|Biographical detail : ||One of the greatest scientists of Muslim Spain and the greatest botanist and pharmacist of the Middle Ages.
Al-Baitar left Spain, in 1219, on a plant-collecting expedition and travelled along the northern coast of Africa as far as Asia Minor, visiting Bugia, Qastantunia (Constantinople), Tunis, Tripoli, Barqa and Adalia.
Al-Baitar was appointed chief herbalist in the service of Egyptian Governor, after 1224, and he was provided with the opportunity to collect plants from Syria, Palestine and Arabia.
Ibn Baitar’s major work ‘Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada’ is one of the greatest botanical compilations dealing with medicinal plants in Arabic, translated into Latin and published in 1758. This encyclopaedia comprises 1,400 different items, largely medicinal plants and vegetables, of which about 200 plants were not known earlier. This work enjoyed a high status among botanists up to the 16th century.
Al-Baitar’s second monumental treatise ‘Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada’ is an encyclopaedia of medicine. The drugs are listed in accordance with their therapeutically value. Thus, its twenty different chapters deal with the plants bearing significance to diseases of head, ear, eyes, etc.
Al-Baitar’s contributions are characterised by observation, analysis and classification and furthermore having given Greek and Latin names of plants – facilitating transfer of knowledge – hence exerted a profound influence on Eastern and Western botany and medicine.
Al-Baitar was born Abu Muhammad Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi at Malaq (now Malaga) in Spain. He died in Damascus.