Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi, known as Albucasis (936-1013)



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Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi was born near Cordoba, Spain, when it was part of the Islamic Empire. He was a physician, surgeon and chemist. He is best remembered for his encyclopedia of medicine, the Al-Tasrif li man ajaz an-il-talif (An Aid for Those Who Lack the Capacity to Read Big Books), known as the al-Tasrif. This became a standard reference in Islamic and European medicine for over 500 years. In Europe, Al-Zahrawi was known as Albucasis, and was particularly famous for his surgical knowledge.

Al-Zahrawi’s encyclopedia included sections on surgery, medicine, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, pharmacology and nutrition. In it he described over 300 diseases and their treatments. He also included detailed descriptions of numerous surgical procedures, and the use of over 200 surgical instruments, many of which he developed. The most famous section of the encyclopedia, on surgery, was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 1100s. From this time it also became a standard text in Europe, and was still being reprinted in the 1770s.

While famed for his writing, Al-Zahrawi was also a prominent practitioner and teacher. In recognition of his skills, he was appointed as the court physician to King Al-Hakam II of Spain.