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Among the distinguished contributors to medicine at this time, though

more a philosopher than a physician, is the famous Averroes, whose full

Arabic name among his contemporaries was Abul-Welid Mohammed Ben Ahmed

Ibn Roschd el-Maliki. Like Avenzoar, of whom he was the intimate

personal friend, and Abulcasis and Maimonides, he was born in the south

of Spain. He was in high favor with the King of Morocco and of Spain,

Mansur Jacub, often known as Almansor, who made him one of his

counsellors. His works are much more important for philosophy than for

medicine, and his philosophical writings gave him a place only second to

that of Aristotle in the Western world during the Middle Ages. Averroism

is still a subject of at least academic interest, and Renan's monograph

on it and its author was one of the popular books of the latter half of

the nineteenth century in philosophic circles. In spite of his

friendship with the Moorish King and with Avenzoar, he fell under the

suspicion of free thinking and was brought to trial with a number of

personal friends, who occupied high positions in the Moorish

government. He escaped with his life, but only after great risks, and he

was banished to a suburb of Cordova, in which only Jews were allowed to

live. By personal influence he succeeded in securing the pardon of

himself and friends, and then was summoned to the court of the son and

successor of El-Mansur in Morocco. He died, not long after, in 1198.

Altogether there are some thirty-three works of Averroes on philosophy

and science. Only three of these are concerned with medicine. One is the

Colliget, so-called, containing seven books, on anatomy, physiology,

pathology, diagnostics, materia medica, hygiene, and therapy. Then there

is a commentary on the Cantica of Avicenna, and a tractate on the

Theriac. Averroes' idea in writing about medicine was to apply his

particular system of philosophy to medical science. His intimate

relations with other great physicians of the time, and in particular his

close friendship with Avenzoar, enabled him to get abundant medical

information in faultless order so far as knowledge then went, but his

theoretic speculations, instead of helping medicine, as he thought they

would, and as philosophers have always been inclined to think as regards

their theoretic contributions, were not only not of value, but to some

extent at least hindered human progress by diverting men from the field

of observation to that of speculation. It is interesting to realize that

Averroes did in his time what Descartes did many centuries later, and

many another brilliant thinker has done before and since.