Rational and Empirical Medicine in Ninth-Century Baghdad: Qusṭā ibn Lūqā’s ‘Questions on the Critical Days in Acute Illnesses’

Document Type



Claremont McKenna College, History (CMC)

Publication Date



The article considers a brief catechistic presentation of a Galenic medical doctrine, the critical days, by the 9th century translator and thinker, Qusṭā ibn Lūqā (d. 912/3), found in a manuscript in Iran. The piece is first shown to have been derived from Galen's treatise on the critical days. Then, it is discussed section by section, in commentary form, to elucidate the medical doctrines Qusṭā propounds. Lastly, the piece is compared with an earlier attempt, by al-Kindī (d. c. 870), to describe the critical days mathematically. The various medical doctrines behind the treatise are discussed, as are the varying approaches to scientific method. The article concludes with contrasting the a priori mathematical scientific method of al-Kindī with the a posteriori empirical method of Galen/Qusṭā, and offers suggestions about the chronologies of the appearances of these doctrines and texts in Arabic. A transcription of the Arabic text is appended.

Rights Information

© 2014 Cambridge University Press

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.