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Maimonides (1135–1204) and his philosophy of medicine
  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. University of Bristol Department of Child Health Southmead Hospital Southmead Bristol BS10 5NB
  1. Professor Peter Dunn.

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Moses Maimonides was born in Cordova, the capital of Moorish Spain, on 30 March 1135. His father, Maimon, was a judge of the Jewish religious courts. Until the family fled to Fez in 1159, because of religious persecution, Maimonides was a pupil of the philosopher–physician Averroes (1126–98). From Morocco the family moved on to Palestine and then to Egypt. Shortly after arriving in Cairo, his father died and his brother David, a dealer in precious stones, was drowned in the Indian Ocean, leaving a widow and young daughter. Maimonides wrote: “... how should I console myself? He grew up on my knees and he was my brother, he was my pupil; and he traded in the market and earned, and I could sit safely at home.” Now he had to practise medicine to support both families. His learning and wisdom were already widely acknowledged and in 1170 he was appointed physician to the Court of Saladin. He also became Rayyis (Head) of the Jewish community. He was 36 years old.1

Life was not easy. Maimonides described a typical day’s work as follows: “My duties to the Sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning; and when he or any of his children, or any of the inmates of his harem, are indisposed I dare not leave Cairo, but must spend the greater part of the day in the palace.... I repair to Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am fatigued and hungry. I find the ante-chambers filled with people ... I converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue, and …

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