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Ibn al-Baitar


Born 1197
Died 1248
Nationality Andalusian-Arab
Fields Botanist, Scientist, Pharmacist, Physician
Known for Scientific classification Oncology

Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi (also Ibn al-Baytar) (Arabic: ابن البيطار‎) (circa, 1188 - 1248)[1] was an Arab scientist, botanist, pharmacist and physician. He is considered one of the greatest scientists of Al-Andalus and is believed to be one of the greatest botanists and pharmacists of the Islamic Golden Age and Muslim Agricultural Revolution.



Born in the Andalusian city of Málaga at the end of the 12th century, he learned botany from the Málagan botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati with whom he started collecting plants in and around Spain. Al-Nabati was responsible for developing an early scientific method, introducing empirical and experimental techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and separating unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations. Such an approach was thus adopted by Ibn al-Baitar.[2]

In 1219, Ibn al-Baitar left Málaga to travel in the Islamic world to collect plants. He travelled from the northern coast of Africa as far as Anatolia. The major stations he visited include Bugia, Constantinople, Tunis, Tripoli, Barqa and Adalia.

After 1224, he entered the service of al-Kamil, an Ayyubid Sultan, and was appointed chief herbalist. In 1227 al-Kamil extended his domination to Damascus, and Ibn al-Baitar accompanied him there which provided him an opportunity to collect plants in Syria. His researches on plants extended over a vast area including Arabia and Palestine. He died in Damascus in 1248.

Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada

Ibn al-Baitar’s major contribution is Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada (Arabic: كتاب الجمع في الأدوية المفردة‎), which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations in history, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It was also a pharmacopoeia (pharmaceutical encyclopedia) and contains details on at least listing 1,400 plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. His work was translated into Latin in 1758 and was being used in Europe up until the early 19th century.[3] The book also contains references to 150 other previous Arabic authors as well as 20 previous Greek authors.[4]

Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada

Ibn Al-Baitar’s second major work is Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada which is an encyclopedia of Islamic medicine, which incorporates his knowledge of plants extensively for the treatment of various ailments, including diseases related to the head, ear, eye, etc.[4]

Cancer therapy

In cancer therapy, Ibn al-Baitar discovered the earliest known herbal treatment for cancer: "Hindiba", a herbal drug which he identified as having "anticancer" properties and which could also treat other tumors and neoplastic disorders.[5] After recognizing its usefulness in treating neoplastic disorders, Hindiba was patented in 1997 by Nil Sari, Hanzade Dogan, and John K. Snyder.[6]


  • Islamic science
  • Islamic medicine
  • Muslim Agricultural Revolution
  • Islamic scholars
  • List of Arab scientists and scholars


  1. ^ [1] The Muslim Agricultural Revolution and its influence on Europe, Idrisi, June 2005
  2. ^ Huff, Toby (2003), The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West, Cambridge University Press, p. 218, ISBN 0521529948 
  3. ^ Diane Boulanger (2002), "The Islamic Contribution to Science, Mathematics and Technology", OISE Papers, in STSE Education, Vol. 3.
  4. ^ a b Russell McNeil, Ibn al-Baitar, Malaspina University-College.
  5. ^ Prof. Nil Sari (Istanbul University, Cerrahpasha Medical School) (06 June, 2007). "Hindiba: A Drug for Cancer Treatment in Muslim Heritage". FSTC Limited. Archived from the original on 2008-01-22. 
  6. ^ US patent 5663196 Methods for treating neoplastic disorders

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