ibn Isma’il who died in 365 AH (975 C.E.). Razi moved from Rey to Baghdad during Caliph Muktafi’s reign (approx. 289-295 AH (901-907 C.E.)) where he again held a position as Chief Director of a hospital.

After al-Muktafi’s death in 295 AH (907 C.E.) Razi allegedly returned to Rey where he gathered many students around him. As Ibn al-Nadim relates in Fihrist, Razi was then a Shaikh (title given to one entitled to teach), surrounded by several circles of students. When someone arrived with a scientific question, this question was passed on to students of the ‘first circle’. if they did not know the answer, it was passed on to those of the ‘second circle’… and so on and on, until at last, when all others had failed to supply an answer, it came to Razi himself. We know of at least one of these students who became a physician. Razi was a very generous man, with a humane behavior towards his patients, and acting charitable to the poor. He used to give them full treatment without charging any fee, nor demanding any other payment.