Maimonides The Physician

Moshe ben Maimon or Maimonides was the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages His writings on the Torah are well known What is less well known is the fact that he was also the most important Jewish physician of the Middle Ages When forced to convert to Islam by the Almohad dynasty in Córdova his family fled to Morocco where he lived as a crypto Jew in Fez Later he made his way to Egypt where he returned to the open practice of Judaism There he became the physician to Sultan Saladin

In addition to his many commentaries on the Bible he wrote ten works on the practice of medicine Some of his treatments were in wide use until the late eighteenth century and the dawn of modern medicine

His descriptions of pneumonia and hepatitis are remarkably accurate for the time In his prescriptions for asthma hemorrhoids sexual dysfunction and poisons he was remarkably scientific and modern always advising a healthy diet and life style His Regimen of Health published in 1198 contains one of the earliest descriptions of psychosomatic medicine He advises “a healthy mind in a healthy body” while giving prescriptions relating to climate domicile occupation bathing sex wine drinking diet and respiratory infections

His final work was the recently discovered Glossary of Drug Names In it he shows the same ability of systematization and organization shown in his religious writings It also demonstrates his background in Arabic and ancient Greek medical literature

From: The Life of Moses Maimonides a Prominent Medieval Physician by Fred Rosner

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