September 1, 2019 33

History of Science – Islamic and Early Medieval Science – 7.2 Islamic Science

History of Science – Islamic and Early Medieval Science – 7.2 Islamic Science


>>Thank you for joining me in the History
of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries. Let’s see what stories
await us from the vault that will throw light on medieval Islamic science. This is the oldest Islamic manuscript in the
History of Science Collections. We think it may date to about 1100. Does it look like
it was dug up somewhere? The manuscript is written by hand on paper. It is beautiful.
The only problem is that we don’t know what it is. Several scholars have examined it,
yet it remains something of a mystery. It is some sort of collection of Persian stories
about animals, perhaps like Aesop’s fables. So we are looking for scholars to help us
solve this mystery. Here is another manuscript that is something
of a mystery. It, too, is written on paper. The secret of making paper was obtained from
Chinese prisoners of war in the 8th century. Since paper was much cheaper than papyrus
or parchment, manuscripts could be made available at relatively affordable costs. For example,
you might sell a donkey instead of about 30 sheep. By the 11th century, a technical work
like Ptolemy’s Almagest could be expected to lie within the reach of determined scholars. This manuscript is clearly an introduction
to astronomy, but we’re not sure who wrote it. Many years ago, a scholar described it
as the work of al-Gabali, who flourished around 1000. This scholar dated it to the 1400s,
or 15th century, and called it the earliest of three known manuscripts by al-Gabali. However,
we now suspect that it is not by al-Gabali, so it needs more attention. A student is now
working to digitize both of these manuscripts. With the assistance of the OU Libraries Digitization
Laboratory, perhaps together we will solve these mysteries soon. Jabir Ibn Hayyan, later known as Geber in
Latin, was an alchemist at the court of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who flourished around 800.
This edition of Geber was printed in 1529. Many of the works which circulated under his
name originated in the 10th century near Baghdad. Others, like the Summa Perfectionis, probably
originated in Latin Europe. Jabir’s alchemy was both a spiritual discipline
and an empirical science. He developed new laboratory apparatus, improved standard techniques
such as distillation and crystallization, and pioneered chemical preparations of various
kinds, including acetic acid, tartaric acid, sulfur, and mercury. Medieval alchemy was
a demanding spiritual, experimental, and theoretical tradition, which provided ideas, techniques,
and motivation for the widespread pursuit and development of chemistry. For example,
both Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle were familiar with Geber. Dozens of Jabir’s works became intermixed
with writings by a Latin Pseudo-Geber, who flourished around 1250. This edition was published
in 1541. It contains several works by both Jabir and Pseudo-Geber as listed on the title
page. These works were avidly studied by later chemists. The Collections’ copy of this rare
edition is heavily annotated. This early reader may have lived around 1644. These annotations
have not yet been studied, but on this page one can read about both bismuth and quicksilver.
This copy, like our manuscripts, awaits its first researcher. Muhammad al-Baghdadi, who flourished around
1000, wrote several treatises in mathematics. This one, printed in 1570, explains a method
for dividing surfaces. This edition was printed by the famous Renaissance
mathematician Federico Commandino. The manuscript for this text was brought to Commandino by
the Elizabethan mathematician John Dee. This is the great treatise on medicine by
Ibn Sina, known in Latin as Avicenna, who flourished around 1000. Ibn Sina’s Canon of
Medicine became a standard medical text in European universities. Near the bottom of
the frontispiece in the center, the vignette ranks Ibn Sina as one of the four greatest
physicians: Galen, Hippocrates, Ibn Sina, and Aetius. Ibn Sina’s Canon was printed in
Venice in 1608. 20 years earlier, in 1588, the same printer
issued the first collected edition of the Hippocratic Corpus. The frontispiece is the
same, an early modern version of clip art, except for the area for information about
the title and contents. But the central vignette at the bottom that ranks Ibn Sina along with
Hippocrates among the four greatest physicians remains. This work on geography is by Idrisi, who flourished
around 1150 in Sicily. Idrisi, a renowned geographer, recounted voyages
to Iceland and to the Sargasso Sea. This work is in Arabic, but it’s not a manuscript. It
was printed with moveable type in 1592. Printing Arabic with moveable type is something of
a technological feat. But this book was not printed in Baghdad or Cairo. Because of the
widespread European interest in works of Islamic science even as late as the generation of
Kepler and Galileo, the Medici set up a press to print Arabic works in Rome. This work by
Idrisi is therefore one of the first books printed in Europe in Arabic. And here we have Abu Ma’shar’s Introduction
To Astrology. As a practical manual, it proved very influential– many editions were read
by Albert the Great, Roger Bacon, Pierre d’Ailly, and Pico. The History of Science Collections
