Mohammad ibn Zakaraya Al-Razi (Rhazes)
Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (864-930 A.D.) was born in Ray, Iran. Initially, he was interested in music but later on he learnt medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and philosophy from a student of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, who was well versed in the ancient Greek, Persian and Indian systems of medicine and other subjects. He also studied under Ali Ibn Rabban. The practical experience gained at the well-known Muqtadari Hospital helped him in his chosen profession of medicine. At an early age he gained eminence as an expert in medicine and alchemy, so that patients and students flocked to him from distant parts of Asia.
He was first placed in charge of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, then moved to a similar position in Baghdad where he remained the head of its famous Muqtadari Hospital for many years. From time to time he travelled to other cities, particularly Ray and Baghdad, but finally returned to Ray where he died around 930 A.D. His name is commemorated in the Razi Institute near Tehran.
Razi was a Hakim, an alchemist and a philosopher. His contribution to medicine was invaluable and many of his works in medicine e.g. Kitab al- Mansoori, Al-Hawi, Kitab al-Mulooki and Kitab al-Judari wa al- Hasabah earned everlasting fame. Kitab al-Mansoori, which was translated into Latin in the 15th century A.D., and some volumes were published separately in Europe. His al-Judari wal Hasabah was the first treatise on smallpox and chicken-poxhe was the first to draw clear comparisons between smallpox and chicken-pox. Al-Hawi was the largest medical encyclopedia composed available then. A special feature of his medical system was that he greatly favoured cures through correct and regulated food and his emphasis on the influence of psychological factors on health. He also tried proposed remedies first on animals in order to evaluate in their effects and side effects. He was also an expert surgeon and was the first to use opium for anaesthesia.
In addition to being a physician, he compounded medicines and, in his later years, gave himself over to experimental and theoretical sciences. He detailed several chemical reactions and also designed around twenty instruments used in chemical investigations. One of his books called Kitab-al-Asrar deals with the preparation of chemical materials and their uses. He went beyond his predecessors by dividing substances into plants, animals and minerals thus opening the way for inorganic and organic chemistry. His classification of the three chemical realms still holds. As a chemist, he was the first to produce sulfuric acid and also prepared alcohol by fermenting sweet products.
As a philosopher he defined the basic elements as creator, spirit, matter, space and time. His philosophical views were however, criticised by a number of other Muslim scholars of the era, primarily his concepts of space and time as constituting a continuum.
He was a prolific author and 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.