(5th MILLENNIUM BC - 1940 AD.)

PhD, Professor of History

From the book: Farid Alakbarli. Medical Manuscripts of Azerbaijan, Baku, HAF, 2006

SkullLeft: Skull of the Stone Age with traces of trepanation, found in the village of Chalaganpepe (Agdam district). 5th millennium BC. National Museum of the History of Azerbaijan, Baku.

Azerbaijan is a country at the crossroads of numerous cultures, religions and civilizations. Therefore, ancient Azerbaijani medicine was influenced by various healing systems, such as Turkic, Iranian, Semitic and Greek medicine. Ancient inhabitants of Azerbaijan had certain knowledge in the field of medicine. Archeological excavations at the Chalaghan-Tepe site in Azerbaijan have revealed a human skull with traces of trepanning, which dates back to the 5th millennium BC. Similar skulls were found also in Ukraine and some other countries. The surgical operation was performed with a stone knife. This fact proves that early doctors from Azerbaijan attempted difficult surgical operations.


During the 4th-1st millennia BC, healing practices in ancient Azerbaijani tribes of Guti, Lullu (Lullubi) and Mannai were influenced by Sumerian, Acadian, Babylonian and Assyrian medicine. This process became even more intensive in 2200 BC, when the warlike Guti tribe from Western Azerbaijan, conquered Mesopotamia and ruled it during a century [28]. 

As a result, Gutis became familiar with Akkadian and Sumerian medicine. Thousands of cuneiform medical texts were collected in temples and palaces in ancient Mesopotamia. [18] Who were ancient Mesopotamians? Sumerians spoke a specific language, which slightly resembles the Caucasian and Ural-Altaic languages, including modern Azeri. [10] It is an agglutinative language; in other words, morphemes (word-units) are added (usually as suffixes) to modify the meaning of words. The Guti-Lullubi languages were very specific (non-Iranian and non-Semitic), too [15].

The Guti tribes from Azerbaijan widely used such medical and aromatic herbs which the Sumerians and Acadians had used such as lavender, laden, myrrh, sesame, dates, saffron, onion, garlic. Some massage and medical oils were imported by the Gutis from ancient Egypt, Syria and Palestine. Mesopotamian diseases are often blamed on pre-existing spirits: gods, ghosts, etc., and each spirit was held responsible for only one disease in any one part of the body. Many Mesopotamian goods were revered in Azerbaijan and neighboring areas of Asia Minor. Ancient mythologies tell stories of diseases that were put in the world by supernatural forces. One such figure was Lamashtu the daughter of the supreme god Anu, a terrible she-demon of disease and death. It was also recognized that various organs could simply malfunction, causing illness. Medicinal remedies used as cures were specifically used to treat the symptoms of the disease, and are clearly distinguished from mixes or plants used as offerings to such spirits. [20]

Cuneiform tabletLeft: Cuneiform tablet containing 15 recipes. This text was written in the Sumerian language at the end of the III millennium BC.

There were two distinct types of professional medical practitioners in ancient Mesopotamia. The first type of practitioner is called ashipu, who in older texts is identified as a sorcerer or the witch doctor. One of the most important roles of the ashipu was to diagnose the ailment. In the case of internal diseases or difficult cases the ashipu determined which god or demon was causing the illness. He also attempted to determine if the disease was the result of some error or sin on the part of the patient. He prescribed charms and spells that were designed to drive out the spirit causing the disease. The ashipu could also refer the patient to a different type of healer called anasu. He was a specialist in herbal remedies, and in texts is frequently called "physician" because he dealt with empirical applications of medication. For example in case of wounds the asu applied washing, bandaging, and making plasters. The knowledge of the asu in making plasters is of particular interest. [20]

Later, Gutis and Lullubis created a number of little kingdoms in Eastern and Western Azerbaijan including Mannai, Andia, Uishdish, Gilzan, and Allabria. [4, 7, 13] Medicine in Mannai (9th-6th centuries BC) had common features with Assyrian medicine. According to Assyrian sources, fruits, cereals and medicinal herbs were sent to Nineveh from the mountains of Azerbaijan. Therefore, some Assyrian medicines were created on the basis of herbs, wine and oils, which were imported from Mannai and other small states of present-day Eastern Azerbaijan (Iran).

The bulk of the tablets that do mention medical practices widespread in Mesopotamia, Azerbaijan and Western Iran have survived from the library of Asshurbanipal at Nineveh (668 BC) Assyria. So far 660 medical tablets from this library and 420 tablets from the library of a medical practitioner from Neo-Assyrian period, as well as Middle Assyrian and Middle Babylonian texts have been published. The vast majority of these tablets are prescriptions, but there are a few series of tablets that have been labeled "treatises". One of the oldest and the largest collections is known as "Treatise of Medical Diagnosis and Prognoses." The text consists of 40 tablets collected and studied by the French scholar R. Labat.

Assyrian medicine had a great impact on the healing practices in this region. However, in the mountainous areas, Guti and Lullubi used their own folk treatment methods applying herbs, milk products and spices soaked in wine. Herbal wines were used against indigestion, diarrhea, weakness and other diseases.


During the 1st millennium BC, a number of Iranian tribes from Central Asia moved to Azerbaijan, settled here and gradually mixed with local population. [19] They introduced Arian traditions of healing. As a result, medicine in Azerbaijan was enriched by new elements. Now, it was based not only on the Lullubi-Guti and Mesopotamian medical traditions, but also on Iranian healing practices. This syncretism in medicine dominated in the Median (Mede, Mada, Madai) state, which existed in Eastern Azerbaijan and Central Iran in the 7th-6th century BC.

During rule of the king Kiaksar, Medes created the Median Empire which included the entire Iran and Babylonia and bordered with Asia Minor in the West and Afghanistan in the East. It was the greatest state of that time. [11] Therefore, Media and Medes are mentioned in the Bible. In this period, medical theory was based on the Zoroastrian conception of four holy elements (fire, water, earth and air). Thus, the teaching about the four Holy elements originated by the Zoroastrians deeply influenced the Greek philosophy. [16, 31]

In the period of 6th-5th centuries BC, these scholarly doctrines were adopted and developed by such great Greek scholars as Empedocles, Heraclites and Hippocrates. [7, 8, 9] According to Mary Boyce: "Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any othersingle faith." [5]

Zoroastrian priestLeft: Clothing of Zoroastrian priest, resembling a white medical gown of modern doctors.

Zoroastrianism was so influential in Azerbaijan that almost all medieval Arabian and Persian historians including Yakut al-Hamavi (1179-1229) and others considered Azerbaijan as the native land of Zoroaster. For example, Yakut al-Hamawi writes: “Shiz is a province in Azerbaijan. It is believed that Shiz is the native land of Zoroaster, the Prophet of fireworshipers. The main city is Urmiya… There is a much respected Temple of Fire in Urmiya where fire-worshippers from East and West lit their fires…” [32]

Median priests recommended cleanliness and ritual hygiene which played a great role in the prevention of diseases. They also refrained from contaminating the four elements. Medes would not bathe nor wash dirty objects in flowing water, and urinating or spitting into water was considered a great sin. Materials that were foul smelling or that generated smoke were never thrown into the fire, and the fire-holder was always kept clean. Wild rue and frankincense were always burned inside houses and around the neighborhood so the air would smell good, and insects and bacteria would die. These customs are still practiced by Azerbaijanis, Persians and other nations, with some people also burning wild rue to repel envy and to cure the sick [20].

