Farid Alakbarli. Medical Manuscripts of Azerbaijan. Page 4.

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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 captured by Iran. This division of Azerbaijan was confirmed by the Gulistan and Turkmenchay treatises which were signed between Russia and Iran.

Since then, in Northern (Russian) Azerbaijan began the intensive process of Westernization 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 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).

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 Azerbaiani 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.

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.

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 drugstores 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.

After collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, Azerbaijan regained its independence, and the first Ministry of Health was established by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). Musa bey Rafiyev was appointed the Minister of Healthcare.

In 1919, according to decision of the Azerbaijani Parliament, the Baku State University with Medical Department was founded, and the courses on the history of medicine were established. The prime-minister of Azerbaijan Fatali-khan Khoyski attempted to improve situation with healthcare. 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.

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 (1889-1937) was the first Comissar (minister) of Healthcare. In 1921, Dr. Alakbar Kazimov was replaced by Dr. Movsum 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 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 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. In 1937, the Baku Pharmacological Instıtute 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 Mustafa Agabey oglu Topchubashov deeply contributed to development of sirgery 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.

Between 1920-1940, hundreds of new advanced clinics and medical colleges were established throughout the country, and Azerbaijan Medical Museum was opened in Baku.

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


BAHMANYAR AL-AZERBAIJANI (died in 1065/1066 AD).
A follower of Aristotle in science and a student of Abu Ali Ibn Sina. He was the author of "Al-Tahsil" (Knowledge) and other important works in which he touched upon some problems of medicine. 

Author of commentaries and explanations to Canon by Ibn Sina.

Founder and chief of the Malham Medical University in Shamakhi. Kafiaddin was born approximately in 1080. He was uncle of the famous poet Khagani Shirvani (1120-1199 AD). 

Author of many medical and pharmacological treatises, including "Adwar al-Hammiyat" ("The Medicines against Fever"). 

Author by "Kitab al-Mudavat" ("Book About Medicines", approximately 1275-1280). 

Author of numerous commentaries to works by Abu Ali Ibn Sina. 

The prominent Azerbaijani scholar, physician and philosopher Nasiraddin Tusi was born in 1201 in Tus, east of Iran. However, some scientists suggest that he was born in Hamadan. As a scientist and all-around genius, Tusi 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). In his “Mineral cures” (another name of this treatise is “Tansukhnameyi-Elkhani”), Tusi describes medical properties of various precious stones, jewels, metals and minerals such as ruby, diamond, gold, silver, emerald, sapphire, turquoise. 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. 

RASHID AL-DIN (1247-1317 AD).
This famous physician and historian was born in Hamadan (Iran), and resided and worked in Tabriz, the capital of Iranian 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. Rasidaddin founded a suburb of Tabriz, the Ilkhanid capital of Azerbaijan, named after himself the Rab' i-Rashidi, or "Suburb of Rashid. The suburb contained hospitals, mosques, markets, a bath and a library. 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.

MAHMUD IBN ILYAS (13th-14th AD).
Worked in Tabriz and Shiraz. Author of the works entitled "Giyasiyya" (Comparison),  "Elm at-Tibb" (About Science of Medicine), "Mukhtasar at-Tibb" (Shortened Book on Medicine), "Inayat fi at-Tibb" (Medical Service),  "Kitab al-Havi fi Ilm al-Madawi" (The Comprehensive  Book About Medicine).

His major work titled "Ma la Yasa' at-Tabib Jahlahu" (The Necessary Thing 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.

This physician from Shamakhi was the author of such works as “Kamalname” (Book of Perfection) and “Mukhtasar Tibb” (Abbreviated medicine, 1437-1438). 

This scholar was born in  Shirvan (present-day Republic of Azerbaijan). Then, he moved to Ottoman Empire where he compiled a number of books in Turkish including the comprehensive work on ophthalmology “Murshid” (“Tutor”).  Besides, he is the author of “Tohfeyi-Muradi” (“Murad’s Gift”) - a book about healing properties of minerals and jewels. The book was devoted to II Murad (1421-1451 гг). Muhammad Shirvani translated from Arabic and Persion into Turkish a number of important  books on medicine and pharmacology. 

This famous Azerbaijani physician was nicknamed “Fakhrul-Attiba” (Pride of Physicians) in Tabriz. His son Ala’addin was a physician of Shah Ismail Safavi. 

Court physician of Ismail Mirza Safavi (died in 1557). He was famous for being an extremely skilful doctor. Abulfath was a small person and people nicknamed him “Kichik Hakim” (Small Doctor). After the death of Ismail Mirza, he worked as a doctor in the court of Amir khan, governor of Tabriz. 

He was one of physicians of Shah Ismail Safavi and the author of the glossary of medical terms entitled "Kamili-Alai". 

The court physician of Abdulla khan Ustajlu, the Beylerbey (governor) of Shirvan in 1549. 

This physician from Shamakhi, Azerbaijan, studied medicine in Cairo and worked in Turkey. He treated poor people for free and was famous as the  “Poor people’s physician”.

He was born in Karabakh, Azerbaijan but emigrated to Samarkand (present day Uzbekistan) during the Safavid-Ottoman wars. Karabaghi was the author of commentaries to Ibn Sina’s works on medicine and philosophy.

ABU TALIB TABRIZI (died in 1606 AD).
He was the head of a large hospital in Qazvin. He worked in Tabriz, Qazvin and Istanbul. 

