Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi was a physician, historian, Egyptologist and traveler, and one of the most voluminous writers of the Near East in his time. He was a philosopher and polymath who lived between the Second Crusade (1147–1149 AD) and the end of the Fifth Crusade (1217–1231 AD). He was born in Baghdad in 1162 and died there on 9 November 1231 after a pilgrimage of more than forty years during which he travelled throughout Iraq, Syria and Egypt looking for a good teacher in philosophy. He grew up in a Shafi‘i family with excellent links with the Nizamiyya madrasa and he received a solid education in Islamic sciences. Then he turned to natural sciences, medicine, philosophy and, critically, to alchemy. His spasmodic search for knowledge brought him to meet through their writings Avicenna, al-Ghazali and al-Suhrawardi.
As a young man, he studied grammar, law, tradition, medicine, alchemy and philosophy. He focused his studies on ancient authors, in particular Aristotle, after first adopting Avicenna as his philosophical mentor at the suggestion of a wandering scholar from the Maghreb. He traveled extensively and resided for a while in Mosul (in 1189) where he studied the works of al-Suhrawardi before traveling on to Damascus (1190) and the camp of Saladin outside Acre (1191). It was at the latter location that he met Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad and ‘Imad al-Din al-Isfahani and acquired the qadi al-Fadil's patronage. He went on to Cairo, where he met Abu'l-Qasim al-Shari'i, who introduced him to the works of al-Farabi, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Themistius and (according to al-Latif) turned him away from Avicenna and alchemy.
Al-Baghdadi's Mukhtarat fi al-Tibb was one of the earliest works on hirudotherapy. He introduced a more modern use for medicinal leech, stating that leech could be used for cleaning the tissues after surgical operations. He did, however, understand that there is a risk over using leech, and advised patients that leech need to be cleaned before being used and that the dirt or dust "clinging to a leech should be wiped off" before application. He further writes that after the leech has sucked out the blood, salt should be "sprinkled on the affected part of the human body. Al-Baghdadi was also the author of a major book dealing with diabetes.
The oldest list of ‘Abd al-Latif’s works is that given by Ibn Abi Usaybi‘a at the end of the entry devoted to him in the ‘Sources of Information on the Classes of Physicians’. The list presented by Ibn Abi Usaybi‘a numbers one hundred and seventy-three works, including brief essays and treatises. The subjects reflect the variety of ‘Abd al-Latif’s interests. Among these are thirteen writings are listed which deal with the Arabic language, lexicography, and grammar, fifty-three with medicine, and ten with zoology.