Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn AbdallahIbn Idris al-Qurtubi al-Hasani, was bom in Ceuta, Spain, in1099 A.D . He was educated in Cordova. Later he travelled farand wide in connection with his studies and then flourished at theNorman court in Palermo. The date of his death is controversial,being either 1166 or 1180 A.D.
Biographical notes on him are to be found rathe rararely, andaccording to F. Pons Boigues the underlying reason is the fact thatthe Arab biographers considered al-Idrisi to be a renegade, since hehad been associated with the court of a Christian king and writtenin praise of him, in his work . The circumstances which led him tosettle in Sicily at the court of Roger II are not on record.
His major contribution lies in medicinal plants as presentedin his several books, specially Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat.He studied a nd reviewed all the literature on the subject of medicinalplants and formed the opinion that very little original material hadbeen added to this branch of knowledge since the early Greekwork. He, therefore, collected plants and data not reported earlieran d added this to the subject of botany, with special referenceto medicinal plants. Thus, a large number of new drugs plantstogether with their evaluation became available to the medicalpractitioners. He has given the names of the drugs in six languages:Syr iac, Greek, Persian, Hindi, Latin and Berber.
In addition to the above, he made original contributions togeography, especially as related to economics, physical factors andcultural aspects. He made a planishere in silver for King Roger II,and descri bed the world in Al-Kitab al-Rujari (Roger's Book), alsoentitled Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq al-Afaq (The delight of himwho desires to journey through the climates). This is practicallya geographical encyclopaedia of the time, containing i nformationnot only on Asia and Africa, but also Western countries.
Al-Idrisi, later on, also compiled another geographical encyclo-paedia, larger than the former entitled Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhatal-Nafs (Pleasure of men and delight of souls) also known as Kitab al-Mamalik wa al-Masalik.
Apart from botany and geography, Idrisi also wrote on fauna,zoology and therapeutical aspects. His work was soon translatedinto Latin and, especially, his books on geography remained popularboth in th e East and the West for several centuries.