Discovering Medicine in the Golden Age of Islam

Published Date: 
1 May 2013

Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Exhibition, London
The Mirror of Health: Discovering Medicine in the Golden Age of Islam
1 May to 25 October 2013

An exhibition revealing the development of medical tradition in Europe and the Middle East from the collections of the RCP in collaboration with Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization ( 

First floor gallery exhibition
Open Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm
Free entry

The Royal College of Physicians holds a rare collection of Islamic medical manuscripts dating from the 13th century.

‘Medicine is a science through which one knows the states of the human body, whether healthy or not, in order to preserve good health when it exists and restore it when it is lacking.’ Canon of medicine (al-Qānūn fī l-Ṭibb) by Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, 980–1037). 

‘I do not think it possible to bring the art of healing small-pox – especially in its initial state – to the same level of perfection as that achieved by al-Rāzī.’Jean-Jacques Paulet (1740–1826), prominent French physician

There will be an accompanying evening of lectures on 13 May 2013, with an opportunity to view the exhibition, from 5pm.

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Islamic medicine drew heavily on ancient Greek knowledge, especially humoral pathology, as classified by the Roman physician, Galen. The story of Islamic medicine is one not only of transmission and translation, but also of innovation and change, evolving over the centuries into a truly sophisticated science. 

This exhibition presents the newly researched collection for the first time and explores the medical traditions that developed in the heartland of Islam from the 9th century to the 17th century. 

As well as displaying the RCP's rich collection of Islamic medical texts, we have manuscripts and objects on loan from Eton College; the Science Museum, London; Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; and Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge.

In addition, the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization ( have provided valuable advice and support during the development of this exhibition.