Ibn al-Nafis and the discovery of the pulmonary circulation

Abdurahim Aloud MD


Ibn al-Nafis was an Arab physician, scientist, and philosopher who was born in 1213 in Damascus and died in 1288 in Cairo. He studied medicine in Damascus and moved to Egypt to practice medicine where he became the chief physician in the Mansouri Bimaristan. Ibn al-Nafis wrote in a wide array of fields, including physiology, medicine, ophthalmology, embryology, psychology, philosophy, law, and theology. He is famous for providing the first description of the pulmonary circulation. He was the first person to challenge the long-held theory of the Galen (129-207 AD) School that blood could pass from the right to the left side of the heart through small pores in the interventricular septum. He believed that all the blood that reached the left ventricle passed through the lungs. The work of al-Nafis on the pulmonary circulation predates the much later work of William Harvey (1578–1657).

Keywords: Ibn al-Nafis, Islamic medicine, pulmonary circulation, William Harvey

Article citation: Aloud A. Ibn al-Nafis and the discovery of the pulmonary circulation. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles 2017;5:(17);71-73.
DOI: 10.12746/swrccc2017.0517.229
From: The Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX.
Corresponding author: Abdurahim Aloud at Abdurahim.aloud@ttuhsc.edu