Hospital Zone

How medical knowledge and treatment from Muslim civilisation has influenced medicine today

Hospitals, medicines and surgery: the modern world of health and medical treatment has countless links with the past. In this zone of the exhibition, find out about the healthcare system that developed in early Muslim societies, which offered pioneering surgery, hospital care and an increasing variety of drugs and medicines developed from ancient knowledge and new research.

Did you know


...that patients in early Muslim societies might take pills, pastilles, syrups and powders, undergo cataract surgery or have a cast put on a broken leg?

...that in 1924, a manuscript revealed that a forgotten 13th-century Arab scholar had correctly explained a crucial aspect of how our blood moves around the body?

...that key medical works from the 9th century onwards reached a worldwide audience because Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars were keen to learn from each other and from other civilisations?

In this zone:

  • Find out about physician and scholar Ibn Sina, who advised against splinting a fractured limb straight away, but recommended waiting until five days later – a procedure now universally adopted
  • Hear how translations of medical books by Ibn Sina and many others influenced European doctors for centuries after they were written
  • See examples of the surgical tools used a thousand years ago, which look remarkably similar to those we still use today
  • Explore how inoculation, known to ancient civilisations in the Middle East and Africa, became a life-saving practice all around the world
  • Find out how an 11th-century scholar from Iraq invented and made a hollow needle for removing cataracts
  • Meet Al-Zahrawi, a 10th-century surgeon, in our film, and hear about how he was the first person to use catgut systematically to stitch internal incisions
  • Discover The Book of Water, a nine-hundred-page book thought to be the first alphabetical classification of medical terms
  • Hear the story of 13th-century doctor Ibn al-Nafis, who was the first to explicitly state that the blood moves from the heart, transits through the lungs to mix with air and returns to the heart
  • Explore early hospitals, with their wards for men and women, running water, teaching spaces and mental health facilities.