Wednesday, April 30, 2014

000018 - Ibn al-Faqih, Persian Geographer

Ibn al-Faqih
Ibn al-Faqih. (Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani(Persianابن فقیه الهمذانی‎)  Persian author of a geography written in Arabic during the ninth century.  In his only surviving work The Book of the Countries (Concise Book of Lands), he describes his native town Hamadan and the countries of Iran, Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Rum, Jazira, Central Asia, Nubia, Abyssinia, North Africa, al-Andalus and Sudan are given merely a brief mention.

Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani became famous for his Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan (Concise Book of Lands). He was noted for his comparison of the customs, food diets, codes of dress, rituals, along with the flora and fauna of China and India.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

000017 - Ibn al-Baytar, Muslim Botanist and Pharmacist

Ibn al-Baytar
Ibn al-Baytar (Ibn al-Baitar) (Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi) (circa, 1188 - 1248).  Botanist and pharmacologist of Malaga. In one of his works, he lists some 1400 samples.  This work had a considerable influence both outside and within the Islamic world.

Ibn al-Baytar 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.

In 1219, Ibn al-Baytar 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.

Ibn al-Baytar’s major contribution is Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada, 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 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. The book also contains references to 150 other previous Arabic authors as well as 20 previous Greek authors.

Ibn Al-Baytar’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.

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

Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi see Ibn al-Baytar
Ibn al-Baitar see Ibn al-Baytar

000016 - Asad Mansur al-Faqih, First Saudi Arabian Ambassador to United States

Faqih, Asad Mansur al-

Sheik Asad Mansur al-Faqih (1909 - April 2, 1988) was the first Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States. 

Sheik Faqih was a delegate to the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945, where he signed the charter on behalf of Saudi Arabia. He was appointed Ambassador to the United States later that year. He served simultaneously as Ambassador to Canada and Mexico and was his country's delegate to the United Nations from 1946 to 1955. He established Saudi embassies in China and Japan and served as chief inspector of diplomatic missions. He retired as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in 1963.

Sheik Faqih was also his country's Chief Justice and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and played a key role in maintaining strong Saudi ties with the Allies during World War II.

A resident of the United States after 1984, Sheik Faqih died of prostate cancer on April 2, 1988 at his home in Walnut Creek, Calif. He was 79 years old.  He was survived by his wife, Yacout; seven children, Aida Abi-Mershed of London, Selma Hassen, Saniya Hamady and Zuheir al-Faqih of Washington, and Dr. Khaled al-Faqih, Ghida Heaps and Mrs. Hoda Cox of Walnut Creek; 20 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Monday, April 14, 2014

000015 - Ibn al-Awwam, Arab Agriculturist

Ibn al-Awwam was an Arab agriculturist who flourished at Seville in Spain about the end of the 12th century. He wrote a treatise on agriculture in Arabic called Kitab al-Filaha (English: Book on Agriculture), which is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in medieval Arabic, and one of the most important medieval works on the subject in any language. It was published in Spanish and French translations in the 19th century. 

His full name was Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Al-Awwam Al-Ishbili. The appellation "Al-Ishbili" at the end of his name translates as "the Sevillean" i.e. from Seville. His dates of birth and death are not known. Nearly everything that is known about his biography is gleaned from his book. It appears that he was a large landowner whose interests lay exclusively with agricultural matters. It is clear that he did lots of hands-on growing and experimenting with a wide range of crops himself. It is also clear that he was well-read in the agricultural writings of his predecessors. He cites information from 112 different prior authors. His citations of prior authors have been analyzed with the following summary results: about 1900 direct and indirect citations altogether, of which 615 are to Byzantine authors (especially to the Geoponica of Cassianus Bassus), 585 are to Middle Eastern authors (especially to the Book of Nabataean Agriculture attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya), and 690 are to Andalusian Arabic authors (especially to Abu al-Khayr al-Ishbili and Ibn Hajjaj, who were two natives of Seville who each wrote a book about agriculture around year 1075, copies of which have survived only partly).

