A fascinating and user-friendly guide to this whole scientific movement (Noel Malcolm Seven, Sunday Telegraph)
Jim Al-Khalili has a passion for bringing to a wider audience not just the facts of science but its history ... Just as the legacy of Copernicus and Darwin belongs to all of us, so does that of Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Haytham. To think otherwise, as this book so powerfully reveals, is to do disservice to the tradition to which they belong (Kenan Malik Independent)
Spry, informative and timely ... Al-Khalili takes the reader through a brisk survey of the highlights of the period (Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday)
A fascinating introduction to a neglected area. His approachable style and ability to distil extensive knowledge into simple narrative makes Pathfinders an absorbing read (Siobhan Murphy Metro)
Enjoyable and informative ... provides ample evidence for the compatibility of Islam and science (Sameer Rahim Daily Telegraph)
He has brought a great story out of the shadows (Literary Review)
This captivating book is a timely reminder of the debt owed by the West to the intellectual achievements of Arab, Persian and Muslim scholars (The Times)
For over 700 years the international language of science was Arabic. In Pathfinders, Jim al-Khalili celebrates the forgotten pioneers who helped shape our understanding of the world.
All scientists have stood on the shoulders of giants. But most historical accounts today suggest that the achievements of the ancient Greeks were not matched until the European Renaissance in the 16th century, a 1,000-year period dismissed as the Dark Ages. In the ninth-century, however, the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad, Abu Ja'far Abdullah al-Ma'mun, created the greatest centre of learning the world had ever seen, known as Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom. The scientists and philosophers he brought together sparked a period of extraordinary discovery, in every field imaginable, launching a golden age of Arabic science.
Few of these scientists, however, are now known in the western world. Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, a polymath who outshines everyone in history except Leonardo da Vinci? The Syrian astronomer Ibn al-Shatir, whose manuscripts would inspire Copernicus's heliocentric model of the solar system? Or the 13th-century Andalucian physician Ibn al-Nafees, who correctly described blood circulation 400 years before William Harvey? Iraqi Ibn al-Haytham who practised the modern scientific method 700 years before Bacon and Descartes, and founded the field of modern optics before Newton? Or even ninth-century zoologist al-Jahith, who developed a theory of natural selection a thousand years before Darwin?
The West needs to see the Islamic world through new eyes and the Islamic world, in turn, to take pride in its extraordinarily rich heritage. Anyone who reads this book will understand why.