In the 6th century BC, Media was conquered by Persian Achaemenids but remained an important center of religion, science and medicine of the Achaemenid Empire. During this period, there were professional doctors in Azerbaijan. According to legends the first physician in the world was named Thrita. Often, payment often was made by natural products, not by money. Wealthy patients were obliged to pay more than poor people.

The main treatment methods included surgery, medicinal herbs and magic ("word, herbs and knife" in Avesta). The medical disciplines as expounded in the Avesta, were divided into five branches (Ordibehesht Yasht - Vandidad), as follows:  1) "Ashoo Pezeshk" (health sciences); 2) "Daad Pezeshk" (medical examination); 3) "Kard Pezeshk" (surgery); 4) "Gyaah Pezeshk" (herbal medicine) 5) "Mantreh Pezeshk" (psychiatry, cure by prayers and divine words).

Verse 6 of the Ordibehesht Yasht stated: "One of the physicians cures by "Ashaa" (cleansing), another by "Ghanoon" (law), another with "Kard" (knife), another with "Gyaah" (plants), another with divine words (mantreh) ... " [2]

Achaemenid made Babylon one of their major capitals and extensively used the texts at the temple libraries. The archives indicate that physicians and midwives who delivered boys were paid double the amount they got when the baby delivered was a girl. The records do not indicate severe punishments if the sick person died, as was the case under Hammurabi. Texts also show lists of plants, herbs and other substances used for medicinal purposes. Drugs are taken internally; mercury, antimony, arsenic, sulfur and animal fats are also prescribed. All are basically the same as Babylonian medicine and prescriptions. Greek medicine became famous during the Age of Hellenism.

After the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire in 4th century BC, the territory of the present day Azerbaijan gained its sovereignty under the name Adarbadegan or Adurbadegan (early version of the name "Azerbaijan"). The Greek name was Atropatene because Atropates was the first king of this state. [25]

It was a Hellenistic state ruled by the local Zoroastrian dynasty of Atropatids. During this period, development of medicine in Azerbaijan was characterized by two trends. On the one hand, Greek physicians like Erasistrates (circa 315-220 BC) repeatedly visited Media to collect medical information, and books by Hippocrates and Galen were wide-spread in this region. On the other hand, Atropatids and local Zoroastrian priests tried to limit dissemination of Greek medicine and culture in Azerbaijan.

During the rule of Persian Sasanids (2nd-6th centuries AD), the King's Temple of Zoroastrians (Azergushnasp Temple) was established in Shiz (Gazaka, Ganjak) city in present day Eastern Azerbaijan. Priests were involved in medical practices. Zoroastrians believed that physical health was related to spiritual and religious purity. "Good thought, good word and good deed!" is an expression from the Avesta, the ancient religious book of Zoroastrians [2]. Ancient Azerbaijanis were concerned not only with the health of human beings, but also with the "health" of Nature (air, water, soil, fire). Pollution of environment was strongly prohibited.

In the north of Azerbaijan (Caucasian Albania or Arran) the ancient pagan cults and Zoroastrianism were replaced with Christianity in the 4th century AD, when teaching of Jesus Christ was declared the state religion of the Caucasian Albania kingdom. As a result, the Byzantine medicine became known here. A famous historian of the Caucasian Albania, Moses of Kalankatuy wrote in his "History of Albania" (7th c. AD): "One can be wise if he earnestly learns various sciences, such as mathematics, agronomy and medicine..." [12]


Turkic shamanic tambourineLeft: Ancient Turkic shamanic tambourine, used in magic rituals, including with the purpose of treating patients.

During the first centuries of the Christian era, Turkic tribes such as Bulgars, Savirs, Khazars and Huns played an ever growing role in the cultural and political life of the region. After the 4th century AD, Turkic folk medicine - shamanism, treatment with magic and medicinal herbs-began to spread throughout Azerbaijan. Healers were named "Gam" (shamans) or "Otachi" (herbalists), while medicines were called "Ota" (from "ot" - herb). Later, the Turkic impact on Azerbaijani traditional medicine became even stronger. That is why folk medicine in medieval Azerbaijan is often called "Turkachara" (Türkəçarə - Turkic healing).

During the 3rd-6th centuries, medical treatment related with Turkic shamanism was widespread among nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of Azerbaijan such as Bulgar and Khazar. This was a healing method related to ritual dances and songs (“qam oyunu" in Azeri Turkic). Shamans (qam) used special ecstatic performances to expel malicious spirits from the diseased person's body. Such procedures could render a psychological or hypnotic effect and often really relaxed the patient, removed psychological tension and treated some nervous diseases. Musical accompaniment on tambourine and gopuz (a stringed instrument), and, sometimes, narcotic plants like henbane and fly agaric were applied to enhance the psychological effect.

The word Tengri (God)Left: The word "Tengri" ("God"), written by the ancient Türkic runic alphabet.

Turkic phytotherapy also was popular in Azerbaijan. According to ancient Turkic beliefs, all medicinal herbs were created by Tangry (Tanrı, Tengri, Tangrı) who was the Supreme God of the Blue Sky. The Goddessn of Grasses and Trees, Oleng (Öləng), was his wife. She was also considered to be the patron of life,  trees, herbs, physicians, children and pregnant women. [23]

After the 7th century, the cult of Oleng in Azerbaijan was replaced with the belief in Khidir Ilyas (Xıdır İlyas - Green Elias) – the patron saint of life, water, health and healing. A quotation from epic Dada Gorgud (Dədə Qorqud - Grandfather Gorgud) [14] says:

Boz atlı Xıdr mənə gəldi,
Üç kərə yaramı sığadı,
Bu yaradan sənə  ölüm yoxdur - dedi.

Khidir has approached me
on a grey horse. He has stroked
my wound three times. "You wil
not die of this wound" he said.

Mother's milk was considered the best remedy. One scene describing how medicinal herbs with mother's milk were used to heal a lad who had been wounded comes from the ancient Azerbaijani epic Dada Gorgud, a compilation of legends that were set down in writing during the 16th century but contains stories that can be traced back to the 6th and 7th centuries:

Qırx incə qız yayıldı,
Dağ  çiçəyi döşürdülər…
Dağ çiçəyi ilə südü qarışdırıb
Oğlanı həkimlərə ısmarlayıb…

Forty shapely girls ran, gathered
flowers from the mountains,
mixed them with mother's milk,
rubbed this mixture on the wounds
of the youth and left him
with the healers.

Some other pieces of ancient Azeri folklore were devoted to medicinal plants. For example, short folk verses named "bayati" contain information about healing properties of yarpiz (yarpız -water mint), uzerlik (üzərlik - harmel), zoghal (zoğal - cornel), yemishan (yemişan - hawthorn), etc.

