Al-Kindi was born in Kufa about 800 CE. His full name is: Abu-Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq ibn as-Sabbah ibn ‘Omran ibn Isma‘il al-Kindi. He was the son of the governor of Kufa, an important city in Southern Iraq at that time. He studied first in Kufa and at Baghdad, and won a high reputation at the courts of al-Mam'un (reigned until 833) and al-Mu'tassim (reigned 833–842) as scholar, scientist, and philosopher.
Al-Kindi General Hospital, one of the biggest medical centres in present day Baghdad was named after the tremendous contributions in medical and pharmaceutical disciplines of the great Arab philosopher al-Kindi.
Al-Kindi was best known as a philosopher, but he was also a physician, pharmacist, He was also concerned with music, physicist, mathematician, geographer, astronomer, and chemist.
Human virtues seem to preoccupy Al-Kindi greatly but without overshadowing the importance and value of divine virtues. The way to worldly happiness, he says, is to reduce to a minimum all external possessions, which cause only sorrow, and the way to other worldly happiness is to know God and to perform those actions, which we know bring us nearer to him
On the scientific front, Al-Kindi plays a central role in Islamic scholarship for two principal reasons:
- his early role in establishing a scientific methodology;
- the diversity of subjects he addressed.
Al-Kindi refutes his Greek predecessors in every single discipline, which thus, once more proves that the assertion found in most Western books of his being a mere disciple of Greek science is groundless; Al-Kindi's work in the laboratory is reported by a witness who said: "I received the following description, or recipe, from Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Ishaq Al-Kindi, and I saw him making it and giving it an addition in my presence." As for scientific rigour, Al-Kindi is also the symbol of Islamic deviation from previous Greek practices of associating folklore and myths with science.
One such works by Al-Kindi is a short treatise with the long title Treatise on the Azure Colour which is Seen in the Air in the Direct of the Heavens and is Thought to be the Colour of the Heavens.
One of Al-Kindi's works which has survived in Latin while it has apparently been lost in the original Arabic is his treatise on geometrical optics. Gerard of Cremona's Latin translation of the work was published in 1912 by the Danish scholars A. A. Bjornbö and Sebastian Vogel
Al-Kindi, as a medical man, addressed amongst the diseases epilepsy, which is well detailed by Dunlop. Al-Kindi states in his introduction: "May God surround you with salvation, and establish you in its paths and aid you to attain the truth and enjoy the fruits thereof! You have asked me –may God direct you to all things profitable!– that I should outline to you the disease called Sar' [the falling-sickness, epilepsy].
Al-Kindi was one of the first Arab scholars involved in studying and commenting on Greek scientific and philosophical manuscripts. He defined philosophy as "the establishment of what is true and right".
Although Al-Kindi was influenced by the work of Aristotle (384-322 BCE), he put the Greek's ideas in a new context and laid the foundations of a new philosophy.
Al-Kindi also delved in medicine. He produced twenty two publications on medical topics. One of his major contributions in medicine and pharmaceutics was to determine and apply a correct dosage, which formed the bases of medical formulary.