Ala-al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (aka Ibn Al-Nafis) was born in 1213 in Damascus and died in 1288 in Cairo. He received his eductation at the Medical College Hospital (Bimaristan Al-Noori) founded by Noor al-Din Al-Zanki of the Ayubi dynasty from which Salah Al-Din (Saladin) descended. In addition to medicine, Ibn al-Nafis learned jurisprudence, literature and theology. Subsequently he became a renowned expert on the Shafi'i School of Jurisprudence as well as a respected physician.

In 1236 Ibn Nafis worked in Al-Nassri and then Al-Mansouri hospitals in Egypt. While working in Al-Mansouri he became chief of physicians and the Sultan's personal physician. After his death in 1288, he donated his home, library and clinic to the Al-Mansuri hospital.

His major original contribution to medicine was the discovery of pulmonary circulation, wrongly attributed to be discovered by William Harvey 350 years later. Around 300 years after his original writings, some of Ibn al-Nafis's work was translated into Latin by Andrea Alpago of Belluno in 1547. William Harvey might have read these translations.

Ibn Nafis stated, "The blood from the right chamber of the heart must arrive at the left chamber, but there is no direct pathway between them. The thick septum of the heart is not perforated and does not have visible pores as some people thought or invisible pores as Galen thought. The blood from the right chamber must flow through the vena arteriosa (pulmonary artery) to the lungs, spread through its substance, be mingled with air, pass through the arteria venosa (Pulmonary vein) to reach the left chamber of the heart." The significance of this statement was not clearly understood in Egypt.

In another statement attributed to Ibn Nafis, "The heart has only two ventricles ... and between these two there is absolutely no opening. Also dissection gives this lie to what they said, as the septum between these two cavities is much thicker than elsewhere. The benefit of this blood (that is in the right cavity) is to go up to the lungs, mix with what is in the lungs of air, then pass through the arteria venosa to the left cavity of the two cavities of the heart... "

Ibn Nafis described the lungs as, "The lungs are composed of parts, one of which is the bronchi, the second the branches of the arteria venosa and the third the branches of the vena arteriosa, all of them connected by loose porous flesh."

He then added, "The need of the lungs for the vena arteriosa is to transport to it the blood that has been thinned and warmed in the heart, so that what seeps through the pores of the branches of this vessel into the alveoli of the lungs may mix with what there is of air therein and combine with it, the resultant composite becoming fit to be spirit when this mixing takes place in the left cavity of the heart. The mixture is carried to the left cavity by the arteria venosa."

Historical fairness should be attributed to Ibn Al-Nafis as the first to discover and correctly describe pulmonary circulation as can be seen in his book Sharh Al-Qanun (descriptions of the law).


mr100percent says re Ibn Al-Nafis: I'm curious as to how he discovered these things. I thought autopsies were frowned upon, any ideas? Nice noding, please keep it up

Maslaha, common good in Arabic, superseded the prohibition on autopsies.

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