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Razi (865-925 AD) Commemoration day - 27 August (5 Shahrivar) - Pharmacy Day

8/27/02 By: A Irandoost

"In today's world we tend to see scientific advance as the product of great movements, massive grant-funded projects, and larger-than-life socio-economic forces. It is easy to forget, therefore, that many contributions stemmed from the individual efforts of scholars like Rhazes. Indeed, pharmacy can trace much of its historical foundations to the singular achievements of this ninth-century Persian scholar." Michael A. Flannery, Associate Director for Historical Collections - University of Alabama at Birmingham, November 1999.

Persian physician, physicist, and chemist. Abu Bakr Mohammed ibn Zakaria al Razi (In Latin: Rhazes). Born in Ray, near Tehran, Persia, about 864-865 AD. and died in Ray around 923-925 AD.

He was first placed in-charge of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, from where he soon moved to a similar position in Baghdad where he remained the head of its famous Muqtadari Hospital for along time. He moved from time to time to various cities, specially between Ray and Baghdad. His name is commemorated in the Razi Institute near Tehran.

Razi was a Hakim, an alchemist and a philosopher. In medicine, his contribution was so significant that it can only be compared to that of Abu Sina. Razi began to move away from a spiritual explanation for disease towards a system based on observation and diagnosis

He was greatest clinician of middle ages. Galenic in theory, he combined with his immense learning true Hippocratic wisdom. His chemical knowledge was applied by him to medicine; he might be considered an ancestor of the iatrochemists (Scientists who tried to treat illness with chemistry).

Of his many writings, the most important are the "Kitab al Hawi" (The Comprehensive Book), an enormous encyclopedia containing many extracts from Greek and Hindu authors and also observations of his own. The al-Hawi has not been published, and there is not even a single complete manuscript in existence. A Latin translation, Liber dictus Elhavi, appeared in Brescia (1486), followed by various Ventian editions. The liber ad Almansurem, in ten books was first published in Milano (1481) and was frequently republished.

The "Al-Hawi" became one of the most widely read medical books in medieval Europe.

The "Kitab al Mansuri" (Liber Almansoris), a smaller compilation in ten books based largely on Greek science, and another of Razi's texts, "Kitab al-jadari wal-hasba" (De variolis et morbiliis; de peste, de pestilentia), the oldest description of variola and the masterpiece of Iranian medicine; 'On smallpox and measles', was still being referred to in the 18th century when inoculation was gaining popularity as a way of limiting the effects of smallpox. He played an important part in the development of medicine as a science, extending the ideas of Hippocrates by providing a clearer understanding of the causes of disease.

He did many contributions to gynecology, obstetrics, and ophthalmic surgery can be traced back to him.

He made investigations on specific gravity by means of the hydrostatic balance, which he called al-mizan al-tabi'i. Various chemical treatises are ascribed to him, and one of them (Arcandorum liber, apocryphal?) contains a list of 25 pieces of chemical apparatus. He also made an attempt to classify chemical substracts.

Perhaps his most famous work, however, is the Secret of Secrets in which he gives systematic attention to basic chemical operations important to the history of pharmacy. Indeed, Brock calls it "a straightforward manual of chemical practice." In this work Razi classified materials; described distillation, sublimation, and calcination processes; and established procedures for purification, separation, and the mixing of substances. By following Razis' instructions Europeans were able to prepare pure sulfuric and other important acids.

Razi contributed to the early practice of pharmacy. He is said to have introduced mercurial ointments into the Western world. Also, Razi developed apparatus used in apothecaries up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as mortars and pestles, flasks, spatulas, beakers, phials, and glass vessels. Later investigators, like the great physician AbuSina (Avicenna, 980-1037), would carry Razis' work forward in developing simple and composite drugs.

He was a prolific author, who has left monumental treatises on numerous subjects. He has more than 250 outstanding scientific contributions to his credit, out of which about half deal with medicine and 21 concern alchemy. He also wrote on physics, mathematics, astronomy and optics, but these writings could not be preserved. A number of his books, including Jami-fi-al-Tib, Mansoori, al-Hawi, Kitab al-Jadari wa al-Hasabah, al-Malooki, Maqalah fi al- Hasat fi Kuli wa al-Mathana, Kitab al-Qalb, Kitab al-Mafasil, Kitab-al- 'Ilaj al-Ghoraba, Bar al-Sa'ah, and al-Taqseem wa al-Takhsir, have been published in various European languages. About 40 of his manuscripts are still extant in the museums and libraries of Iran, Paris, Britain, Rampur, and Bankipur. His contribution has greatly influenced the development of science, in general, and medicine, in particular.

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