Physician (c625 – c.690)
Paulus of Aegina was a physician and scientist who lived during the 7th century. He was one of the last famous Greek physicians, whose work exerted significant influence on the medicine of the Middle Ages. He is mostly known for his work Epitome, a medical compendium used extensively throughout history.
He was born in the small island of Aegina and studied medicine in Alexandria, later becoming a teacher there. He was a pioneer in general surgery as well plastic and reconstructive surgery. Some of the most well-known operations he performed are described in his book; these are operations for nasal fractures, jaw fractures, treatment of gynaecomastia and hypospadias, catheterization of the urinary bladder, lithotripsy for the treatment of urinary bladder stones, surgical techniques for the treatment of inguinal hernia and liver abscess.
In addition, he described surgical operations of the eye, identified the aneurysm as a disease and wrote extensively about the cancer of the cervix and the uterus. Paulus Aegineta achieved remarkable success as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, earning the name “Al Qawabili”, meaning “The Obstetrician” from the Arabs, who recognized him as one of the greatest physicians of all time.
The book that made him a household name in medicine up until the Renaissance was the Epitome, an encyclopaedia consisting of 7 books, incorporating his own experiences with the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Aëtius, Dioscorides and other renowned physicians of antiquity. The first book is about hygiene, the second on fever, the third on internal medicine, the fourth on diseases of the external organs, mainly of the skin, the fifth book on diseases of the environment such as insect stings, bites and wounds, the sixth book was devoted entirely on surgery and the seventh book on pharmacology, which was based on the works of Dioscorides.
Paulus’ work was translated into Arabic in the 9th century thus bridging Western and Arabic medicine. Later, it was translated into most European languages and was used as the main textbook in the medical schools of Salerno and Montpellier. Its first edition was printed in 1528 by the Aldine Press. Among the people influenced by Paulus Aegineta were Rhazes, Avicenna, Fabricius, Albucasis and Hally Abas. He died in Rome in 690, leaving behind him an enormous consignment to the medical world. Even before his death, Paulus Aegineta was acknowledged as one of the greatest physicians in history.
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