Science in the Ancient Muslim World

Ancient Greece is regarded by many as the father civilization to scientific studies. Many philosophers of this era wrote the foundation of what we know today to be modern science. After the fall of great civilizations in Europe in the Dark Ages much of the knowledge derived from the Greeks was implemented in the Muslim world were a number of key discoveries were made.

Between the 5th century AD and 15th century AD the Muslim world saw tremendous growth in the intellectual arts and science. Many even believe that the dawn of the Renaissance era came about by the knowledge and culture received from the Muslim world during the crusades.

Iraq was perhaps the center of scientific and intellectual studies in the ancient Muslim world. The House of Wisdom was erected in Baghdad, Iraq during the Abbasid-era and served as a library and translation institute.

This facility was regarded as the most instrumental center of knowledge in the Islamic Golden Age. Caliph Harun al-Rashid was the founder of the House of Wisdom during his reign which lasted between 813 AD and 833 AD.

The three most prominent figures in the scientific community of this era were Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi and Averroes who were all known to derive their ideas from the ancient philosophies written by the Greeks. These figures adapted the philosophies and knowledge of the Western world and modified these for the Muslim community.

Al-Kindi as he was popularly known hailed from Basra, Iraq and today is referred to as the “Philosopher of the Arabs.” He was a philosopher, mathematician, musician and physician. During this time the Greek philosophies were referred to as €the philosophy of ancients€ and one of the tasks Al-Kindi took upon himself was to translate and interpret these texts for the Islamic community.

Today many attribute the intellectual development of the Muslim community Al-Kindi who began to transcribe his own philosophies across a variety of disciplines of science. Some of his works included astronomy, optics, medicine, psychology, ethics, logic, mathematics, astrology, zoology, meteorology and pharmacology.

He was also like writing about practical technological applications of the sciences in areas such as weaponry (swords primarily), jewels, glass, dies and even weather phenomenon such as the tides and earthquakes.

Al-Farabi was another great figure of intellectualism during this era however his origins are still undetermined to this day. It is theorized that he was either of Iranian descent or of Turkish descent. He would eventually die in Damascus in modern day Syria.

His primary areas of focus were in alchemy, logic, music, psychology and physics. Al-Farabi was did much contemplation on the void, or vacuums.

His experiments on this often involved hand held plungers and he concluded that a natural vacuum could not exist because air would expand to fill in available space. Al-Farabi derived much of his knowledge from the teachings of Aristotle and his mentor Plato.

Averroes also known as Ibn Rushd was a philosopher who lived between 1126 AD and 1198 AD. He originated from Morocco and had cultural ties to the Spanish and Muslim world.

The areas of expertise of Averroes were in philosophy, medicine, astronomy, science, geography, mathematics, physics, celestial mechanics, politics and music. The compilation of his works were astounding for the time and included over 20,000 pages of intellectual knowledge covering a variety of topics.

Perhaps his most renowned work was entitled €The Incoherence of the Incoherence€ which debunked ideas of al-Ghazali and defended Aristotle. He went on to discuss theories of kinetic energy, mass and resistance as it applies to motion in physics.

The intellectualism which was birthed in the Muslim world during Europe’s Dark Ages is not commonly taught in history to much of the Western world. In actuality the Islamic Golden Era played a dramatic role in science and culture around the world and may be partially responsible for the birth of the Renaissance Era.

Items that are common in modern life such as optics and the battery were first devised and created by scholars from areas such as Iraq and the surrounding countries.

About the Author

The Muslim world has provided a vast amount of science information including mathematics and fields of physics such as astronomy, energy and optics.


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