The Sage of Seville: Ibn Zuhr, His Time, and His Medical Legacy
Ibn Zuhr (or Avenzoar) of twelfth-century Seville was the most important physician of Muslim Spain. His family boasted six generations of physicians, and also included midwives, jurists, poets, and viziers. His Kitab al-taysir, a compendium of therapeutics, was translated into Latin and Hebrew; its Latin version, Liber Teisir, served as a companion book to the Colliget, the Latin translation of Kitab al-kulliyat, a largely theoretical book of the philosopher-physician Ibn Rushd (Averroes). The rabbi-physician Maimonides quoted extensively from Ibn Zuhr and considered him "unique in his age and one of the great sages." But Ibn Zuhr was not just a keen observer of patients and a dispenser of remedies: buried within his generally dry narrative are candid recollections and views on a variety of subjects and of his society. And his medical recipes could be compared to current forms of alternative medicine. Together, his holistic approach to medicine and his spontaneous vignettes make him one of the most refreshing physicians of any age. This account of the life and legacy of Ibn Zuhr, the first of its kind, reveals the man and his world, his importance in his own times, and his relevance to our world today. Against a modern culture of often impersonal, bureaucratized, and costly health care, Ibn Zuhr's embodiment of the wisdom of the ages and his role as healer-priest can be an inspiration.
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