holds 3 copies of Abu Ma’shar printed in 1489, all different. Abu Ma’shar was one of the
most prolific writers on astrology during the Middle Ages, and this work was the most
frequently quoted astrological text in the West. This first edition was printed by Erhard
Ratdolt, an important early printer of books in science and mathematics. This copy is bound
in a much older, discarded sheet of vellum, recycled in 1489 to make the binding of this
book. And here I have it open to the page describing the constellations of the zodiac. The astronomer Al-Farghani flourished around
850, and worked in Baghdad and Cairo. His introduction to astronomy, shown here, was
studied by Dante. Al-Farghani also calculated the diameter of the Earth, and wrote a treatise
on the astrolabe. In this work, Al-Farghani explained how solid
spheres might carry the planets around eccentric circles in a physical manner that was consistent
with Ptolemaic astronomy. This medieval introduction to astronomy is
a sequel to a treatise on the formation of the heavens and the Earth. It’s not in Arabic,
is it? This was written by a Jewish mathematician and astronomer in Barcelona, also known as
Savasorda, who is credited with the earliest solution of the quadratic equation. In this
beautiful edition, Abraham bar Hiyya wrote in Hebrew. His Hebrew text appears beside
a Latin translation. This work shows us that by “Islamic science”
we are referring to science in a cosmopolitan culture that was shaped by the Islamic faith.
Arabic language was predominant, but most people were not of Arab ethnicity. And the
authors of these scientific texts might have been of any kind of Middle Eastern extraction:
Persian, African, Jewish, or European. The historian of Islamic science A. I. Sabra
explains: “It was through the vehicle of Arabic that a non-Arab scholar in eleventh-century
Nishapur or fifteenth-century Samarqand had access to the results arrived at in ninth
or tenth century Baghdad, and an astronomer working in fourteenth-century Damascus became
acquainted with writings produced in eleventh-century Cairo, twelfth-century Spain, or thirteenth-century
Maragha…. With the decline of Abbasid power and the eventual breakup of the Abbasid empire,
centers of learning multiplied across the Islamic world following the proliferation
of dynastic rules that vied with one another for cultural and intellectual eminence as
well as for political power.” Unfortunately, two stereotypes have profoundly
shaped modern perspectives of Islamic science. First is the alleged lack of originality.
Pierre Duhem, an early 20th century French physicist, was also a pioneer historian of
science who’s written these volumes on medieval science. Yet a century ago, Duhem wrote: “There
is no Arabic science. The wise men of Mohammedanism were always the more or less faithful disciples
of the Greeks, but were themselves destitute of all originality.” The second stereotype is that Islamic science
flowered briefly during the Middle Ages, but was not long sustained. In this view, the
chief question about Islamic science is the problem of its decline. But to frame the discussion
around the so-called “problem” of its decline presupposes that it did in fact rapidly decline,
before the end of the Middle Ages, rather than being much longer-lived. Yet scholars
now believe that vigorous original scientific activity in the Islamic world extended up
through the early modern period, and even into the 18th century, although we do not
yet know enough to describe it. These later Islamic manuscripts remain largely unstudied
and unexamined. In geology, for example, I have seen clear examples of European writers
in dialogue on the history of the Earth with their Islamic Mediterranean neighbors in the
17th and 18th centuries. So these two stereotypes—the lack of scientific originality, and the assumption
of a brief duration and rapid decline—profoundly shape modern perspectives of Islamic science. Let’s answer these two misconceptions by turning
to the first printed edition of Ptolemy’s Almagest, published in 1496 by Regiomontanus.
Regiomontanus was the first European astronomer to fully master Islamic astronomy. Far from
merely translating Ptolemy’s Almagest, Regiomontanus’s edition was a major contribution to Renaissance
astronomy. It contained new techniques, methods, observations, and critical reflections. This
was state of the art in astronomy when Copernicus was a young man, and Copernicus studied it
carefully. Noel Swerdlow has argued that the diagram
on this page of Regiomontanus provided the major step in the transformation to a Sun-centered
model. Here Regiomontanus proved that eccentric models could be used for all of the planets
instead of epicycle models, except for retrograde motion. This proof was denied by Ptolemy himself,
but it included by Regiomontanus in this edition of the Almagest. Copernicus then took the
next step by putting the Sun in the center. In this photograph, Jamil Ragep, is holding
the Oklahoma copy of Regiomontanus open to the same diagram. Ragep has recently shown
that the 15th-century Islamic astronomer Ali Qushji, a generation before Regiomontanus,
used an identical diagram to make the same proof. If we say that Regiomontanus paved
the way for Copernicus, we can say the same for Ali Qushji. In other words, if we were to ask Noel Swerdlow
or Jamil Ragep to explain the mathematics, they would show how Ali Qushji and Regiomontanus