HEYDAR HAKIM (16th-17th AD).
A physican from Azerbaijan,who worked at the court of Sultan Akbar the Great in Agra (India). He also wrote verses in Azeri Turkic. 

He was the native of Lahijan, a district of Gilan in Iran. In search of learning he went to Tabriz, Azerbaijan, where he studied medicine with the famous Hakim Jibra'il and Hakim Muhammad Baqar. He practiced medicine in Tabriz for some time. His clinic attracted so many patients that other clinics of the city remained almost empty. In those times, Tabriz was under occupation of Ottoman Empire. Even the Ottoman ruler of Tabriz had developed strong faith in the skill and expertise of Hakim Amin. 

Hakim Amin was fond of traveling. Once he went on a journey to Rum (European part of Ottoman Empire). On his return, he found that Tabriz was liberated by Shah Abbas Safawi, the Iranian king of Azeri origin. Muhammad Amin went to the court to pay homage and respects but, after meeting the Emperor, he got disappointed and thereafter went to Gilan to meet his relations. One should not be surprized with so cold attitude of shah Abbas. Perhaps, he knew about friendship  between Muhammad Amin and former Ottoman governor of Tabriz. Besides, the doctor visited Turkey despite Shah Abbas was in war with this country. Therefore, Muhammad Amin did not return to Tabriz, instead he left for India where he entered the court of Abd al-Rahim Khani-Khanan which was known as Maktab-i Hoshmandan (School of Intellegentsia)." It is said that Hakim Ali Gilani, the famous physician of the court of Akbar, met him while he was on his way to Burhanpur and tried to pursuade him to join the royal court. But he did not agree and proceeded to the above court where he was treated with great hospitality and was given a suitable position. Due to his extraordinary intelligence and sagacity and remarkable skill, he soon became a close associate and confidant of the Khani-Khanan. None of his books and prescriptions are extant to-date. The date of his death is also unknown.

Hakim Muhammad Baqar was born and brought up in Tabriz city which was a great centre of medicine in Southern (Iranian) Azerbaijan. His brother, Mir Baqar was a very famous and distinguished doctor and the personal physician of the Iranian monarch Shah Abbas Safawi, who also was of Azerbaijani origin. Like his brother, Hakim Muhammad Baqar was well-versed in medicine and other sciences and humanities of his time. He was a distinguished and famous physician of Tabriz. Hakim Muhammad Baqar came to India during the days of Emperor Akbar and entered the court of Abd al-Rahim Khani-Khanan whose fame as a great patron of men of letters and sciences had reached Iran long ago. Khan-i Khanan showed great honour and respect to the Hakim and made him his companion and personal physician. Hakim Baqar lived there till the end of his life and is said to have amassed a lot of wealth.

Hakim Jabra'il was the son of Hakim Muhammad Baqar. He studied sciences with the famous Mir Muhammad Baqar Damad in Qazwin and Isfahan and gained great skill in medicine. Hakim Jabra'il was known for his good nature and generosity. After the completion of his education, he began teaching at Dar al-Irshad in Ardabil city in Iranian Azerbaijan by the orders of the Shah of Iran. After some time, he came to India and entered the court of Abd al-Rahim Khani-Khanan. He did not stay long in this court and went to Deccan where he was well patronised by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the ruler of Golcunda where he lived upto 1025 A.H./1616 A.D. 

This doctor from Nakhchivan city (Azerbaijan) lived and worked in Damask (Syria) as a head physician of this city.

He was the author of several books on medicine and philosophy including “Hashiyat al-Idda” (Commentary to the book named Idda) and “Kashkul” (The Dervish Bag).

This famous physician from Ardabil and is mentioned in many old chronicles. 

The famous physician, scholar and author of poems in Azeri Turkic. Masihi’s father was a doctor from Tabriz, Azerbaijan. Ruknaddin was a court physician of Shah Abbas Safavi in Isfahan. Then, they quarreled and Ruknaddin moved to Agra (India), where he spent 20 years as the court physician of Sultan Akbar the Great and Sultan Jahangir from the dynasty of Great Mugals. He is the author of the book “Zabibtat al-Alaj” (Treatment Rules).

Murtuza Gulu Khan Shamlu was the ruler (amir) of the town of Ardabil, which was a large cultural center and the former capital of Azerbaijan. He wote the book titled "Khirga" (Mantle of Dervish, 1678 AD) devoted to sexology and gynecology. 

The author of "Fawaid al-Hikmat" which was well-known as a serious and informative book on pharmacology. 

Author of "Siraj at-Tibb" ("Light of Medicine"). The book was written in Shirvan and devoted to pharmacology. 

Famous physician and head of clinic in Shamakhi. 

The court physician in Shirvan. In 1712, he copied "Tibbname" (Book of Medicine) manuscript supplying it with his own commentaries in Azeri Turkic. ABU AL-HASAN AL-MARAGI (18th AD).
The author of the universal medical book named "Mualijat-i Munfarida" (Exceptional Treatment, 1775-1776 AD). 

The author of "Qanun al-Alaj" (Canon of Treatment), "Zad al-Musafirin" (Supplies for Travelers), "Risaleyi-Jizri"(Treatise About Medicines), "Jami al-Ilal"(Collection of Diseases). 

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© Farid Alakbarli, 2006. // "Elm" History & Heritage Website // Each quotation should be provided with full reference to the author.