Ibn al-Awwam's treatise on agriculture is divided into thirty-four chapters. The first thirty chapters deal with crops and the last four deal with livestock. The first four chapters in the book deal successively with different types of soils, fertilizers, irrigation, and planning a garden layout. Then there are five chapters on growing fruit trees, including grafting, pruning, growing from cuttings, etc., and dozens of different fruit trees are treated individually. Later chapters deal with plowing, the choice of seeds, the seasons and their tasks, grain farming, leguminous plants, small allotments, aromatic plants and industrial plants. Again, many plants are treated individually. The treatise altogether covers the cultivation of 585 different plants.  One chapter is devoted to methods of preserving and storing foods after harvest, a topic which comes up intermittently elsewhere. The symptoms of many diseases of trees and vines are indicated, as are methods of cure. The chapters on livestock include discussion of the diseases and injuries to horses and cattle.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

000014 - Ibn Aranbugha al-Zardkash, "Manual on Armoury" Author

Ibn Aranbugha al-Zardkash
Ibn Aranbugha al-Zardkash was the author of a 14th century treatise on weaponry entitled Manual on Armoury.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

000013 - Hunein Maassab, Developer of Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine

Hunein Maassab (b.  June 11, 1926, Damascus,  - d.  February 1, 2014, North Carolina) was the developer of nasal spray flu vaccine.  He was born on June 11, 1926, in Damascus. His father was a jeweler. He enrolled at the University of Missouri, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1950 and a master’s in physiology and pharmacology in 1952. He then moved to Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in public health in 1954 and his doctorate in epidemiology in 1956.

"John" Hunein F. Maassab was a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan since 1960 and served as the chairman from 1991-1997. He founded and directed the Hospital and Molecular Epidemiology program in the Department of Epidemiology. Dr. Maassab was a member of several scientific organizations including the American Public Health Association and the American Society of Microbiology and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Maassab had over 170 publications that range from studies on the basic biology of viruses to research on the development of methods to control viral infections.

Dr. Maassab was awarded patents for the development of a cold-adapted influenza virus and for an attenuated respiratory syncytial virus. Dr. Maassab received the 1997 Award for Science and Technology from Popular Science for the development of the cold-adapted influenza virus. This discovery led him to develop a flu vaccine that can be administered by a nasal spray as an alternative to the "flu shot."

Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness. Most people who get the flu recover completely in one to two weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia. Between 25-50 million people in the United States are infected each year with the influenza virus. In an average year, infection with influenza virus is associated with 20,000 deaths nationwide and more than 100,000 hospitalizations. Approximately 90 million workdays are lost and 30 million school days are missed each year as a result of influenza.

Vaccination can prevent disease caused by influenza. Unlike vaccines used against other viruses such as measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, people need to be vaccinated annually against influenza. This is because the influenza virus often changes its genetic composition to evade the immune system of its host. Thus, people are susceptible to influenza virus infection throughout life. The current vaccine used for flu is a "killed" virus vaccine that is administered by injection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for healthy adults over age 50 and high-risk children and adults. Unfortunately, less than one percent of healthy children and less than 30 percent of healthy adults, are routinely vaccinated. Achieving adequate flu protection is difficult because each year a new vaccine must be developed that is appropriate for the specific strainsof influenza likely to circulate. Currently, there is concern n the public health community regarding the timely supply of vaccine for the coming flu season.

In 1967, Dr. Maassab published a paper in the journal Nature describing the adaptation of an influenza virus for growth at a low temperature in culture. Importantly, this "cold-adapted" virus does not grow at higher temperatures such as those found in the lungs. However, the cold-adapted virus can replicate in the nasal passages where the temperature is lower. The cold-adapted virus cannot survive in the lungs where the body temperature is higher, and therefore cannot cause disease. The limited viral growth seen in the nasal passages may stimulate an immune response that may protect a person from infections from influenza viruses. This protection also prevents the spread of influenza to others.

Dr. Maassab developed an intranasal cold-adapted live virus vaccine that may provide promising alternative to the "flu shot." Using a nasal mist, an attenuated (weakened) live form of the influenza virus is sprayed into the nasal passages, where influenza viruses enter the body.

The public health significance of this finding for the development of an influenza vaccine was apparent. By using nasal mist technology to eliminate the fear of injections, this method may offer the first practical way to immunize children and adults on a large scale annually in the near future.