Womb Heat versus Sperm Heat: Hippocrates against Galen and Ibn Sīnā in Ibn al- Nafīs’s Commentaries

Nahyan Fancy, DePauw University

This is the pre-peer-reviewed version of an article published in Oriens 45 (2017): 150–175.


Ibn al-Nafīs wrote lemmatic commentaries on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms and Ibn Sīnā’s entire Canon of Medicine. While he regularly challenges, critiques and refutes Ibn Sīnā’s positions in his Commentary on the Canon, Ibn al-Nafīs generally upholds the validity of each aphorism. This already suggests that he considered Hippocrates the supreme authority in medicine over Ibn Sīnā (and even Galen). Through an analysis of his commentary on Aphorisms V.42 and V.48 (on the causes and consequences of bearing male children), and how he deploys them in his commentary on the analogous chapters from the Canon, we shall see how Ibn al-Nafīs establishes the validity of these aphorisms using his own understanding of generation. This tight interweaving of the Aphorisms and his physiology allowed Ibn al-Nafīs to marshal the authority of Hippocrates to simultaneously undercut the positions of Ibn Sīnā, Galen and other adversaries, and to elevate the authority and validity of Ibn al-Nafīs’s own (novel) positions.