Constantine the African (Circa 1020 – 1087 AD), a Muslim from Tunisia, studied medicine in the Muslim schools of Africa and Baghdad, and brought a huge array of medical literature into Europe whose subsequent translations supplied the revival of medical science in Italy. The University of Salerno was the head of medical knowledge in Christendom at that time.

Not much is known or recorded about Constantine's personal life, but perhaps as early as 1065, Constantine came to Salerno at the request of Archbishop Alfano. Alfano, who had medical knowledge, encouraged Constantine to translate from Arabic several popular medical texts. Kitab Kamil Al Sina'ah Al-Tibbiyah (Complete Book of Medical art) written by Ali ibn Al-Abbas Al-Majusti circa 977-978 was translated as Pantegni.

Other translations dealt with books concerning diet, the stomach, melancholy, and forgetfulness, written by doctors in Qayrawan. These books were translated into Latin as Chirurgia, prognostica, de pulsibus, de instrumentis, practica, liber graduum, de stomachi et instestinorum infirmitatibus, liber de urina, among others. For the next 20 years Constantine kept translating and teaching medicine to his students.

Constantine's translations became reinforced with a new arrival of translation a century after his death, this time by Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187) in Toledo, Spain. Some of the translations included works by Al-Razi, Al-Mansori, Ibn Sina, Ibn Sarabi, and Abu Al-Kasim Al-Zahrawi. The medical works, particularly Ibn Sina's (Avicenna) Canon, made Western physicians lean towards medicine as a rational system with ties to philosophy.

The force of Salerno on Western medicine can be understood from the following. First, from Constantine the West was able to acquire vast amount of medical knowledge, by the formation of the first University. Second, the vast amount of translation at the hands of Constantine brought a new generation of important medical teachers. Salerno was the head of medical teaching and subsequent medical Universities across Europe were offshoots from Salerno.


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