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Tawfiq Canaan (Arabic: توفيق كنعان‎) (24 September 1882 – 15 January 1964) was a pioneering physician, medical researcher, ethnographer, and Palestinian nationalist. Born in Beit Jala during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, he served as a medical officer in the Ottoman army during World War I. During British rule, he served as the first President of the Palestine Arab Medical Association founded in 1944, and as the director of several Jerusalem area hospitals before, during, and after the 1948 war. Over the course of his medical career, he authored more than thirty-seven studies on topics including tropical medicine, bacteriology, malaria, tuberculosis, and health conditions in Palestine, and contributed to research that led to a cure for leprosy.[1][2]

Tawfiq Canaan
A man in an Ottoman army uniform, sporting a full moustache, and wearing a wool hat and round spectacles. He carries what appear to be gloves in his left hand. His right arm is bent and his right hand rests on the small of his back.
Born (1882-09-24)24 September 1882
Beit Jala, Ottoman Empire
Died 15 January 1964(1964-01-15) (aged 81)
East Jerusalem, West Bank
Nationality Palestinian
Occupation Physician, Ethnographer, author
Known for Pioneer in the field of medicine in Palestine
Researcher of Palestinian popular heritage
Parent(s) Bechara Canaan and Katharina Khairallah

Deeply interested in Palestinian folklore, popular beliefs, and superstitions, Canaan collected over 1,400 amulets and talismanic objects held to have healing and protective properties. His published analyses of these objects, and other popular folk traditions and practices, brought him recognition as an ethnographer and anthropologist.[3][4][5] The several books and more than 50 articles he wrote in English and German serve as valuable resources to researchers of Palestinian and Middle-Eastern heritage.[1][3]

An outspoken public figure, he also wrote two books on the Palestine problem, reflecting his involvement in confronting British imperialism and Zionism.[1][6] He was arrested by the British authorities in 1939. The last two decades of his life were lived in the shadow of several personal tragedies: the loss of his brilliant son in an accident at Jerash, the loss and destruction of his family home, and of his clinic in Jerusalem during the 1948 war.[7]

Canaan managed to re-establish his life and career in East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule. First taking sanctuary in a convent in the Old City for two years, he was appointed director of the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, where he lived with his family through his retirement until his death in 1964.[8]


Published worksEdit

(Partial list)

Folklore and ethnographyEdit


  • The Palestine Arab Cause. 1936.  (48-page booklet)[16]
  • Conflict in the Land of Peace. 1936.  (Published in English, Arabic, and French)[16]


  • "Modern Treatment". Al-Muqtataf. Beirut. 1905. [17]
  • "Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis in Jerusalem". Al-Kulliyeh. Beirut. 1911. [10]
  • "Beobachtungen bei einer Denguefieberepidemie in Jerusalem ("Observations on an epidemic of dengue fever in Jerusalem")". Archiv für Schiff- und Tropenhygiene (in German). 17: 20–25. 1912. [18]
  • "Die Jerichobeule". Archiv für Schiff- und Tropenhygiene (in German). 20: 109–119. 1916. [19]
  • Canaan, T (1929). "The Oriental Boil: An Epidemiological Study in Palestine". Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 23: 89–94. doi:10.1016/S0035-9203(29)90903-2. [20]
  • "Zur Epidemiologie der Orientbeule in Palästina". Dermatologische Wochenschrift (in German). 29 (91): 1779. 1930. 
  • "Kalazar in Palestine". Festschrift Bernhard Nocht (in German). 80: 67–71. 1937. 
  • "Topographical studies in leishmaniasis in Palestine". Journal of the Palestinian Arab Medical Association. 1: 4–12. 1945. [21]
  • "Intestinal parasites in Palestine". J. Med. Liban. 4 (3): 163–69. [22]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Nashef, 2002, p. 2.
  2. ^ El-Eini, 2006, p. 88.
  3. ^ a b Jubeh, Fall-Winter 2005, p. 103.
  4. ^ Davis, 2004.
  5. ^ Benvenisti, 2000, p. 252.
  6. ^ Bernstein, 2000, p. 123.
  7. ^ W.F. Albright, 'In Memoriam,' Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 174 (Apr., 1964), pp. 1-3,p.3.
  8. ^ Nashef, 2002, p. 14.
  9. ^ Nashef, 2002, p. 4.
  10. ^ a b c Nashef, 2002, p. 5.
  11. ^ a b c d Nashef, 2002, p. 6.
  12. ^ a b c d e Tamari, 2009, p. 202.
  13. ^ Taylor, 2001, p. 217.
  14. ^ Richards, D. S. (2002). The Annals of the Saljuq Turks: Selections from Al-Kāmil Fīʻl-Taʻrīkh of ʻIzz Al-Dīn Ibn Al-Athīr. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1576-2. 
  15. ^ a b Schaefer, Karl R. (2006). Enigmatic charms: medieval Arabic block printed amulets in American and European libraries and museums. Leiden: Brill. p. 239. ISBN 90-04-14789-6. 
  16. ^ a b Nashef, 2002, p. 10.
  17. ^ Nashef, 2002, p. 3.
  18. ^ Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, 1912, p. 410.
  19. ^ Hygienische Rundschau, 1917, p. 225.
  20. ^ "The Oriental Boil:An Epidemiological Study in Palestine". Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Elsevier. 23 (1): 89–94. 25 June 1929. 
  21. ^ Patai, 1957, p. 152.
  22. ^ Aall-Zyukov, 1932, p. 1011.
  23. ^ a b c d Nashef, 2002, p. 15.


External linksEdit