Google users in the UK might have been surprised to have been greeted by Ibn Sina as they opened the Google homepage.
However, Avicenna, as he is often known in the west, made significant contributions in a range of topics: from medicine to astronomy. And each of them flowed over, out of Persia and the Islamic Golden Age and into our modern day understanding of the world.
The geographical distribution of the doodle is a little strange: it appeared in the UK, but none of the countries near it. Additionally, Google’s map of where the doodle is showing only sometimes appeared to include Britain.
On the other hand, it did not appear in Iran – the area where Ibn Sina lived for most of his life – or in Uzbekistan, the place where he was born.
For the most part, the doodle appears to have be meant for north Africa and the Middle East. (It can’t be seen in Iran, the country that claims him as its own, because Google doesn’t operate its search engine there because of US sanctions.)
Nevertheless, while Ibn Sina was born 1000 years ago in present-day Uzbekistan, he was a man of the world. He learnt arithmetic from an Indian grocer, and he would go on to live in Persia.
And Ibn Sina was working at time when there was continuous, fruitful exchange between the West and the Islamic world. He undertook intense study of Aristotle’s Metaphysics during his teens, for instance, and the influence would be seen across his work.
His research would go on to have a similarly wide reach. His most famous work of the more than 450 he wrote, known as The Canon of Medicine, was a key text in European medical courses. This was a key text even hundreds of years after he had died, until the 18th century, and its influence continues to spread today.
In fact, many people credit both that book and Ibn Sina’s work generally with the beginnings of what would become medicine as it practised in the west today.