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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Modern medicine

Historians reveal contributions from Islamic scientists

Research into Islamic medical heritage has highlighted the racially distorted nature of conventional narratives in the history of medicine. Outreach activities continue to widen the perspectives of thousands of medical and security professionals, foster community cohesion and reform educational materials.

We challenge conventional historical accounts of medical development to include long-forgotten scientists from the Middle East

Sketch of a human
"Our partnerships promote an unbiased understanding of the history of medicine."

The history of Western medicine – as traditionally told by in schools and popular broadcast documentaries – tends to disregard the vital contribution of scientists from the Middle East.

Building on our historical analysis of the intellectual kinship in medicine between Islam and the West, we developed partnerships with medical, educational and non-governmental organisations to promote an unbiased account of medical progress.

Key tools, resources and outreach events:

  • 'Mirror of Health' exhibition, on prominent display at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP)
  • Gallery talks, school visits and lectures by the RCP
  • Lecture at the 10th International Security Forum in Geneva
  • Public conference organised by the British Muslim Heritage Centre

Key benefits:

  • Re-education for thousands of members of the public on the influence of the Middle East on European medical traditions
  • Influence on high profile medical professionals though the promotion of the RCP exhibition by a founding member of the Cochrane Collaboration
  • Changed perspective of high profile security professionals
  • Updated policies and curriculum materials for the UK and Middle East by The Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation (FSTC)

Our research

Professor Peter E. Pormann analysed the special collections of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for examples of shared heritage and the exchange of ideas across the shores of the Mediterranean during antiquity and into the Middle Ages.

Key findings:

  • Physicians in the medieval Islamic world were far more innovative than previously thought
  • Renaissance medicine owes a tremendous debt to Arabic medicine
  • Eighteenth century Western scientists showed significant interest in the clinical work of physician Al-Rāzī’s on smallpox and measles

Professor Pormann suggested that this rich Islamic heritage was forgotten because of ideas regarding racial and religious purity.

Lead academic