Əzizinəm yemişan,
Yemi şirin, yemi şan,
Sağalmışam, durmuşam,
Yaşa səni yemişan.

I am your friend, Hawthorn,
Sweet food, honorable food,
I have recovered, I have risen,
Live long Hawthorn.

Üzərliksən, havasan,
Min bir dərdə davasan,
Balama göz dəyənin,
Gözlərini ovasan.

You are [necessary like] air, Harmel,
You cure 1001 diseases,
Prick out the eyes of the person,
Whose evil eye bewitched my child.

Usually, wounds were treated by such herbs as spearmint (nanə), water mint (yarpız), chamomile (çobanyastığı), which are known to have antiseptic and healing properties. Bitter wormwood (acı yovşan) is a popular herb against indigestion, lack of appetite and worms.

Turks in ancient Azerbaijan and Central Asia believed that the God of the Black Road (Qara Yol Tanrısı) treated wounds and fractures. A quotation from the early medieval "Irk Bitik" (Book of Fortunetelling) [31] treatise says:

Qara yol tanrısıyam,
Sınığını birləşdirirəm,
Əzilmişlərini calaşdırıram.

I am the God of Black Road,
I treat fractures and I put together,
the thorn off parts [of body].

Medical cauterization was used to disinfect wounds and stop bleeding. Usually, this procedure was performed with a burning piece of cloth. Early medieval Dada Qorqud epic  [51] informs how a wounded hero Garajig Choban treats his wounds with cauterization:

Qaracıq çoban çaxmaq çaxıb
od yaxdı, kəpənəyindən,
qurumsu edib yarasına basdı.

Qarajig Choban... lit a fire with flint,
made a compress from his shirt,
and pressed upon his wound.

In ancient Azerbaijan, surgical disorders were cured by physicians named Sinigchi (sınıqçı - fracture healers). Healing ointments from animal fat, including the fat of wolf, fox, cow, sheep's tail (quyruq yağı) were used as compresses to heal bruises and dislocations. Fresh dough was applied on bruised places to remove tumors, pain and inflammation. Compresses made of cow or horse manure were used against rheumatic pains, while urine was considered one of the best antiseptic remedies for infectious diseases of the skin.

Fractures were treated with a special diet, too. Very rich, thick and sticky soup from legs and heads of sheep or cow was named "bashayag" (başayaq - "heads-and-legs"), khash (xaş) or kallapacha (kəlləpaça). Sinigchi in Azerbaijan prescribed eating bashayag regularly for fractures of bones. Usually, bashayag was eaten with garlic, vinegar and yogurt. Turkic tribes in Azerbaijan widely used various dairy products such as kumis (qımız – light alcoholic drink from sour milk), yogurt, ayran (yogurt mixed with water and salt) to treat various diseases. Kumis was recommended in treatment of tuberculosis, bronchitis and asthma. Yogurt was known as an excellent remedy against indigestion and diarrhea. Hot horse milk was used to treat cough and fever. Ayran was famous as the best remedy against diarrhea and thirst. Gurud (qurud - dry salted quark) was used to promote digestion, while suzma (süzmə) - squeezed yogurt) was used to treat persons suffering from diseases of liver.

Early laryngologists in Azerbaijan were named Chopchu (çöpçü). This word derives from the Azeri Turkic "chop" (çöp) - a mote. These healers were specialized in clearing the throat from remains of food and little bones. It was believed that little pieces of food which stuck in the throat could cause serious diseases in all parts of the body: heart, stomach, head, teeth, kidney, liver.

Turks attached great importance to a healthy life style and to physical training. They spent their life on horseback and constantly participated in horse racing (cıdır), fencing (qılınc oynatmaq), wrestling (güləş) and bow shooting (ox atmaq) competitions.

ISLAMIC MEDICINE (7th c. -1813 AD)

New era in medicine began after the invasion of Arabs and the spread of Islam in Azerbaijan. The development of various sciences, including medicine in Azerbaijan, occurred when Islam was introduced (7th century AD).

The great empire created by Arabs and named Khalifat rapidly merged various cultures of the Islamic domain. Since then, the Azeri, Turkish, Persian, Indian, Greek, Arabic, Turkish schools of medicine deeply influenced each other. Various scientific traditions located within the boundaries of this common empire led to an unprecedented era of mixing infusion in all branches of science. [84] Arabic, the language in which the Holy Koran had been written, gradually became the official language of culture and science, including medicine. This facilitated understanding between Azerbaijani physicians and those from various eastern countries. By the 10th century, a single language linked peoples from Spain to India. Since then, the Arabic language became for Azerbaijan what Latin and Greek had been to the West - the language of literature, the arts and sciences, and the common tongue of the educated.

Canon by Ibn SinaLeft: The manuscript of the "Canon" by Ibn Sina, kept in Baku. It was copied in Bagdad in 1143 AD. The Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

The blossoming of original thought in Azerbaijan science began as the tenth century drew towards an end.  Famous Central Asian scholar Abu Ali Ibn Sina (980-1037 AD) repeatedly visited Azerbaijan during his stay in Hamadan - a city between Southern (Iranian) Azerbaijan and Central Persia. Namely in Hamadan was written the main part of “Canon of Medicine”, the greatest book in the history of medicine. Ibn Sina had many students from Azerbaijan, and he mentions in his Canon that he visited the Azerbaijani town of Saburkhast to examine the quality of the local water.

Many interesting scientific concepts concerning medicine we can find in "at-Tahsil" by the great Azerbaijan philosopher Bahmanyar al-Azerbaijani (died. 1065/6 AD). Medieval biographer Ali bin Zeyd al-Beyhaki wrote about him: "Philosopher Bahmanyar, a sage and student of Abu Ali (Avicenna), Zoroastrian, and native of Azerbaijan. He investigated the most involved questions of philosophy..." [16] In his philosophic works, Bahmanyar touched upon some questions of biology and medicine. Like Ibn Sina, he was a follower of Aristotle in science.

The well-known pharmacist Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Namvar Tabrizi (1194-1245 AD) was born in Azerbaijan in the city of Tabriz. He is the author of the famous book entitled "Adwar al-Hammiyat" (The Medicines against Fever). The book by Abu Abdullah contains descriptions of more than 500 medicines arranged in alphabetical order. He widely used books by Abubakir Razi, Ibn Sina and other great physicians and scholars.

The books by Abubakir Razi, including “Al-Havi fi al-Tibb” (Comprehensive Book on Medicine) and “Mansuri fi al-Tibb” (Winner in Medicine) were especially popular in medieval Azerbaijan.

Medical Centers of the Middle AgesLeft: Large medical centers of medieval Azerbaijan and neighboring regions.

During the 8th-14th c. AD, a number of clinics were established in three large historical areas of Azerbaijan Major Dar al-Shifa medical center (13th-14th centuries) in Tabriz and about 67 large hospitals in various cities of Western Azerbaijan, Eastern Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan provinces of the present-day Iran. Pharmacy factory in Gabala (8th c. AD) and numerous public hospitals and pharmacies in the cities of Ganja, Barda , Beylagan and other settlements of  ARRAN (western part of the present- day Azerbaijan Republic) Malham Medical Academy (12th century) in the city of Shamakhi and a number of clinics in Darband, Shabran, Baku and other cities of SHIRVAN (Eastern part of present-day Azerbaijan Republic).

