Ibn Sina and the Samanids in Uzbekistan
Ibn Sina (known to Europeans as Avicenna) was a scientist. He was born about 980 AD in the north-eastern part of the Abbasid Empire. That was in the kingdom of the Samanids. (It’s modern Uzbekistan.)
Who were the Samanids?
Medieval Islamic science
All our medieval Islam articles
The Samanids supported science and art, so many scientists and artists lived there. Ibn Sina’s father was the Iranian governor of a local village. He was himself a respected scholar. Ibn Sina grew up speaking Persian, like many educated people in that part of the world.
Ibn Sina becomes a doctor
He was a very smart child. He memorized the whole Quran by the time he was seven years old, even though it was in Arabic, which was not his first language.
What’s the Quran?
Indian numbers and zero
Islamic elementary schools
While he was still young, he learned about the new Indian number system from traveling teachers. By the time Ibn Sina was eighteen, he was a successful doctor. He treated many patients successfully, working in the same town as the earlier scholar Al Razi.
Ibn Sina becomes the doctor for the Samanid emir
Ibn Sina became so famous as a doctor that the Samanid emir (the prince Nur ibn Mansur) came to him when he was sick. When Ibn Sina cured the emir’s sickness, the emir gave him a job as his personal doctor. Ibn Sina was still only 18 years old! As the emir’s doctor, Ibn Sina got to read many rare books in the emir’s library.
Who are these Ghaznavids?
But in 999 AD, the Ghaznavids conquered the Samanids. The Ghaznavids turned out not to be so supportive of science. Ibn Sina left his home and traveled further west, looking for rulers who wanted to support him.
Ibn Sina and the First Law of Motion
Ibn Sina had many new scientific ideas. For instance, when he was twenty, Ibn Sina was the first person we know of who realized that “impetus was proportional to weight times velocity.” This is the basic equation that describes momentum today.
What is momentum?
The First Law of Motion
He also argued that an object moving in a vacuum would keep moving without slowing down, which is also true.
Ibn Sina and chemistry
Ibn Sina also said, correctly, that scientists would never succeed in turning metals like lead or copper into gold, even though many scientists were trying to do it. But Ibn Sina found a better use for gold. He made a tube out of gold to push down the mouth into the throat. That way he could keep patients breathing if their throat had closed up.
Ibn Sina and geology
Ibn Sina published these and other scientific ideas in his Kitab al-Shifa, or Book of Cures for Ignorance, an encyclopedia. (Which I think is a very cool name!)
One part was about geology. Ibn Sina wrote about two types of rock. Today we call them igneous (though he didn’t realize they came from volcanoes) and sedimentary. He explained fossils as formed more or less the same way that sedimentary rock forms. Ibn Sina noted that fossil shells found on land showed, as Aristotle had said, that the land was once under the ocean, and that the world had existed for “ages of which we have no record.”
More about geology
And about erosion
What are sedimentary rocks?
Ibn Sina also followed Aristotle in thinking that earthquakes and erosion shaped the earth over “many ages”. Ibn Sina thought mountains formed under the ocean (where there is plenty of mud to make them out of) and then gradually eroded again into the ocean, to make new mountains. He describes layers of rock, forming through different phases of sediment.
Who was Aristotle?
Ibn Sina’s medical research
He also wrote medical textbooks. Ibn Sina suggested that something in the air made you catch diseases like measles or smallpox or tuberculosis from other people (though he didn’t know about germs, because there weren’t any microscopes yet).
What is measles?
What was smallpox?
More Islamic medicine
He also tried to understand how human bodies worked. Mostly he followed the Egyptian doctor Herophilus as reported by Galen.
Herophilus and Egyptian medicine
Galen and Roman medicine
Ibn Sina added his idea that the heart got its food from the blood in the right ventricle, but that turned out to be wrong. Our word “retina”, the back of the eye, comes from Ibn Sina’s Arabic word for it.
He ended his life as a fairly well-off man, who owned enslaved people and property. He died in Iran in 1037 AD, when he was fifty-eight years old, of some sort of digestive problem – maybe a twisted bowel. Before he died, he gave away all his stuff to charity, and freed the enslaved people who worked for him.
History of slavery
Medieval European medicine
All his books – the Book of Cures and the medical textbooks – were used by later doctors like Maimonides all over the Islamic world. Once they had been translated into Latin, his books were used all over Europe too all through the Middle Ages.
Learn by doing: laws of momentum
Leonardo da Vinci
More about Islamic science
Bibliography and further reading about Ibn Sina and medieval Islamic science:
Also this stuff is exactly why i wish we had a debate site where people of whatever beliefs can share their opinon and those that dont have beliefs as well. cause this is not the place to do those things. although the intentions might be good if Professor Carr has asked us to keep religious opinons out of the discussions then we should oblige to what she is saying. And maybe you could ask her if you could give a kid information to look up a site to give them ur point of view and Professor can give them hers but if she says no just obey.
For what it’s worth, Ibn Sina himself probably did believe that people had souls and that their souls went somewhere when they died; I’m afraid I’m not sure exactly what he would have believed.
Professor I was wondering about the same thing as Jason, whats your point of view on that.
Hi Brock: Science tells us that when we die, it’s the same as it was before we were born: the elements that made up our bodies go into the dirt and from there into new bodies, and the electricity that powered our brains dissipates into the atmosphere in the form of heat.
This is not a place to discuss religious beliefs; this site is about science and history, not religion (except for the history of religion.)
Thank for this information it will help me a lot on my up coming test
Wonderful, Abigail! I’m glad we could help!
