(circa 4500 BC—2006 AD)

(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.

· Archeological excavations at the Chalagan-Tepe site in Azerbaijan have revealed a human skull with traces of trepanning, which dates back to the 5th millennium BC. 

· During the 8th-4th centuries BC, medicine in the ancient states of Mannai, Media, Atropatena and Caucasian Albania (the present-day Azerbaijan) was influenced by the Assyrian and Babylonian medicine. Medical theory was based on the Zoroastrian conception of four holy elements (fire, water, earth and air). Greek medicine became famous during the Age of Hellenism (after the 4th century BC).  

· After the 4th century AD, Turkic folk medicine (shamanism, magic, medicinal herbs) began  to spread. Healers were named “Gam” or “Otachi”,  medicines were called  “Ota”. The goddess Öleng  was considered  a patroness of healers. 

   · After the Arabic conquest (7th century AD), Greco-Arabic medicine came to Azerbaijan. Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037 AD) was the most authoritative foreign scholar. One of oldest (1143 AD) manuscripts of “Canon” by Ibn Sina is kept in  Baku’s Institute of Manuscripts. 

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.

· During the Middle Ages, Azerbaijani scholars used to write medical books in Azeri Turkic, Arabic and Persian. Manuscripts were copied by calligraphers, bound with leather and decorated with color drawings of medicinal herbs, animals and minerals. 

· In the 11th century AD, Malham Academy was founded by the scholar Kafiaddin Omar in Shamakhi, Azerbaijan. Pharmacology, medicine and anatomy were studied in this center.

· In the 14th century AD, Dar al-Shifa Academy with a large hospital and apothecary was founded in Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaijan (present-day Iran).

· In 1311, Azerbaijani scholar Yusif Ismail oglu Khoyi wrote the book entitled  “Baghdad Collection”. He described several thousand  natural drugs and recipes. Khoyi  was known also by  the pseudonym “Ibn Kabir”.

· In the 15th century AD, there were more than 60 large hospitals in Azerbaijan, including a hospital in the “Seven Paradises” palace of Sultan Yagub Aggoyunlu (1478-1490) in Tabriz. About 1000 diseased person could be treated in this hospital at the same time, and 866 medical recipes were used.

· During the 17th-18th centuries AD, such Azeri scholars as Murtuzagulu Shamlu (gynecology), Abulhasan Maraghi (medical theory), Hasan Riza oglu Shirvani (pharmacology), Haji Suleyman Iravani (pharmacology) wrote a number of medical books.  They used 724 species of medicinal plants.

· 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 the beginning of the XIX century the  Northern khanates of Azerbaijan (Shirvan, Baku, Nakhchivan, Guba, Talysh, Karabakh, Shaki, Dardand, etc.) were conquered by Rusia, while the Southern khanates (Tabriz, Khoy, Ardabil, etc.) had been subordinated to Iran.  During the Russian conquest in 1813-1918, Russian clinics were opened throughout Northern Azerbaijan. However before the Soviet era (1920-1991), there were also traditional drugstores (attar dukani)  in the north of Azerbaijan. In Southern (Iranian) Azerbaijan Oriental clinics and apothecaries continued to dominate.

Abdul Khalig AkhundovLeft: Abdul Khalig Akhundov.

· In 1892, Azerbaijani scholar Abdul-Khalig Akhundov laid  a foundation of scholarly studies of the history of medicine in Azerbaijan. He studied and translated  the famous 9th century's encyclopedia on pharmacy by Abu Mansur Al-Haravi, and other works. The book was printed in Germany.

· In 1895, Baku Medical Society was created. The founders were Dr. Mammad-Reza Vekilov, Dr. Kerimbey Mehmandarov, etc.

Dr. Khudadat RafibeyliLeft: Dr. Khudadat Rafibeyli.

· In 1918, Azerbaijan regained its independence, and the first Ministry of Health headed by Khudadat bey Rafibeyli was established by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).

· In 1919, Baku State University with Medical Department was founded. The history of medicine courses were established. Prof. Razumovski was the first Dean (1919-1920) of the Medical Department.

Dr. Nariman Najaf oglu NarimanovLeft: Dr. Nariman Najaf oglu Narimanov.

· In April 1920, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was captured by the 11th Red Army (Bolsheviks) and the Soviet government of Azerbaijan was formed. Dr. Nariman Narimanov—a physician—was the first Prime-minister. Dr. Aghahuseyn Kazimov (1920-1921) and Dr. Mirmovsun Gadirli (1921-1935) were the first People’s Commisars (ministers) of healthcare.

· In 1930, Azerbaijan Medical University was founded. Director—Prof. Aziz Aliyev.

Prof. Mirasadulla MirkasimovLeft: Prof. Mirasadulla Mirkasimov

· Between 1920-1940, hundreds of new clinics were established. Prof. Mirasadulla Mirkasimov, Prof. Mustafa Topchibashev, Prof. Alibey Alibeyov, Prof. Kamil Balakishiyev were the world famous physicians and scholars.

· During 1918-2005, a number of  papers and books on the history of medicine were published  in Azerbaijan by A.Rustamov, M.Efendiyev, F.Alakbarli, M.Abdullayev, J.Tagdisi, N.Goyushov, etc.

· In 2004, Azerbaijan Association of Medical Historians (AAMH)  was founded.

· In 2005, UNESCO included three medieval medical manuscripts from the collection of Baku’s Institute of Manuscripts in  the International Register of “Memory of the World” Programme, which contains the most important written monuments of the Humankind.

· In February 1-2, 2005, The First  National Conference of  AAMH was hold in Baku.

· In June 12-14, 2006, the1st International Conference “Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica in Medieval Manuscripts” was hold in Baku.


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