Southern Azerbaijan and Arran were ruled by the Turkic atabeys (kings) of the Eldaniz (Ildenizid, Eldiguzid) dynasty, while Shirvan was ruled by Shirvanshahs of the local Kesrani dynasty from the 6th century.

Tabriz and Ganja, the capitals of atabeys were the largest cities in the Muslim world. Thus, in those times, the population of Tabriz was about 200,000, while population of Ganja approached 700 000. Approximately 120 000 residents lived in Shamakhi, the capital of Shirvan (northern-eastern Azerbaijan). It must be noted that during this period, the population of the largest European towns such as Paris, London and Florence did not exceed 20,000 to 30,000 people.

Eldanizids were a Seljuk dynasty, which represented the Oguz brunch of Turkic family. Such Eldanizid rulers as Shamsaddin Eldaniz (1136-1174 AD), Abu Jafar Muhammad Jahan Pahlavan (1174-1186 AD), Kizil Arslan (1186-1191 AD), Atabey Abubakir (1191-1210 AD) and Atabey Ozbek (1210- 1225 AD) promoted the development of medicine in Azerbaijan.

Pharmaceutical vessels

Above: Pharmaceutical vessels (12th-13th centuries), found during
excavations in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. National Museum of History of Azerbaijan.

During the rule of Eldanizids, numerous hospitals and pharmacies appeared in Tabriz. These hospitals, or Dar al-Shifa (House of Healing), bore little resemblance to European clinics of those times. Thus, the Christian church in the Medieval Europe taught that soul is more important than body and, there fore, medical treatment was not valued much. On the contrary, medieval hospitals in Azerbaijan were places where the sick could be treated and cured by physicians.  Physicians who worked in various Dar al-Shifa tried to heal their patients by means of natural medicines and their mixtures. In addition, a number of medical schools and libraries were attached to the largest hospitals. [80]

Azerbaijani scholars used to write medical books in Azeri Turkic, Arabic and Persian. Manuscripts were copied by calligraphers, bound with leather and decorated with colored drawings of medicinal herbs, animals and minerals. Among the scientists and physicians who lived and worked in Southern Azerbaijan during 11th-12th centuries we should emphasize the names of Abu Said Tabrizi, Abdulla al-Urmavi and Safiaddin al-Urmavi. [79]

Medicine developed also in Shirvan (Northern Azerbaijan). One of the large hospitals was situated in the district of Malham nearby Shamakhi, the capital of Shirvan. The founder and chief of hospital, Kafiaddin Omar was the uncle of the great Azerbaijani poet Khagani Shirvani (1120-1199 AD). Kafiaddin also founded a special medical school where he taught students to treat various ailments with natural remedies. [71]

In this school, students learned Arabic, Persian, Greek and other foreign languages. Such hospitals were founded not only in Azerbaijan, but also in different countries of the Muslim East. The Ibn Tulun Hospital and Mansuri Hospital of Egypt, the Adudi Hospital of Baghdad, and the Nuri Hospital of Morocco were very famous. The shahs, khalifs and rulers paid special attention to their organization, regularly visited them, and personally inspected the state of affairs in them as well as inquired about the condition of patients.

device for distillationFragment of the device for distillation of essential oils (8th-9th cc), found during excavations of the ancient city of Gabala (ancient Kabala, the capital of the Caucasian Albania) in the northwest of the Republic of Azerbaijan. National Museum of History of Azerbaijan.

A medieval pharmaceutical factory with numerous technical appliances for producing medicines was found during archeological excavations in the Kabala Fortress, the former capital of the Caucasian Albania (northern-western part of the present day Azerbaijan Republic). This factory dated back to the 8th-9th century AD. Numerous jars and bottles for medicines and a special appliance for distillation of essential oils from medicinal plants were discovered.

In 1220 AD, Mongolian troops captured Azerbaijan. They destroyed a number of towns, villages, hospitals and libraries. All independent states in the south of Azerbaijan ceased to exist. Shirvan was also destroyed, but was able to preserve its statehood as a vassal of the Mongolians. Many scholars were killed during this war but the development of culture did not stop.

Curiously, the great achievements in science including medicine occurred namely in the Mongolian Period. The prominent Azerbaijani scholar, physician and philosopher Nasiraddin Tusi was born in 1201 in Tus, east of Iran. As a scientist and all-around genius, he is known for many things: founding an observatory in Maragha (the Azerbaijani cultural center in present-day Iran), interpreting and developing the mathematics of Euclid, predicting the existence of land west of the Atlantic Ocean as well as writing more than 80 influential books in Arabic and Persian about medicine, astronomy, geometry, geography, physics, law, history, philosophy, logic and ethics. Tusi is the author by “Risalyi-Tibb” (Medical Treatise) and “Javahirname” (Mineral Cures). Today he is highly revered and honored in Azerbaijan, and several education institutions are named after him, including the Tusi Pedagogical Institute in Baku. Descendants of Tusi still live in Baku, Nakhchivan and Ordubad cities of the Azerbaijan Republic.

What few people know, however, is that during studying medicine and anatomy Tusi also developed a basic theory of evolution - more than 600 years before Charles Darwin. This theory appears in Tusi's popular work "Akhlagi Nasiri" (Nasirean Ethics), a treatise on ethics in the Greek tradition built upon the 11th century "Tahdhib al-Akhlag of Ibn Miskawayh", which Tusi drafted in prison while being held by the Assassins, a religious terrorist group. He later revised it for his Mongol master Hulaku khan (the Mongolian occupation led to his release from prison). "Nasirean Ethics" was translated into English by G.M. Wickens and published by George Allen & Unwin in 1964. [83]

"Akhlagi Nasiri" is about the perfection of humans. Tusi divides this perfection into two parts - material and spiritual perfection. He uses the term "takamul", which means "perfection" in Arabic. In modern Azeri, this same term now means "evolution". Various evolutionary ideas existed before Tusi's time, as shown in the folklore and religious beliefs of certain Oriental peoples, including the Babylonians, Egyptians and Medes. However, these ideas were more mythological than scientific. They were later adopted and expanded upon by ancient Greek scholars such as Empedocles (490-430 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC). Aristotle wrote: "Nature gradually, step by step, develops from inanimate substances to living creatures." Muslim scholars such as Abu Reihan Biruni (972-1048), Ibn Bajja (1070-1138) and Ibn Tufail (1110-1185) later tried to develop Aristotle's evolutionary views.

Tusi used their works as the basis for a chapter of "Akhlagi-Nasiri", foreshadowing the theories of European scientists like Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) and Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Tusi believed that a body of matter is able to change, but is not able to entirely disappear. He wrote: "A body of matter cannot disappear completely. It only changes its form, condition, composition, color and other properties and turns into a different complex or elementary matter." [29]

Tusi believed that God created the world, and that after creation occurred, the world developed on its own, while God supervises and guides this process. Therefore, many scholars consider Tusi's views as an allegory about the perfection of the human soul, not as naturalistic theory.

