Alchemy, medicine and pharmacology in medieval Islam: Rāzī's 12 books


  • Dr Benjamin (Bink) Hallum

    University of Warwick

Project summary

The earliest Greek alchemical writings show strong links with medicine. These texts and other ancient scientific and medical works were translated into Arabic in the early Middle Ages and were read and debated by Islamic physicians. The influence of alchemy on medicine in this period is often presumed, but historians have been unable to find examples of the direct contribution that early Islamic alchemy had on medicine. In about 900CE, the Persian physician and alchemist Rāzī wrote an Arabic encyclopaedia of alchemy, called The Twelve Books, which has long been presumed lost. Recent advances in manuscript cataloguing have made it possible to locate the chapters of Rāzī's encyclopaedia in archives across the globe. 

I will re-assemble, edit and translate The Twelve Books to produce a fundamental resource demonstrating the contribution of Greco-Arabic alchemy to the development of medicine in both the Islamic world and Europe.