al-Razi (10th century CE; 4th century AH)

Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb [The comprehensive book of medicine].
In the 10th century, the Persian physician Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ZakariyaʾAl-Razi  (Rhazes) recognized the need for an untreated control group when assessing the effects of a treatment.

Title page(s)

al-razi-1 al-razi-2

Key passage(s)



“When the dullness (thiqal) and the pain in the head and neck continue for three and four and five days or more, and the vision shuns light, and watering of the eyes is abundant, yawning and stretching are great, insomnia is severe, and extreme exhaustion occurs, then the patient after that will progress to meningitis (sirsâm) … If the dullness in the head is greater than the pain, and there is no insomnia, but rather sleep, then the fever will abate, but the throbbing will be immense but not frequent and he will progress into a stupor (lîthûrghas). So when you see these symptoms, then proceed with bloodletting. For I once saved one group [of patients] by it, while I intentionally neglected [to bleed] another group. By doing that, I wished to reach a conclusion (ra’y). And so all of these [latter] contracted meningitis.”

Translation by Selma Tibi


Al-Razi (c.854CE-c.932CE) Rhazes_Al-Razi_port


The editors are indebted for help in obtaining this record to:

Emilie Savage-Smith, Senior Research Associate at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

Doris Nicholson at the Oriental Imaging Service of the Bodleian, University of Oxford.

The editors are grateful to:

The Wellcome Trust for making available the portrait of Al-Razi (c.854CE-c.932CE).

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