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Arabic chemists from the “Golden Age” given long overdue credit

ACS Travel Award Learn more about travel awards for those attending scientific meetings to present the results of their research. And probably Joseph Priestley, one of the founders of modern chemistry. Names like Antoine Lavoisier, John Dalton, and Amadeo Avogadro may even bring a twinkle of recognition to the eye for their famous roles in establishing chemistry as a modern science.

During this era, science and medicine in Muslim countries — from southern Europe through North Africa to Central Asia and India — flourished and was unrivaled anywhere in the world. Muslim physicians and scientists made advancements that built the foundations for the emergence of modern science and medicine in Europe.

Golden Age of Islam

In chemistry we use language from the Arabs, apparatus and techniques, many chemicals especially perfumes , and many materials. Huddle did his research on the Golden Age, which produced a portrait of Arabic-Islamic love for learning and reverence for education and knowledge that defies popular modern stereotypes.

His ACS abstract, non-technical summary, and contact information appear below. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U. Its main offices are in Washington, D. If you do not respond, everything you entered on this page will be lost and you will have to login again. Don't show this again!


  • Revelations of a golden age!
  • Bekirs wundersame Reise: Wie er die Menschen kennenlernte (German Edition);
  • The 'golden age' of Arabic science.

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It's time to herald the Arabic science that prefigured Darwin and Newton

Communities Find a chemistry community of interest and connect on a local and global level. Discover Chemistry Explore the interesting world of science with articles, videos and more. Awards Recognizing and celebrating excellence in chemistry and celebrate your achievements. Persian or Pahlavi texts had to be translated into Arabic, among them studies of astrology, which may originally have been based on mathematics texts in Sanskrit. The new empire also needed Arabic versions of texts on geometry, engineering and arithmetic; it clashed with the Chinese, and from prisoners learned the art of papermaking.

The first paper mills were established in Baghdad at the end of the eighth century: dyes, inks, glues and bindings followed.

The Golden Age of Learning in the Arab-speaking World

During and after the reign of Harun al-Rashid, the fabulous caliph of the so-called Arabian Nights , Persian, Arab, Christian and Jewish scholars all began to translate and publish medical and mathematical texts from Greek and Syriac as well as Persian and Indian scripts.

Around this time, Geber or Jabir ibn Hayyan the alchemist composed the Kitab al-Kimiya , a systematic examination of the nature of matter, which in would be translated into Latin by Robert of Chester as the Liber de compositione alchimiae. From Jabir we gain the word alkali, the distilling apparatus known as an alembic and — says Al-Khalili — perhaps even the word gibberish. Later Arabic texts delivered words we still use today: amalgam, borax, camphor, elixir. Whether Jabir counts as scientist or alchemist is an open question: within a generation, real science, intense scholarship and a palpable curiosity about the physical world began to emerge.

Harun's successor Al-Ma'mun is linked with the founding of the House of Wisdom, a library, academy and translation factory that may have become at the time the largest repository of books in the world.

Science in a Golden Age - Al Jazeera English

Not all Al-Khalili's heroes were Arabs: Omar Khayyam calculated the length of the solar year to 11 decimal places and composed in his native Persian a famous Treatise on Demonstration of Problems in Algebra , as well, of course, as those lines about the jug of wine, the loaf of bread and thou. Aristotle, too, lives on in this story: he appears in a dream to a caliph's son, and he fascinates generations of Islamic scholars.

They were also people of their time.

They accepted the theories of the four humours and the geocentric universe. But Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics pioneered the study of refraction and applied mathematics to a theory of vision; his successor Ibn Mu'adh used Euclidian geometry to calculate the height of the atmosphere at 52 miles it is about 62 miles.

The tradition of inquiry and scholarship reaches far beyond Baghdad: to Samarkand and Bokhara, to Cairo and Cordoba.

George Saliba sheds light on the Islamic Golden Age

In the 10th century, in Andalusia, Al-Zahrawi devised the forceps, speculum and bonesaw, pioneered inhalant anaesthetics in the form of sponges soaked with cannabis and opium, and even described the first syringe. Ibn al-Nafis in the 13th century anticipated Harvey and described the pulmonary transit of the blood from the right side of the heart, via the lungs, to the left. Al-Khalili is a Baghdad-born British physicist: his command of Arabic and mathematical physics invests his story with sympathy as well as authority.

He is careful to put Arabic science in its context; he tries not to claim too much for his heroes and his attention to detail and fairness is rewarding. The metaphor of science as a relay race is exposed as unsatisfactory: cultures overlap, enrich and stimulate each other, and 10th-century Arab scholars greedy for understanding form a community with 16th-century Elizabethans or 21st-century Cambridge dons.

The easy equation of Islam and wilful ignorance never made sense — empires are not sustained by ignorance — but even in the 11th century, the rationalists felt it necessary to defend reason. For this will help him conceal his own ignorance, and to open the door to the complete destruction of the sciences and the scientists.