The mirror of health: discovering medicine in the golden age of Islam

An exhibition revealing the development of medical tradition in Europe and the Middle East from the collections of the Royal College of Physicians.

1 May to 25 October 2013
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm (except bank holidays)
Free admission

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

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. The Western medical tradition emerged in the 5th century BC, although earlier civilisations such as those of Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East also developed medical techniques.

Islamic medicine drew heavily on ancient Greek knowledge, especially humoral pathology, the exhibition opens with a display on the prominent Roman physician and philosopher, Galen (cAD 129–216), who classified the medical doctrine which states that the body’s health depends on the balance of the four humours: black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm.

The show continues with an exploration of anatomy; at the time an unknown frontier, through to the influence of magic and divination on early clinicians and the exploration of alchemical tradition in order to develop new medical theories.

Throughout the Renaissance, Arabic learning was the dominant medical trend. It was during this period that the RCP was founded in 1518. The exhibition closes with a display celebrating the collectors and cataloguers of the RCP collections during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and charts the continued interest in Arabic medical traditions though to the 20th century.

Displayed alongside manuscripts and imagery dating from the 9th century, are objects and artefacts on loan by kind permission from the collections of the Science Museum, London, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, The Bodleian Library, Oxford and Eton College, Windsor.

An exhibition catalogue will also be available from 13 May 2013.

Find out more about the exhibition in the Museum and garden section of the RCP website

Exhibition Private View and Treasures Evening Lectures - Monday 13 May 2013

An evening of talks exploring Arabic-Islamic medical tradition and its legacy, East and West, featuring the RCP's rare collection of Islamic medical manuscripts dating from the thirteenth century.

Further details, including how to book are available in the Museum and garden section of the RCP website

Visitor information

The Grade I listed RCP building, permanent collections and exhibitions are open to the public Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm. Entry is free of charge and guided tours can be arranged for groups of six or more. To book a tour, contact the RCP museum team on 020 3075 1543 or history@rcplondon.ac.uk

Supporters

The exhibition is made possible by the kind support of The Science Museum, London, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Bodleian Library, Oxford and Eton College, Windsor.

 

For all media enquiries, please contact Lili Spain on +44 (0)7962 028 629, or email lilispainpr@gmail.com; Andrew McCracken on +44 (0)20 3075 1354 / 07990 745608, or email andrew.mccracken@rcplondon.ac.uk