were making it easy for the next person to get the idea of transposing the positions
of the Earth and Sun. Copernicus picked up where Ali Qushji and Regiomontanus left off.
Indeed, in the manuscript Ali Qushji himself went on to comment that, “A moving Earth is
impossible to disprove.” Contrary to Pierre Duhem, I would call that original! Let’s go back and take another look at Regiomontanus.
On this page Regiomontanus exclaimed, “Sed mirum est….,” What a marvel! At the end
of Book 5, Section 22, Regiomontanus is here calling attention to the astonishing fact
that Ptolemy’s lunar model required the Moon occasionally to appear four times its usual
size. This impossible wonder arrested the attention of Copernicus. To correct for this
anomaly, Copernicus used a crank mechanism. It is one of Copernicus’s most significant
technical advances over Regiomontanus, who could only emphasize the problem. But how
did Copernicus come up with a crank mechanism that could solve this problem pointed out
here by Regiomontanus? The answer is from Nasr al-din al-Tusi. Al-Tusi
flourished around 1250. He worked in Baghdad and in the observatory of Maragha, in modern-day
northwest Iran. This is Al-Tusi’s edition of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, published
by the Medici Press in Rome in 1594. Again, it is printed in moveable type, just like
Idrisi. The existence of this printed edition is proof of the great interest by European
scientists in the Renaissance in the texts of Al-Tusi and other Islamic scientists. So
this is Al-Tusi’s explanation of Euclid. But on this page, Al-Tusi works out the geometry
of one circle moving within a larger circle to produce a so-called “crank mechanism.”
Al-Tusi employed a crank mechanism like this to solve the problem of the motion of the
Moon pointed out 300 years later by Regiomontanus. In the De Revolutionibus of Copernicus, published
in 1543, Copernicus also used Al-Tusi’s crank mechanism for his model of the Moon’s motions.
Regiomontanus hadn’t heard of it in 1496; somehow by 1543 Copernicus had. I’d call the
crank mechanism of Al-Tusi, employed by Copernicus, original. The historian of Islamic science George Saliba
comments: “One still has to find a name for the production of the Tusi Couple, that was
first encountered in an Arabic text, written by a man who spoke Persian at home, and who
used that theorem, like many other astronomers who followed him and were all working in the
‘Arabic/Islamic’ world, in order to reform classical Greek astronomy, and then have his
theorem in turn be translated into Byzantine Greek toward the beginning of the fourteenth
century, only to be used later by Copernicus and others in Latin texts of Renaissance Europe.
What name could one possibly dream up for that kind of science, and whose science was
it anyway?” Ibn al-Haytham, known in the Latin West as
Alhazen, made significant contributions to both astronomy and optics. In astronomy, Ibn
al-Haytham founded a tradition of Islamic astronomical investigation that sought to
bring together Ptolemaic geometrical models with plausible physical mechanisms. This tradition
led through Al-Tusi to Copernicus. In optics, Ibn al-Haytham founded a tradition
of mathematical optics that provided a basis for the later investigations of Kepler and
Galileo. This copy is the famous Risner edition of Alhazen’s Optics. The frontispiece displays a variety of optical
phenomena: from reflection and refraction, to the bridge that shows perspective, and
the optics of the rainbow, to the scene of burning mirrors used to defend the city of
Sicily by Archimedes. This experimental treatise in optics built upon the foundation laid by
Ptolemy and provided a basis for later investigations by Witelo, Kepler and others, until the invention
of the telescope in the early 17th century. Historians used to speak of a “scientific
revolution,” in a way which supposed that the story of science belonged to the heritage
of early modern Europe. But consider the Selenographia by Johann Hevelius, published in the middle
of the Scientific Revolution, less than 40 years after Galileo’s first telescopic discovery
of mountains on the Moon. This book fulfilled Galileo’s lunar land run, the race to map
its surface. This is the first true lunar atlas. Dozens of fine engravings detail the
surface of the Moon as it appeared each clear night over a period of five years. From the
varying shadows cast by topographical features along the changing shadow line, Hevelius constructed
a composite map of the Moon. It’s accurate enough to plot the Apollo lunar landings. Yet on the frontispiece, Hevelius himself
celebrates not the triumph of the European scientific revolution, but the heritage of
Islamic science. On the left is Ibn al-Haytham, the leading medieval Islamic astronomer and
optical theorist. On the right, holding the telescope, is Galileo. Who would have guessed
that one of the most impressive works of the scientific revolution portrays Galileo in
Islamic dress as a tribute to the tradition of medieval Islamic science? This frontispiece
of Hevelius reminds us that the growth of Western science cannot be understood apart
from rich and sustained interactions between multiple cultures. It is impossible to separate
the European scientific revolution from the achievements of medieval Islamic culture and
other civilizations which came before. Science is a story. What stories do you want
to hear and tell about Islamic science?

