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Dr. Rida Saeed ... one of the Founders of Scientific Development in Syria

The revival of contemporary science  in Syria  is due to   a number of leading Syrian  intellectual  and academic figures , most prominent of whom is  doctor Rida Saeed Al-Itouni ( 1876-1945) who  was born to a Damascene family..

Dr.Saeed  was the founder of the  Arab Health   Institute,   the first president of the Syrian University  and   one of the first ophthalmologists in Damascus. 

In addition to his work in a number of foreign capitals, Dr. Saeed chaired  the medical department at Al- Hijaz railway  station  and was responsible for the health of tens of thousands of passengers who were traveling by  this route. 

Upon the liberation of Syria from  the Ottoman occupation, Dr.  Saeed chaired  the mini-committee of Syrian doctors and  opened  the Institute of Arab Health  in  Baramkeh region in 1919 in addition to Arabization of the  curricula used in it .This was done in cooperation  with  a number of intellectual and patriotic figures. 

When Saeed  was  Dean  of the Institute of Arab  Health , he searched for Syrian doctors  to teach students who later supervised   about forty students in the first year in the institution.

Dr. Saeed  participated in the  battle against the French occupation authorities, which  sought to close the institute and refused to  recognize its certificate, but   in the end he had what he wanted.

The Institute of Arab Health was not only an educational institution, but it also contained   students of  the revolutionary youth who rejected the occupation of their homeland and the ill-fated Balfour Declaration. They took part in many protests with confidence as Dr. Saeed refused the mandate authorities’ demand to prevent those youths from their study.

When the Institute of Health was integrated  with the Faculty of Law in June 1923 under the name of the Syrian University, Dr. Saeed was its first Rector . During his position , the Syrian university witnessed  a series of accomplishments including   opening  the  building of  Damascus university presidency  and its   amphitheater which was named after him  , establishing  the university's printing press to issue scientific magazines , opening  new scientific specializations,  as well as encouraging  the artistic and sports talents of the students, and  receiving   female students for the first time in 1930.

Dr. Saeed, who occupied  the position of Minister of Education between 1924 and 1925,   refused to close the university when Damascus was bombed by the brutal French occupation forces in 1925,  saying to  students, "The more you learn, the more they fear you, so  go to your lessons and exceed in them  , and this is  in itself  a challenge to the occupation’s  projects in our country."

After Saeed retired from his  job at the university in 1936, he returned to his clinic and was absent from the public scene until he passed away in Damascus on October the 28th  1945..

Throughout his career, Dr. Saeed won a number of excellent class  honors of which   the Syrian Order of Merit  and several  orders  from Egypt, Austria and France.

Rawaa Ghanam

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