One in the eye in Cordoba

DSCF3510Wandering around the atmospheric backstreets of Cordoba, I came across this bust of one of the first attested eye-specialists in history. He was Mohamed Al-Gafequi, born sometime in 1165 in the northern part of Cordoba province. He had his medical practice in Cordoba and was also a connoisseur of classical Arabic literature.

There is unfortunately no complete biography of him, but we do know from a MS in the El Escorial Royal Monastery that his specialty was cataract operations. He studied and treated iris and pupil diseases and infections, and discovered by experiment that a cataract is formed by liquid segregation at the front of the eye.

He developed a number of different treatments for cataracts, and designed a special needle for extracting them. He argued with Albucasis as to whether cataracts had membranes or were contained in capsules, proving his thesis by successfully extracting a cataract in its membrane from a patient’s eye.

As well as designing innovative surgical instruments he was a pioneer in pain relief, in an age when pain was accepted as a just affliction from God and something humans just had to put up with.

This bust was erected in 1965 to mark the 800th anniversary Al-Gafequi’s birth, and stands in front of Cordoba University’s Philosophy and Arts Faculty.

‘Cordoba honours the famous oculist on his 8th centenary’, the inscription reads.


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