33 Replies to “History of Science – Islamic and Early Medieval Science – 7.2 Islamic Science”

  • MhamedLimam says:

    Thank you for your justness !!!!!!

  • Jad Norbert says:

    By the GOD!

  • Akli says:

    Thank you for telling the true.

  • Al Khawarizmi says:

    The Book-list is marvelous for someone who is acquainted with their history, Sir. By the way the islamic/arabic Science Departments across the Islamic Empire already developed a heliocentric model for our Solar-System.

  • Maryam Al Hajri says:

    Thank you.

  • mo wizz says:

    NASA points to the possibility of a new Planet 9 which orbits every 20,000 years.
    Muslims scholars are now frantically thumbing through the pages of the quran hoping to find a verse they can use to claim the planet was mentioned in the quran after all, and is another example of the books great store of scientific knowledge.
    They may even find a flying donkey on that planet, proving that muhammad was a prophet after all.

  • 0myjoe says:

    I'm an atheist but it's true that Baghdad at the time (filled with muslims and non-muslims alike) was the intellectual capital of the world until the mongol empire destroyed it, which led to the information and ideas to move into Italy and eventually europe where the scientific revolution happened centuries later

  • moexus says:

    Europe stole the scientific texts and kept them in their libraries, European scientists translated them and never gave them all the credits they deserve. Like Copernicus stole from Ib Shatir, Al-Tusi, Al-Batani. no credits given, he used same arabic diagrams from the original muslim texts.

  • tanhill says:

    it is really an eye-opening

  • a pSultan says:

    0:42 this page is a farsi book some translating from above
    Pillar one
    from creation of Universe to birth of muhammad peace be upon him and in this part I will write 8 bab (part) if immoral allah wishs first part will be about Zikr al nour al kamel (zikr means Remembrance of allh and prayer) of muhammad peace be upon him
    maybe this book is tafsir al hadith means Commentary hadiths (muhammads speechs)
    i hope it was helpful

  • zaggy3110 says:

    It was not an "Islamic Golden Age", but an "Arabic Golden Age"
    It wasnt' just muslim arabs who studied and researched in Bagdad and in other places
    There were also christians, zoroaster, jews, and even mandaeans.
    They all had arab names and "published" in the arabic languange.

  • Akeruyri says:

    I can see the comment section flourishing with ignorance. The point of this isn't to show how great the Islamic civilizations used to be, or how the Europeans went in and stole it all for themselves. Its to show how scientists, through the ages, and from vastly different lands, from the early Greeks and Romans, to the Islamic scholars, to people like Copernicus, all building up onto what we now know today. No one stole from anyone, part of science is to improve the knowledge we already have. Euclid created the basics of how cycloids work, Al Tusi took those and explained simple planetary motion, then Copernicus took those and explained how the sun is the center of the solar system rather than earth.