Hey … Professer Carr… … science teaches us about The Big Bang, (If there was nothing, where did the explosion come from?) And another thing, once we die, where do we go? …
Hello, well I’m not professor Carr but I have an answer to that. Big Bang, even though it’s what science may teach us, [….] – I’ve edited this comment, because this is a site about science and knowledge, not a place for people to post their religious beliefs as if they were science. KC.
Professor I am one for a good debate and seeing as im homeschooled I was wondering if youd maybe be intrested in creating a website for debate teams I feel that you would be a good choice for the runner of the opperation with your rules and what the debates are. its just a thought.
Hi Brock! Thanks for asking, but I am busy right now running this website and also finishing up a book on the history of swimming, and I can’t take on any more projects. I hope you do find the right person though!
This will be my second year of learning about ibn sina it seems he was a very inelligent man and I have a lot of respect for the man even if we dont line up on everything he was a great man of taxonomy. I apprciate all u have done by making this website Professor Carr
Thank you, Brock! I’m glad we could help.
As someone who has lived and ministered among Muslims for more than a decade, may I say a few words on this? […] OK, I’ll stop preaching now.
Sorry friends; this is not a site for discussing or disseminating your faith, so I’ve deleted all the preaching.
Im super Mrs Karen I will listen to your polices.
I’m Professor Carr, actually, not Mrs. Karen. A university professor, not a kindergarten teacher.
ouch, Sorry Professor
… i suggest visiting the website [deleted]; it … provides plenty of evidence….
[I have cut out the rest of their comment because it is not the purpose of this website to encourage religion or fake science.]
We’ve had a lot of Christians pushing their fake science on us recently. Be warned, I’ve had enough. We will not be posting any more Christian attempts to deny scientific facts, at least not for several months. I’ll just delete them.
As I continue to grow in my faith I want to witness to those around me, but not in an argumentitive way. I know God has a plan for you and I can’t wait to see what it is.
I’m sorry, Aaron, but this conversation is over. I’m here to answer questions about science and history, not to help you try to convert people to your religion. Please do that on your own time. I won’t be posting any more of your comments along these lines.
Also to explain the shell thing. when God flooded the erth it sent things in all diffrent directions and killed anything on the earth. The fossils being oncovered, that scientest say are milions of years old, have found to be only a few thousand years.
Anyone can reply
You are free to believe whatever you want to believe, but there are mountains of data showing that the earth is millions of years old, and many Christians, including the Catholic Pope, have acknowledged that this is true. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/28/pope-says-evolution-and-creation-both-right). If I argue with you about it, it only encourages people to keep thinking these Christian arguments make sense and are equally likely to be true. It’s as if you said the sky was red, and then expected me to spend hours trying to convince you it’s really blue. If you really want to go into this further, there are plenty of books you can read about the science of the Big Bang and evolution, including many articles on this website. You can start here: https://quatr.us/physics/big-bang-space-science-physics.htm
Thanks for this awesome site, but ( and I dont mean to be rude) Being A christian is not a realigion its a real relationship with God who created the whole earth and then when we turned are backs on him sent his Son to die for us in our place. The bible is our best history book and our best way to see what God wants us to do. Science Cant prove that the earth was made millins of years ago. theres just no proof so you would have to have Faith. The bible on the other hand tells us of the things that happened around that time and historians, both christian and not have found them to be true.There are many things that they are finding that do prove that the things that happened in the bible are true. Thank you again for this site and the time you took to share with me, please tell what you think about all that I said. Thanks Again.
do you think it is true when he said ages we have no record of, because I think it was when God created the earth and thats recorded in the Bible. Whats your take
Hi Araon, Maybe what you mean is that you *believe* that God created the earth, because you have faith in the Bible? That’s what religion is, asking you to believe in things with just faith, without evidence. But science demands evidence, instead of faith. There is no evidence that God created the earth. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that the earth is, as Ibn Sina suggested, many millions of years older than the Bible seems to think it is. As Ibn Sina, saw, there’s no way in a short time to have millions of sea creatures with shells live, die, fall to the bottom of the ocean, decay leaving just their shells, have their shells compressed by the weight of the water into rock, have the oceans move so that the shell-rock (limestone) is up on dry land, and then for that limestone to slowly erode away into sand. That has to take millions of years.
You can believe as you like; your faith demands that you believe things that don’t seem to be true. But science goes the other way.
…People can say what they want and can believe what they want, no one has to listen to you….
Hi Aaron, all comments have to be approved by the moderator before they appear; we only post comments that are kind and polite, so I ‘ve had to edit yours before we posted it. I see that you didn’t like this article, but the Big Bang is not a question of belief or faith: it happened whether or not you believe in it.
As for what happens when we die, all the evidence so far suggests that the cells of our bodies are broken down by bacteria and return to the soil, just like a piece of meat would if you buried it. The electrical activity of our brains, which we experience as consciousness, stops when we die. It’s just like asking where you were before you were born.
Hi Aaron, me as a person of God, if people don’t want to believe, you don’t have to force it on them. But I am with you on that.
eh needs explosions
Maybe you’d like to read this article on gunpowder?
Cool website! I liked learning about the famous doctor! I have do this for school. I will be able to remember this more then I remember other school websites. Awsome Website!
Thank you! Wow, your comment really made my day!
ibn sina was very active man and he is one of the best doctors of medicine his idea is really amazing and i trust him very much
Yes! And many thousands of doctors and medical researchers since then owe a huge debt to his work, both in West Asia and in Europe, and all over the world.
THANKS ALOT WITH THIS GREET WORK
You’re welcome! Thank you for stopping by! We have many other pages about Islamic scientists here: https://quatr.us/islam/medieval-islamic-science.htm