It is no secret that I am an ardent admirer of Ibn Sina, the Muslim physician/philosopher/scientist. I have often used his name as a screen name for myself online because I aspire to be like him in his mastery of a diverse array of subjects.
You can imagine how delighted I was when I stumbled across a website devoted to Islamic science that profiled some of the many noble, wonderful, and remarkable achievements of Ibn Sina. Please view it here:
Bear in mind that he lived between 980 and 1037 AD so all of these accomplishments took place in a medieval era and within a time frame shorter than sixty years.
Some of the highlights:
1. Discovered a cure for cancer
Yes, you read that correctly. He formulated an herbal drug from chicory and saffron that he found to be an effective cancer treatment. If you are thinking, “Wow, someone should patent that!,” – you are too late. The drug Hindiba, patented in 1997, was based on research of the writings of Ibn Sina. (http://www.muslimheritage.com/uploads/Hindiba.pdf)
2. Wrote a 14 volume encyclopedia of the medical knowledge of his time. ‘Al Qanun fi’l Tibb, The Canon of Medicine
The sheer size of this work is mind-boggling. It was over one million words in length. There were no co-authors. This sealed Ibn Sina’s reputation as one of the most influential physicians of all time. And you may have never heard of him before.
3. Concluded that Venus is nearer to Earth than the Sun is.
Of course, he had no telescope.
4. Stated that if the perception of light is due to the emission of some sort of particles by a luminous source, the speed of light must be finite.
Stop for a second to imagine the medieval world. This is a world without computers, without the Theory of Relativity, without even electrical power. In this world, Ibn Sina realized that light might consist of particles and if so, it must have a measurable speed.
5. Invention of refrigerated coil
If you enjoy a cold beverage, and who doesn’t, you have one Ibn Sina to thank for it. Sadly, the science of refrigeration did not advance until 1748, more than seven centuries after the Learned Persian’s death. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator)
6. Wrote the first criticisms of Aristotelian logic
This might not seem like a big deal, but it really is. For centuries, people regarded Greek philosophy as sacred. Ibn Sina helped people realize that the Greeks were human and their ideas were not all necessarily true.
7. Memorized the Quran.
Again, this might not seem like a big deal. Many people have memorized the Quran. True. But the Quran is roughly 500 pages of classical Arabic. And Ibn Sina, in a style typical of him but unlike the vast majority of us, completed it at the age of seven.