Discovery of Alcohol (Ethanol):

A Breakthrough in the world of Industry and Medicine

By Sayed Mehran Sharafi

Sayed Mehran Sharafi is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Biomedical engineering.

Sayed Mehran Sharafi is a PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Biomedical engineering.

Alcohol has many everyday uses ranging from solvents, cleaning products, fuel for table top cookery, industrial applications and medical uses. Alcohol even finds its way into thermometers where it is colored red. However, alcohol was around for centuries as a component of wine and beer, but it was not identified as a separate compound. 

The first person who discovered pure alcohol (ethanol) by distilling wine was a well-known Iranian/Persian alchemist by the name of Mohammad ibn Zakaria Razi (864-930 AD). He was born in the city of Ray, south of Tehran/Iran. He is considered one of the greatest alchemists of all time and his work remained in use for over 10 centuries. He has not only discovered alcohol, and the use of alcohol in medicine, but also discovered sulfurique acid and several chemical instruments that remain in use to this day. 

Razi wrote several books and articles in the field of medicine. Some of them may have been copied or printed under different names. His books are too much to be listed in this brief introductory. But the most famous books which have been translated to English are as follow: 

The Book for the Elite. (Mofid al Khavas)
The Book of Experiences
The Cause of the Death of Most Animals because of Poisonous Winds
The Physicians' Experiments
The Person Who Has No Access to Physicians
The Big Pharmacology
The Small Pharmacology
Gout
The Doubt on Galen (Al Shakook ala Jalinoos)
Kidney and Bladder Stones
The Spiritual Physik of Rhazes (Ketab tibb ar-Ruhani)

Razi's challenge to the current fundamentals of medical theory were quite controversial. Many accused him of ignorance and arrogance, even though he repeatedly expressed his praise and gratitude to Galen for his contributions and labors, saying:

I prayed to God to direct and lead me to the truth in writing this book. It grieves me to oppose and criticize the man Galen from whose sea of knowledge I have drawn much. Indeed, he is the Master and I am the disciple. Although this reverence and appreciation will and should not prevent me from doubting, as I did what is erroneous in his theories. I imagine and feel deeply in my heart that Galen has chosen me to undertake this task, and if he were alive, he would have congratulated me on what I am doing. I say this because Galen’s aim was to seek and find the truth and bring light out of darkness. I wish indeed he were alive to read what I have published.
— Mohammad ibn Zakaria Razi

References: 
Wikipedia, Answers.com and Royal society of chemistry (http://www.rsc.org)