Abu ‘l-Qasim Khalaf ibn ‘Abbas al-Zahrawi (ca 936–1013(?)) was a Muslim surgeon living in Cordoba under the Umayyad dynasty.
Al-Zahrawi was the first to describe an ectopic pregnancy as well as the first person to figure out that there was a hereditary component to hemophilia. He wrote a medical treatise based on his study of ancient Greek medical texts and his own personal experience, He intended his text, titled kitab al-tasrif li-man ‘ajiza ‘an al-ta’ alif, to be a compendium of medical knowledge for its reader. It included all facets of medicine including descriptions of diseases, treatments, medicines and useful herbs and minerals. Its most famous chapter was “On Surgery and Instruments.”
During the Middle Ages, al-Zahrawi was revered along with other luminaries such as Galen as one of the father’s of medicine and his text served as one of the foundational texts for surgery.
Unlike other medical works, his text is actually fairly straight forward. He does not bury his ideas beneath mounds of philosophy or theology. As a consequence, it became immensely popular with would be doctors and surgeons. His text also helped to raise the status of surgery in medieval Europe from being perceived as a lowly, menial trade to ultimately becoming a medical specialty.
His surgical text included a number of illustrations of surgical tools. Some were based on Ancient Greek and Roman designs while others were al-Zahrawi’s own invention. His cephalotribes— a tool designed by al-Zahrawi to be used in extracting a dead fetus from the uterus—for example are quite close to the forceps that would be designed by Hugh Chamberlen in the 19th century.