The Bukhtīshū‘ Family: A Dynasty of Physicians in the Early History of Islamic Medicine

Husain F Nagamia



The Bukhtīshū` family produced a generation of physicians of devout Christian faith and Nestorian descent. Because of their high level of education and special knowledge of medicine they enjoyed a special status under the patronage of the Abbasid caliphs, who appointed many of them as court physicians. From the 2nd century AH (8th century CE) to the 5th century AH (11th century CE), they contributed greatly to the practice of medicine by generously supporting the collection and translation of medical texts and by heading newly formed hospitals and dispensaries. They also disseminated the science by writing and teaching the art to many eager students. Last but not least, they themselves practiced medicine with a high ethical standard.
They, therefore, can be considered true pioneers of Islamic medicine. In this article we will examine their family tree, their genealogy, and their contributions to the practice and teaching of medicine during this early period of Islamic civilization. We will also endeavor to examine their origins and close association with the medical school and hospital in the ancient city of Jundishapur, an institution that was held in high esteem during the early conquests of Islam. Later, at the invitation of the caliph, they were to transfer their practices to the newly founded capital of the Abbasid Empire, the city of Baghdad. There, they established medical schools and hospitals modeled after the prototype of Jundishapur. These institutions in their turn came to exceed the standards of the school and hospital in Jundishapur. We will also examine their contributions to the practice of medicine during this historical period.


Bukhtīshū‘, Nestorian physicians, Islamic medicine, history of medicine

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