The famous physician and historian Rashid al-Din (1247-1317) was born in Hamadan (Iran), and resided and worked in Tabriz, the capital of Southern Azerbaijan at the time. Son of a Jewish doctor he embraced Islam at the age of 30. Rashidaddin was a physician to Ilkhan Abaqa (1265-81), the Mongolian ruler of Azerbaijan, possibly the steward to the Ilkhan Geikhatu (1291-1295), and as financial advisor to Abaqa's grandson, Gazan (1295-1304). He was commissioned by the latter to write a history of the Mongols and their conquests, which he completed during the reign of Oljeitu Khan (1307-1316).

Rasidaddin founded a suburb of Tabriz, the Ilkhanid capital of Azerbaijan, named after himself the Rab' i-Rashidi, or "Suburb of Rashid. The Rab' i-Rashidi was enclosed in the great wall, 25,000 paces in circumference, which Ghazan Khan had erected to serve as a customs barrier. It lay on the slopes of Mt. Valiyan, was built at the personal expense of Rashid al-Din, and its endowment provided for Koran readers, theologians, a physician, a surgeon and 12 medical students. The suburb contained hospitals, mosques, markets, a bath and a library - in which Rashid al-Din set up a system to produce as many copies of his works as possible in order to guard against oblivion. He even had some of his shorter works, on medicine and government, translated into Chinese. Anyone who wished was given access to his works and encouraged to copy them. In order to facilitate this, he set aside a fund to pay for the annual transcription of two complete manuscripts of his works, one in Arabic and one in Persian.

During this period, a major medical, scientific and educational center named Dar al-Shifa (House of Healing) was established in Tabriz. It was a large complex of various hospitals, schools and scientific institutions, including observatory. Here, physicians from China, Egypt, India, Greece, Crete and other countries worked side by side with Azerbaijani scientists. Every year, 6,000 -7,000 students from various countries studied the medicine and other sciences at this university.

However, it was not the only large hospital in our country. During the 13-14th centuries, there were 67 large hospitals and numerous apothecaries in the southern part of Azerbaijan. Among the scholars who lived and worked in this period we should name Yusif ibn Ismail Khoyi (also known as Ibn Kabir). For a long time, he was regarded as one of the most popular scientists and pharmacists of medieval Muslim World. Khoyi was born in the middle of the 13th century in the town of Khoy which belonged to the large economic and cultural centers of Azerbaijan. After the youth spent in his home land he left for Baghdad where he became the court physician of khalifs.

His major work entitled "Ma la Yasa' al-Tabib Jahlahu" (Necessary Things for a Doctor So as Not to Increase His Ignorance) often referred to by its shortened title "Jam al-Baghdadi" (Baghdad Collection) was written in Arabic in 1311. Several thousand medicinal plants are described in this comprehensive pharmacopoeia. Descriptions of all medicines are listed in alphabetical order and include names of plants, animals and minerals in Arabic, Persian, Azeri, Turkish, Greek, Hindu and other languages.

Ali Ansari's Manuscript

Above: the images of medicinal plants in "Ikhtiyarati-Badi'i" by Ali Ansari (Zeynalabdin Attar), 1369 AD.
The Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

Many medieval authors held this book in high esteem. For example, Ali ibn Huseyn Ansari (Haji Zeynalabdin Attar, 1329-1404 AD) cites Ibn Kabir's work in his “Ikhtiyarati-Badii” book, which was very popular in Medieval Azerbaijan. Muhammad Mumin (died in 1697 AD), the court physician of Suleiman Shah Safavi wrote: "To compile the book on pharmacology, I have used the most informative and reliable books, such as "Jami al-Baghdadi" by Ibn Kabir”. [17]

Yusif bin Ismail (Ibn Kabir) also used books written by his predecessors. In particular, he drew up information from the book entitled "Jam al-Adwiyya" (Collection of Medicines) by Ibn al-Beythar al-Malagi al-Andalusi (13th century), the famous Arabian physician from Andalusia. This book was valued as Islamic medicine's largest book on pharmacology.

As distinct from the book by Ibn al-Beythar, the book of Ibn Kabir is more compact and convenient for practical use. That is why it was so popular in the medieval Muslim East. The handwritten translation of "Jam' al-Baghdadi" from Arabic into Persian is kept in the Institute of Manuscripts of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.

The famous physician Mahmud bin Ilyas (14th century) is the author of the work titled "Kitab al-Havi fi Ilm al-Madawi" (The Comprehensive Book about Medicine). This is a comprehensive, 1200-page book describing fundamental ideas about medicine, symptoms and causes of specific diseases, and treatments. Ilyas gained his experience while living in Tabriz (medieval capital of Azerbaijan) and Shiraz (South of Iran), and while traveling to various countries. He wrote "Elm al-Tibb" (About Science of Medicine), then he compiled the following books: "Mukhtasar al-Tibb" (Abbreviated Book on Medicine"), "Inayat fi al-Tibb" (Medical Service), "Ghiyasiyya" (Helpful [Book]).

Azerbaijan has rich oil resources. During the middle Ages, not only herbs and animal, but also mineral oil was used with medical purposes. Azerbaijanis have known how to distill oil since the early centuries AD. Thirteenth - century geographer Ibn Bekran writes that oil was distilled in Baku in order to minimize its bad smell and make it more appropriate for medicinal applications.

Marco Polo wrote in the 13th century that the excellent Baku oil was used for illuminating houses and treating skin diseases. Azerbaijani geographer Abd al-Rashid Bakuvi (14th-15th centuries) noted that up to 200 camel bales of oil were exported from Baku every day. Since a single "camel bale" is the equivalent of approximately 300 kg of oil, this would have meant a regular supply of 60,000 kg of oil per day. It was believed that oil has anti-inflammatory and healing properties.

According to Hamdullah Gazvini (14th century), workers used to fill the oil wells with water so that the oil would rise to the surface. Then the oil was collected in leather bags made from the skins of Caspian seals. In 1669, scholar Muhammad Mu'min likewise noted that these types of leather bags were being used for the storage and transportation of refined medical oil.

Manuscript by FeyziLeft: The manuscript of "Rasaili-Mushfiyya" ("Treatises on Healing") - a collection of medical treatises in Turkish, 18th AD. The Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

In the 14th century, Azerbaijan rid itself of the Mongolian yoke, and the country was ruled by the following Turkic Azeri dynasties: Karakoyunlu (1406-1467 AD), Akkoyunlu (1467 -1502 AD) and Safavi (1502-1722 AD). These rulers contributed a great deal to the foundation of hospitals and development of medicine in Azerbaijan.

Thus, Sultan Yakub Akkoyunlu (1478-1490 AD) built a large hospital nearby his "Yeddi Jannat" (Seven Heavens) palace in Tabriz. About 1,000 patients could be treated in this hospital at any given time. He also established an apothecary where patients could buy diff e rent medicines, including exotic plants brought from India and China.

