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Ibn Sina’s roots

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2005 - Autumn


I enjoy reading the articles in Yale Medicine very much and I think the magazine offers an excellent selection of topics.

Just as a quick note, in the mustard gas article [“From the Field of Battle, an Early Strike at Cancer,” Summer 2005], you refer to Ibn Sina, the 10th-century physician and scholar. He was actually Persian, not Arab. The reason he wrote in Arabic was that the official language for science in Iran was Arabic after the Arabs conquered the Persian Empire.

Thanks again for the excellent ideas and articles!

Setareh Vistamehr, M.D.
Instructor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science
New Haven

As Dr. Vistamehr notes, Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in Europe, was not an Arab. Because he was born in what is now Uzbekistan and died in what is now Iran, his roots are a subject of debate. For more on Avicenna, see “From the Middle East, in the Middle Ages.”—Eds.