Medieval Arabic Medical Autobiography (Ibn Ridwan) (Critical Essay)
Posterity was not kind to Ibn Ridwan, the fifth/eleventh-century Cairene physician and self-proclaimed revisionist of the medical curriculum of his day. An example of this latter-day opinion is to be had from his earliest biographer al-Qifti (d. 646/1248) who concluded his Ta’rikh al-hukama’ on something of a sour note with the following account of Ibn Ridwan. (1) Such a dim portrayal in a collection of biographies devoted to outstanding physicians, medical practitioners, and philosophers can be taken only as an admonition among encomia. In al-Qifti’s view, Ibn Ridwan was something of a dilettante, correctly trained in neither astrology nor medicine; a dubious “compiler” of greater authors’ works; perhaps physically grotesque; a transmitter of mediocre knowledge to students of poor skill; nonetheless possessed of reputation, but not by virtue of mastering the disciplines to which he lays claims; and, in the final judgment, naught but a tolerably reliable scribe.