Among the valuable books written during this period, we should point out "Siraj al-Tibb" (Light of Medicine) by Hasan bin Riza Shirvani. This book was written in Shirvan and devoted to pharmacology. The author described a number of medicines with complex composition (murakkabat).

Another famous physician, Murtuza Gulu Khan Shamlu, was the ruler (amir) of the city of Ardabil, which was a large cultural center and the former capital of Azerbaijan. He wrote the book titled "Khirga" (Clothes of Dervish) in 1678 AD which was devoted to sexology and gynecology.

During the Middle Ages, there were free of charge charity medical service in Azerbaijan. In 1660s, the famous French traveler Jean Chardin visited our country. According to Chardin there were three very clean and accurate public hospitals in Tabriz. All patients were provided with free breakfast and dinner. Therefore, people called them “clinics feeding the poor”. However, patients were not allowed to stay there for a long time.

Other French traveler Jean Baptist Tavernier repeatedly visited Azerbaijan during 1632-1668. He writes that wealthy people here invited physicians to their homes, while poor people visited physicians themselves. Doctor examined and treated poor patients for free, but charged them for medicines.

Manuscript by IravaniLeft: The manuscript of "Favaid al-Hikmat" ("Benefit of Wisdom") by Haji Suleyman Iravani, 18th AD. The Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

A famous book on pharmacology was written in the 18th century by Haji Suleyman bin Salman Qajar Iravani. This scholar was born in the town of Iravan (modern Yerevan), the center of Chukhur-Saad province of Safavid state. This town populated mainly by Azerbaijanis was known as a large center of culture and science. Two manuscripts of "Favaid al-Hikmat" (Benefit of Wisdom) by Haji Suleyman Iravani are kept in the Institute of Manuscripts in Baku. In addition, handwritten copies of this book are treasured in various foreign countries, including Iran.

"Favaid al-Hikmat" by Haji Suleyman Iravani is devoted to description of simple medicines (mufradat). The book contains two parts: the first part describes simple medicines that are arranged in alphabetical order. The second part contains terminological glossary on pharmacology. "Favaid al-Hikmat" was well-known as a serious and informative book on pharmacy and medicine.

Manuscript by MaraghayiLeft: The manuscript of "Mualijati-Munfarida" by Abulhasan Maraghayi, 1775/6 AD. The Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

The universal medical book named "Mualijat-i Munfarida" (Exceptional Treatment, 1775/6 AD) was written by Abu al- Hasan al-Maragi. This author was born in the town of Maraga in the Southern Azerbaijan. The observatory and scientific center founded in Maraga in the 13th century were well known throughout the whole Muslim East.

During the 17-18th centuries, a number of medical books in Azeri Turkic were written. Among them are such books as the anonymous "Tibbname" (Book of Medicine, 17th AD), "Nuskhajat" (Recipes, 18th AD), "Tibbi-Jalinus" (Medicine of Galen, 18th AD). Tibbname was copied and supplied with commentaries by the physician Muhammad Yusif Shirvani in 1711-1712. [21, 22]

RUSSIAN EMPIRE (1813-1917)

In the 18th AD, as a result of endless wars between local khanates (small kingdoms in Azerbaijan), many hospitals and apothecaries were ruined, and medicine declined. In this period, Azerbaijan experienced deep political, economical and cultural crisis. Therefore, in the beginning of the 19th century, northern part of Azerbaijan (present-day Azerbaijan Republic) was easily conquered by Russian army, while the southern part (present-day Iranian Azerbaijan) was ruled  by Iran. This division of Azerbaijan was confirmed by the Gulistan (1813 AD) and Turkmenchay (1828 AD) treatises which were signed between Russia and Iran.

Since then, in Northern (Russian) Azerbaijan began the intensive process of Europeization in all spheres of life, science, culture and healthcare. During the Russian rule in 1813-1918, Western clinics were opened throughout the country, and European medicine began to spread quickly. However, traditional medicine did not disappear, since in this period there were both Oriental and European clinics and apothecaries in Azerbaijan.

Hasan bey ZardabiRight: Hasan bey Zardabi.

Hasan bey Zardabi (1837-1907) was the Azerbaijani teacher and scholar who tried to introduce the Western medicine, agriculture and science in Azerbaijan. With this purpose he founded the scientific-popular newspaper in Azeri entitled “Akinchi” ("Agrarian", 1875), where he discussed different scientific and social issues. In 1860s, Zardabi started to read lectures on Darwinism in colleges of Baku and, therefore, was terrified by the religious and conservative circles. However, he did not stop his lectures. Zardabi was the author by the book “Hygiene” and numerous articles on medical issues.

Together with his assistant Muhammad Haji Balakanli, Zardabi carried out the selection works to improve local species of wheat and mulberry. He won numerous prizes at the Caucasian Agricultural Exhibitions. Since modern medical service was not available in remote villages, Zardabi believed that it is necessary to support folk healers. He wrote: “It is necessary to create favorable opportunities for educated folk healers and for those who are named “Asian doctors”, because they are the only helpers of suffering persons” (“Kaspi” newspaper, No 234, 25 October, 1886).

Abdul Khalig AkhundovRight: Dr. Abdul Khalig Akhundov.

However, the famous Azerbaijani writer Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli (1887-1943) wrote a satiric novel entitled “Hakim” (“Doctor”, 1910s) where he ironically described folk doctors and traditional healing practices. Curiously, the father of Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli, Mirbaba Mirabdulla oglu, was a pharmacist himself and owned a traditional Oriental apothecary (Attar Dukani) in the town of Aghdam. There were 142 kinds of natural remedies including about 100 species of herbs in his apothecary.

The scientific study of the history of medicine in Azerbaijan started from the 19th century. In 1893, the Azerbaijani scholar Abdul Khalig Akhundov (1866-1924) translated the book “Kitab al-Adwiyya” by the famous medieval pharmacist Abu Mansur al-Harawi (10th AD) from Arabic into German and defended a doctoral dissertation in this field (Achundov Abdul-Chalig. Die pharmacologichen Grundsaetze des Abu Mansur Muwaffak bin Ali Harawi. Halle, 1893). Besides, Dr.Nariman Najaf oglu Narimanov (1870-1925) wrote the book “Medicine and Islam” (Baku, 1910) where he briefly touched some problems of the history of medicine.

Dr. Mammad Reza VekilovRight: Dr. Mammad Reza Vekilov (right) with his family.

In 1895, Baku Medical Society was created. Dr. Mammad Reza Vekilov (1864-1927), Dr. Abdul Khalig Akhundov (1866-1924), Dr. Kerim bey Mehmandarov (1854-1929) and others were active members of this society During 1900-1910, a number of clinics and apothecaries were founded not only in large cities (Baku, Canja), but also in little towns (Shusha, Aghdam, Shaki, etc.) and in some villages of Azerbaijan. For example, Mammad Reza Vekilov founded 10 polyclinics (out patients' clinics) in Baku, while Dr. Mehmandarov created the first polyclinic in the town of Aghdam.

However, traditional healers continued to benefit from the medieval medical treatises. These treatises were copied by hand by calligraphers in the second half of the 19th century and even in the beginning of the 20th century. A number of these manuscripts are kept in the Institute of Manuscripts of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. Many treatises on folk medicine entitled “Tibb Risalesi” (Treatise on Medicine”) were compiled and copied in this period. Most of them are herbal prescriptions against different diseases.

