Kitaab TV: The Origins Series – The Origin of Quarantine


The modern practice of ‘Quarantine’ owes its debt to the work of the Muslim polymath Ibn Sina (980-1037), known as Avicenna.

It was Ibn Sina who argued for the use of quarantine to control the spread of diseases in his five-volume medical encyclopedia “The Canon of Medicine,” originally published in 1025.

The Muslim scholar explained that diseases can spread through very small particles that cannot beWhile historians are not sure about the origins of the practice of sanitary isolation, the concept of quarantine has been known since biblical times, and is known to have been practised through history in various places.

Nevertheless, quarantine, as it is known today, would not have been developed without the seen with the naked eye. This discovery was proven centuries later when the microscope was invented.

Ibn Sina’s work laid the foundation for modern quarantine. Some argue that the current appellation of “quarantine” originates from quarantena, the Venetian language form, meaning “forty days”. This comes from the Arabic term “al-Arba’iniya” (the fortieth), which Ibn Sina used to designate his isolation method. Merchants in Venice used the term during the Black Death plague in the 14th and 15th centuries to designate the forty-day period that all ships were required to isolate before passengers and crew could go ashore.

Three centuries before the Venetians, Ibn Sina was ahead of his time in using this practice in his medical canon. His “The Canon of Medicine” was translated into Latin in Spain in the 12th century.

The University of Bologna, the oldest European university, was the first to adopt Ibn Sina’s Canon as the base of its medical education, in the 13th century. Between the 13th and the 17th centuries, many universities in Europe adopted Ibn Sina’s medical encyclopedia as the foundation of medical educational programmes. (Compiled from various sources)

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