Ibn al-Nafis

Physician and Expert: Ibn al-Nafis

Ibn al-Nafis (1205-1288), also known as Al-Quarashi, ancient Islamic physician and expert on the Shafi’i school of Islamic law. Ibn al-Nafis is remembered for his numerous contributions to medicine, particularly the first description of pulmonary circulation—that is, the movement of blood from the right to the left ventricles of the heart via the lungs.

Ibn al-Nafis, whose full name was Ala-ad-Din Abu al-Ala Ali ibn Abi al-Haram al-Qurayshi ad-Dimashqi ibn an-Nafis, was born in Damascus, Syria, where he later studied medicine. His professional career was centered in Egypt, where he served as the chief of physicians and subsequently as the head of the Nasiri Hospital in Cairo.

Ibn al-Nafis is best known for his writings on physiology and medicine. His book Sharh Tashrih al-Qanun described pulmonary circulation centuries before noted English physician William Harvey described the circulation of blood in 1628. His …voluminous book on the art of medicine, titled Kitab al Shamil, featured sections on surgical techniques and the obligations of surgeons to their patients. Other works by Ibn al-Nafis included treatises on eye disease and the diet, as well as commentaries on the medical writings of ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.

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