  • VEGETA says:

    the first book is the quran and they will never understand it if they don't bring arabic scholars 😉

  • Arastushukooh says:

    The idea that peoples / civilizations "steal" works of others is to deny the historical fact that we humans have always learned from each other! I think the main issue in the history of science is the denial that earlier civilizations contributed to science, mathematics and philosophy, apart from other areas such as the arts, architecture, literature or engineering. As someone brought up in the English school system and exposed to English books (from the UK and the US) during my formative years meant that it took me quite some time to rediscover all this. However I have not stopped there and it has paid off! This has nothing to do with religion per se. It is about developing a culture , where religion is a part and not the whole! Consider how the Ancient Babylonians developed mathematical ideas well before anyone else – even the Ancient Greeks, who undoubtedly made very important advances in maths. esp. geometry. But in other areas the Babylonians were there much before them. In fact the Ancient Babylonians had developed the method of approximation and limits, the forerunner of the modern calculus. They also knew and worked with Pythagoras's theorem well before Pythagoras:

    3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths – and shows the Greeks did not develop trigonometry
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/24/3700-year-old-babylonian-tablet-rewrites-history-maths-could/

    Math whizzes of ancient Babylon figured out forerunner of calculus
    By Ron CowenJan. 28, 2016
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/math-whizzes-ancient-babylon-figured-out-forerunner-calculus

    Math whizzes of ancient Babylon figured out forerunner of calculus
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx-5dCXx1SI

    Pythagoras's theorem in Babylonian mathematics
    http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/HistTopics/Babylonian_Pythagoras.html

    So, Pythagoras hundreds of years before Pythagoras!

  • Arastushukooh says:

    George Saliba is the great doyen of the history science in the Islamic/Arabic world which spans the period from late antiquity / early medieval period till the 16-17th century CE.
    He has a very good alternative explanation for the decline. Again, orthodox religion only played a part in this story, as did the destructive Mongol invasion.
    George Saliba on the Decline of Islamic Science
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66bV1rdMois

  • I've eaten 2130 more bowls of rice than you says:

    It's sad to know that the majority of these Muslim and Arab scholars are no credited or at least credited enough for their work. Instead, we are taught about other western scientists and scholars and we're being told that they were first to propose these ideas.

  • fahmi aziz says:

    You must learn mantiq (islamic logic) to understand the manuscript..

  • My Me says:

    lol i can read that easy haha thats is arabic and in it is mentioned the name of god. Just give back our book they clearly belong to us.

  • My Me says:

    you know how much it means to me to just read them book. I'm so found of these arabic sienctests o-O

  • Dean S says:

    Thats right the muslims are the origins of the scince but now holly shit

  • عاصمي محمد says:

    we have in my country avery old book of ibno sina who discovered the gravity and talked about it word by word..also in Turkey there a map for allhshkhash al kurtubi who discovered america in 518before the fake person who called"americo"

  • yout tube says:

    Not only Islamic golden age, even during ottoman times Muslims were the leaders in innovation. The modern weaponry at that time, gunpowder, cannons, and muskets were first used and developed by Muslims.

  • Vinay N.K says:

    Not Islamic science. It is middle eastern science.

  • Ali Hemdi says:

    Thank you sir, for telling the truth, the scientific history, the muslimis inventions …

  • Mamur bogon says:

    Europe was in darkness no scientific activity at all they stole Islamic science and branded as there own lieing deceitful infedels

  • The Goodly Dragon says:

    Why does he say that it was "shaped by the Islamic faith." Perhaps these scholars pursued their fields despite their faith rather than because of it.

  • Anil Çelik says:

    Thank you very very much sir for this informative video

  • Arastushukooh says:

    @ aerolift and Paulo Pereira I'm sure you know that this kind of discussion will need nowhere! Successive civilizations learn from earlier ones – and in the past openly admitted it. Therefore the accusations of "stealing" are meaningless and any debate on this basis is totally futile! We all learn from one another, and I can tell you this as a practicing scientist!

  • Nisar Ali says:

    Sir where are you from?
    I wana meet you, actually I'm going to research on Islamic golden age and it's significant on modern science.

  • Shah G says:

    sir g from where we can get this book copy

  • Mayu Takashimura says:

    They adopted those all from Greek,India and China.
    Algebra actually invented by Aryabhatta hundreds years before Islam.
    Ibn Hayyan was not a muslim but an atheist. Also Muhammad Zakaria Al Razy.
    Some Persian scientists were agnostic/atheist.
    You need more explore history.

  • Marwan Manowar says:

    thank you sir for those riche informations, respect for all the scientists whatever their religion or believes
    mathematic is the true language of Allah.

  • Firko Kafi says:

    Thanks for the information with book evidence.

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