By Elena Jones, Membership Secretary

Despite a cold rainy evening people were arriving at the doorsteps of the Uzbekistan Embassy one after another and being greeted into the warm and comfortable interior of the beautiful building to attend an event organised jointly by the British-Uzbek Society and the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

It was a lovely atmosphere with guests mingling and chatting to each other, introducing friends and making new acquaintances. The auditorium was full with no spare seats when the presentations commenced.

Rosa Vercoe, the British-Uzbek Society communications director, who chaired the event, briefly presented the British-Uzbek Society to those who were new in the audience, and introduced the guest speakers.

HE Ambassador of Uzbekistan Said Rustamov addressed the audience and talked about Uzbekistan being a Crossroad civilisation on the crossroads of Silk Road routes that promoted not only the development of trade but also of science.

The Ambassador talked about 2 waves of the Eastern Renaissance between 9 -11th centuries and between 14th and 16th centuries respectively. Such names as Mohhamed Al Khorezmi who gave his name to algebra, Al Beruni who created a method to measure the diameter of the Earth 500 years before Columbus proved that it is round, and of course Abu Ali Ibn Sino (or Avicenna as he became known in the West) whose Cannon of Medicine was used as a standard text book in Western Universities from 13th up until 17th centuries – all are world renowned ancestors of modern day Uzbekistan. His informative speech received a very warm welcome from the audience.

Dr Shohista Saidkasimova, a consultant eye surgeon in Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, made an inspirational presentation about Avicenna’s life. Being a child prodigy he learnt quickly from the early age and before he was sixteen he not merely knew medical theory, but by gratuitous attendance on the sick had, according to  his own account, discovered new methods of treatment. He had also become an expert in the fields of physics, mathematics, metaphysics and logic. By 18 he was a physician to Emir and by 21 had his own school teaching medicine.

Shohista recalled being a child when Abu Ali Ibn Sino’s 1000th anniversary was celebrated widely in Uzbekistan in the 1980s with a special publication of a book of some of his work, and how fascinated she was looking through that book, learning to read and making a decision to become a doctor at that very young age.

Dr  Nima Ghadiri, a Cambridge educated expert in Medical Ophthalmology, did a wonderful visual presentation on the works and influence of Avicenna with fascinating images taken from Avicenna’s books. Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine was a 14 volume medical encyclopaedia which was used throughout Europe and the Islamic World until the eighteenth century. His other famous work, the Book of Healing, was an encyclopaedia of over 20 volumes on science and philosophy.

It was fascinating to learn that things that are widely used in medical science nowadays were first introduced by Avicenna. He introduced experimental medicine, risk factor analysis, quarantines, systematic experimentation in the study of physiology, and the idea of syndromes. He observed and described contagious and sexually transmitted diseases, pioneered in the area of neuropsychiatry, theorized on the existence of micro-organisms, and laid the pharmacological foundations for testing the effectiveness of drugs.

Almost 600 years before William Harvey, who is considered the first to describe the systemic circulation, Ibn Sino observed that the aortic valve with its 3-leaflets opens during the contraction and closes during the relaxation of the heart, to prevent the backward flow of blood.

Both presentations were abundant with fascinating historical facts and references. Both speakers really engaged with the audience and guests were eager to learn more during Q&A questions.

Discussions and conversations continued after the presentation in the dining room where traditional Uzbek plov and refreshments were served. The room was alive with stories about various cultures, influences, historical events. There were so many different nationalities represented in the room that it was a truly multicultural exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences just like a crossroad meeting point. Truly an enjoyable, knowledge sharing and reflective evening for all involved.