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Photo of Professor Nahyan Fancy

Professor Nahyan Fancy

Al-Qasimi Professor in Islamic Studies

I am an historian of science and medicine who focuses on Islamic societies during the period from 1000-1500. I am particularly interested in the intersections of science, medicine, philosophy and religion in Arabic (and increasingly Persian) works from this period. 

I received my PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (USA), my M.A. in the same area from the University of Toronto (Canada), and my B.A. in Mathematics and Biochemistry from Knox College, Illinois (USA). 

My current projects include: 1. an examination of 8 Arabic medical commentaries produced on the Canon of Medicine and its abridgment between 1170 and 1520; 2. medical and religious understandings of plague; 3. medical understandings of sleep and their intersections with philosophy and religion; and 4. medical and religious understandings of fetal generation, including notions of fertility/infertility, ensoulment and gender identity. 

I am happy to supervise students broadly interested in the history of science, history of medicine, and science and religion issues in Islamic societies, ideally in the period before 1600, but depending on the topic and the region (e.g. South Asia), even as late as the early twentieth century. 

I currently serve as the Book Review Editor for Islamic Studies for Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, and serve on the Editorial board of the journal, Medical History. I also serve as the Secretary of the Commission on the History of Science and Technology in Islamic Societies

I tweet under the name: @FancyNahyan  


I belong to the Kutiyana Memon community. My parents migrated to Karachi, Pakistan at partition, but originally are from Junagadh, India (the princely state whose composition and rule was the mirror-image of Kashmir). I was born and raised in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates where I completed my (I)GCSEs and A'Levels.

I received a liberal arts education at Knox College, majoring in Mathematics and Biochemistry. Upon graduation, I returned to Knox as a post-baccalaureate fellow, undertaking research in the history of calculus, biochemistry pedagogy (DNA renaturation) and Islamic philosophy, while I contemplated what course to pursue for post-graduate study. Having fallen in love with history of calculus, philosophy of science and Islamic philosophy, I decided to pursue an MA in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Toronto, where I wrote my thesis on the 17th century mathematician, Isaac Barrow and his geometrical method of finding tangents. I then moved to the University of Notre Dame for my PhD in the area, writing a thesis on the thirteenth century physician, Ibn al-Nafis, and situating his discovery of the pulmonary transit of blood within his social and intellectual context. 

I was lucky to receive a tenure-track offer in the History department of DePauw University (Indiana, USA) during the final year of my dissertation (2006). I remained on the faculty at DePauw, even serving as the Faculty Development Coordinator (2017-2020), until August 2023, when I joined the faculty at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.  

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