Dr. Kerim bey MehmandarovRight: Dr. Kerim bey Mehmandarov.

However, books of famous medieval physicians were copied as well. For example, “Tibbi-Mansuri” by Razi was copied and partially translated into Azeri in 1936. Azerbaijani physicians and intellectuals owned extensive collections of medieval medical manuscript which date back to the 12th - 16th centuries AD. One of the most famous physicians was Muhammad Qulu Gaibzadeh Karabagi, whose collection is now treasured in Baku's Institute of Manuscript. Other famous collectioner was Bahman-Mirza Qajar who owned many medieval medical treatises. In 1913 AD, there were hundreds of Oriental drugstories and approximately 50 European apothecaries in Azerbaijan.

Traditional drugstores sold medicines of herbal, animal and mineral origin which are described in medieval books by Avicenna, Razi, etc. They also bargained spices like saffron, anise and Eastern perfumes (amber, musk, spermaceti, rose oil, etc), and therefore, were called in Azeri “Attar dukani” (Perfumery Store). Western chemical medicines were available mostly in the European apothecaries opened by Azeri, Russian, German and Jewish pharmacists.

Many talented physicians lived in Azerbaijan in this period. One of them, Abbas Sahhat (1874-1918) had a clinic in Shamakhi. He was not only a famous oculist, but also wrote verses in Azeri Turkic. His verses are still popular in our country. Other famous doctor, Mirza Nasrullah Mirza Ali oglu lived in Nakhichevan. During the epidemy of cholera in Nakhichevan in 1847, he treated the Azeri and Armenian patients for free. Keble Gaffar and Molla Muhammad Reza Melikov were famous traditional healers in Nakhchivan.

In 1914-1918 the Baku oilman and millionaire Agha Musa Naghiyev built the largest city hospital in Baku in accordance with the project of the talented civil engineer N.G. Bayev. Now this hospital bears Naghiyev's name. The building was commissioned in 1918. Construction cost Naghiev 300 thousand rubles in gold. The total area of ​​the hospital is over 100 thousand square meters. The outpatient department is designed for a thousand beds. Agha Musa really wanted this hospital to prevent serious illnesses and, of course, to treat them effectively so that people, especially young people, did not go prematurely out of life, as happened with his son, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 27 years.

Naghiyev's Hospital

Above: The staff of the Agha Musa Naghiyev Hospital in Baku, 1918.


Dr. Khudadat RafibeyliRight: Dr. Khudadat bey Rafibeyli.

After collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, Azerbaijan regained its independence. The Ministry of Health was established on June 17, 1918 by the decree of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), headed by Fatali Khan Khoyski. The first minister was appointed Dr. Khudadat bey Rafibeyli, who graduated from Kharkov University in 1903, and was the most experienced surgeon in the country at that time.

The Ministry consisted of five departments, including the city health department, the health statistics department, the therapy department, the rural health department and veterinary offices. Medical assistance was provided to the population for free, the Ministry built new hospitals, laboratories, medical stores and purchased medical equipment.

During short period, many new clinics and apothecaries were opened throughout the country. For example, from 1919 to 1920, 10 new modern apothecaries were founded in the Ganja province of Azerbaijan. During the 23-month existence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, there were 33 hospitals located in the Azerbaijani provinces, each of which had 1 doctor, 2 paramedics, 1 gynecologist and one nurse who administered the vaccination. According to statistics, there was only one doctor for every 75,000 citizens. Because of the shortage, the Azerbaijani parliament included construction of 35 new hospitals and 56 medical offices in the state budget of 1920.

Prof. V.İ. RazumovskyRight: Prof. V.İ. Razumovsky.

On September 1, 1919, the decision of the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic established the Baku State University, which consisted of the eastern branch and medical faculties. Lectures began on November 15, 1919. On September 29, 1919 the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic approved the "Charter of the Baku State University." In a short time, the Special Preparatory Commission was organized under the guidance of a prominent Russian surgeon, Professor Vasili Ivanovich Razumovsky, who was among the founders of universities at Saratov (1909), Tbilisi (1918) and Baku (1919). In August of the same year, entrance examinations were held and the first class of students, future doctors, was recruited. The first head of the Department of Anatomy and the Department of Operative Surgery was prof. V.I. Razumovsky, who at the same time held the post of rector of the University (from 1919 to 1920).

In the building of the former Commercial School were placed all the auditoriums, the library, seminaries and all laboratories, except for the pathological anatomical and bacteriological. These laboratories were located in the building of the former 1st gymnasium, which was adapted for two clinics, an outpatient clinic and a clinical audience. In 1920, 490 students studied at the medical faculty.

Officiers and Sisters of Mercy

Above: Officers of the Caucasian Islamic Army together with junior medical personnel: nurses,
sisters of mercy and brothers of mercy. Health Minister Khudadat bey Rafibeyli is in the second
row, fourth from the left. Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Ganja, 1918.


Dr. Nariman Najaf oglu NarimanovRight: Dr. Nariman Najaf oglu Narimanov.

However, ADR did not live long. In 28 April 1920, with uprising of local Azerbaijani communists supported by invasion of the 11th Russian Red Army, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic collapsed and Soviet power was established in the coutry. During 1920-1922 Soviet Azerbaijan formally remained the independent state, but it was under total control of the Soviet Russia. In 1922, Azerbaijan officially joined to the USSR as the federative Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

In 1920, Dr. Nariman Najaf oglu Narimanov, a physician, was elected the head (prime minister) of the government of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, while Dr. Alakbar Kazimov (1883-1937) was the first Comissar (Minister) of Healthcare. In 1921, Dr. Alakbar Kazimov was replaced by Dr. Mirmovsum Najmaddin oglu Gadirli, who headed the Ministry of Healthcare of Azerbaijan from 1921 to 1935. Alakbar Kazimov was appointed the Head of the Society of Red Crescent of Azerbaijan.

In 1926, by the decision of Dr. M.Gadirli the Pharmacological College was founded in Baku. During 1919-1930, a total of 1300 students graduated from the Medical Department of the Baku State University. It was not sufficient for the country and, therefore, in 1930 the Azerbaijan Medical University headed by Dr. M.Gadirli was founded. Professor Alibey Gulubey oglu Alibeyov (1878-1964) was appointed a head of the Department of the History of Medicine. One of famous rectors of this University was Aziz Aliyev.

Professor MirgasimovRight: Professor Mirasadulla Miralasgar oglu Mirgasimov.

In 1937, the Baku Pharmacological Institute was created. Professor Aziz Aliyev and his assistant Professor Ahad Hassanov greatly contributed to development of this Institute.  Assistant Prof. Asaf Rustamov conducted works on history of pharmacy and is the author of the book “History of Pharmacy in Azerbaijan,” and many other works where he analyzed medieval medical and pharmacological manuscripts of our country.

