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Friday, September 30, 2016

Ibn Al-Baytar

Ibn al-Baytar (Ibn al-Baitar) (Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi) (circa, 1188 - 1248). Botanist and pharmacologist of Malaga. Ibn al-Baytar was an Arab scientist, botanist, pharmacist, and physician. He is considered one of the greatest scientists of Al-Andalus and is believed to be one of the greatest botanists and pharmacists of the Islamic Golden Age and Muslim Agricultural Revolution. In one of his works, he lists some 1400 samples. This work had a considerable influence both outside and within the Islamic world.

Born in the Andalusian city of Málaga at the end of the 12th century, he learned botany from the Málagan botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati with whom he started collecting plants in and around Spain. Al-Nabati was responsible for developing an early scientific method, introducing empirical and experimental techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and separating unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations.

In 1219, Ibn al-Baytar left Málaga to travel in the Islamic world to collect plants. He traveled from the northern coast of Africa as far as Anatolia. The major stations he visited include Bugia, Constantinople, Tunis, Tripoli, Barqa, and Adalia.

After 1224, he entered the service of al-Kamil, an Ayyubid Sultan, and was appointed chief herbalist. In 1227 al-Kamil extended his domination to Damascus, and Ibn al-Baitar accompanied him there which provided him an opportunity to collect plants in Syria. His researches on plants extended over a vast area including Arabia and Palestine. He died in Damascus in 1248.

Ibn al-Baytar’s major contribution is Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada, which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations in history, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It was also a pharmacopoeia (pharmaceutical encyclopedia) and contains details on at least 1,400 plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. His work was translated into Latin in 1758 and was being used in Europe up until the early 19th century. The book also contains references to 150 other previous Arabic authors as well as 20 previous Greek authors.

Ibn Al-Baytar’s second major work is Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada which is an encyclopedia of Islamic medicine, which incorporates his knowledge of plants extensively for the treatment of various ailments, including diseases related to the head, ear, eye, etc.


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