Scientific research in the field of medicine and creation of new textbooks in Azeri were carried out under leadership of Professor Mirasadulla Miralasgar oglu Mirgasimov, who was born in Baku in 1883 and graduated from the Odessa University in 1913. During 1930-1958, he was the head of the Depatment of Clinical Surgery in the Azerbaijan Medical University. In 1920-1930, new modern textbooks for medical students in Azeri were published. Prof. Mirasadulla Mirgasimov was elected the President of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Adila ShahtakhtinskayaRight: Professor Adila Shahtakhtinskaya.

Adila Shahtakhtinskaya was born on April 17, 1894 in the city of Tiflis in the family of the publicist and collegiate adviser Isa Sultan Shakhtakhtinsky. In 1930, Shakhtakhtinskaya received a doctorate in medical sciences, and in 1936 - the academic title of professor, thereby becoming the first female Azeri woman, who became a doctor of medical sciences and a professor.

Since 1933, Shakhtakhtinskaya headed the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Azerbaijan State Medical Institute (now the Azerbaijan Medical University). Adila Shakhtakhtinskaya was one of the first women to head the department in Azerbaijan.

Since the first days of the institute's work, the state has decided to organize a sector with teaching in the Azerbaijani language. By this time, new chairs have been created, the first textbooks and manuals have been published in the national language, according to which thousands of Azerbaijani boys and girls were trained.

Professor Aziz AliyevRight: Professor Aziz Aliyev.

Prof. Aziz Aliyev was born on January 1, 1897 in the village of Hamamli of Erivan Uyezd. In 1917, Aziz graduated from Yerevan Gymnasium with a gold medal and in the same year entered the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. In 1918 the Aliyev family moved first to Nakhichevan, and from there - in the early 1920s - to Baku. Aziz Aliyev worked as a doctor, was engaged in pedagogical and scientific research activities, defended his Ph.D., and then - his doctoral dissertation. From1935 to 1938 he headed the Azerbaijan Medical Institute, after that he was appointed rector of the Azerbaijan State University, and then the People's Commissar of Health of the Azerbaijan SSR.

At the beginning of 1940 there were 3 faculties and 45 departments in the Azerbaijan Medical Institute. The annual admission of students was 500 people. July 1, 1940 in the Institute taught 40 professors, 45 associate professors, 137 assistants, 16 main teachers, 45 teachers. Most of them were young Azerbaijani scientists.

Prof. Mustafa TopchubashovRight: Professor Mustafa Agabey oglu Topchubashov.

Professor Mustafa Agabey oglu Topchubashov deeply contributed to development of surgery in Azerbaijan. This scholar was born in 1895 in Baku. In 1919, he graduated from the Kiev University and started to work at the Medical Department of the Baku State University. Topchubashov was the author of numerous research works in the field of neurosurgery, urology, traumathology and anesthesiology. He was elected the Vice-President of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and the Honorary Chairman of the International Society of Urologists.

In general, from 1920 to 1940, hundreds of new polyclinics, hospitals and pharmacies were established in Azerbaijan. Academicians Mirasadulla Mirkasimov and Mustafa Topchibashev, professors Alibek Alibekov and Kamil Balakishiyev, and E.M.Efendiyev became famous among Azerbaijani medical scientists. F.A.Efendiev, M.M.Efendi-zadeh , B.A. Eyvazov, D.M.Abdullaev, D.Yu. Huseynov, T.Pashayev, U.S. Musabekov, A. F. Karayev, M.R.Nazirov, Sh.M.Gasanov and others, made a great contribution to the development of theoretical clinical medicine and the training of national medical personnel of the Republic.

It was a brief historical review which features the history of medicine in Azerbaijan from ancient times to 1940.


1. Al-Baihaki, Zaid. Tatimma Siwan al-Hikma (Supplement to Treasure of Wisdom). Fasciculus, Arabic Text. L'ahore, 1925 (in Arabic)  

2. Avesta. Translated by James Darmesteter. From Sacred Books of the East, American Edition, New York, The Christian Literature Company, 1898.

3. Belck J. Das Reich die Mannaer. VBAG, 1884

4. Кириченко, Д.А. О трепанации черепа в древности. Azərbaycan arxeologiyası və etnoqrafiyası. №1, 2007, pp. 63-67 (in Rissian).

5. Boyce, Mary, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979

6. Collection of Old Turkic Written Monuments. Ed. A.A. Guliyev. Baku, The Baku State University Press, 1994, p. 77 (in Azeri)

7. Duchesne-Guillemin J. Heraclitus and Iran. History of religions, No 3 (1), 1963

8. Duchesne-Guillemin J. The Western Response to Zoroaster. Oxford, 1958

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13. Kashkay S.M. General Outlines of the Material Culture of the Nakhichevan Zone and Iranian Azerbaijan (end of the second - beginnings of the first Millenium BC) Acta Antiqua Scientiaru m Hungaricae, XXII, 1974, fasc. 164

14. Kitabi-Dada Gorgud (The Book of my Grandfather Gorgud). Ed. Hamid Arasli. Baku, Ganjlik, 1977, p.27 (in Azeri)

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16. Koster W. Le mythe de Platon, de Zarathustra et des chaldeens. Leiden, 1971

17. Muhammad Mumin. Tuhfat al-Muminin (Gift of True Believers). The manuscript from the collection of Baku's Institute of Manuscripts. No. M 243/3747, p.3 (in Persian).

18. Oppenheim, Leo. Ancient Mesopotamia. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968

19. Parpola, Asko. The coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Dasas. Studia Orientalia, vol.64, Helsinki 1988, p.212-215

20. Price, Massoume. History of ancient Medicine in Mesopotamia & Iran. Iran Chamber Society, October 2001

21. Risalai-Tibb (Medical Treatise). Translation from Azeri, preface commentaries and glossary by Farid Alakbarli. Baku, Ornak Press, 1998, 32 P.

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23. Seyidov, Mirali. Origins of the Azerbaijani Mythological Thought. Baku, Azerneshr, 1988, pp.14-46

24. Shirvani, Khagani. Tohfat al-Iraqeyn (Gift of Two Iraqs). Baku, Azernashr, 1982 (in Azeri)

25. Strabo. Geography. Translated by Strtotanovsky. Moscow, Nauka, 1964 (in Russian)

26. Tarbiyyat, Muhammad Ali. Danishmandani-Azerbaijan (Scholars of Azerbaijan). Baku, Azernashr, 1987 (in Azeri).

27. Tavernier J.B. Six Voyages en Turquie, en Perse et aux Indes, Paris, 1676

28. Thureau-Dangin. La fin de la domination Gutienne. RA, IX, 1912.

29. Tusi, Hoja Nasiraddin. "Nasirean Ethics". Translated into English by G.M. Wickens. Published by George Allen & Unwin, 1964.

30. Von Grunebaum, G.E. Classical Islam: A History 600-1258, George Allen & Unwin Limited, 1970
31. West M.L. Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient. Oxford, 1971

32. Yakut al-Hamawi. Mujam al-Buldan (Alphabetical List of Countries). Cairo, 1906 (in Arabic)


© Farid Alakbarli, 2006. // "Elm" History & Heritage Website //
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