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Customer Review

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing book, 3 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Paperback)
Having read this book over the Christmas holiday, I have to register my deep disappointment in the work. The subject is fascinating, and we owe much to the Muslim world for rescuing many Greek and Roman works which would otherwise have disappeared for good during the Dark Ages. However, this reworking the topic does little justice to it, and ignores almost totally the impressive engineering works of the Muslims after the fall of the Roman Empire. The author mentions almost in passing the construction of a mill for making paper, apparently with Chinese technology, but he fails to carry through with the key development, and also fails to mention Muslim dams, aqueducts, water-raising machines, and many other technologies they initiated or developed. Muslim Spain was one of the areas where they built many such structures or renewed Roman works there already, and indeed such was the quality of their work that some still function, a lasting tribute to their engineering skills. Science then was still intimately associated with technology, and by ignoring the relation, one does a disservice to the entire subject. After his recent series on electricity, it was amazing that the author did not follow his argument in the TV series, which showed very ably the intimate connections between the science of electricity and the technology as it developed in recent times, and one might have expected similar threads to have been woven in this book. Instead we see much space devoted to astronomy and maths, but little is said of their practical uses. We know that works such as those by Archimedes and Vitruvius were essentially practical aids to engineers and architects, but those and many other works are barely mentioned by the author. He does not even mention the crucial manuscripts that were rescued and translated by the Muslim world for example. The author should be encouraged to improve his approach by re-examining the subject at much greater depth.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Jan 2013 00:27:59 GMT
Hi Dr Lewis,

I've also read the book. I don't understand what all the fuss is about? The title says "The Golden Age of Arabic Science", and I don't see the reason why he should dedicate parts of his book to discuss dams, aqueducts and water-raising machines, as these constructions involve the use of mathematical and scientific principles (which engineers apply). The book title and contents suggest that it is about 'natural sciences' and NOT 'applied science'. Therefore, he is right, to briefly mention the construction of a paper mill. ..

I think the point he is trying to make is, if it wasn't for the Muslim world translating manuscripts and improving existing 'natural sciences', then we would probably still think the Earth was at the center of the 'universe' etc....Furthermore, if it wasn't for the House of wisdom churning out translated books about the 'natural sciences' in quick succession, then the very same things you are making such a fuss about would probably be in disrepair, total ruins or not exist at all... It makes me wonder if you are an engineer by making such a fuss, as you seem to have a lot of passion for the subject?

In regard to the book not mentioning crucial manuscripts in detail - is plain 'nitpicking'.. Your job obviously involves report making or some form of investigation work, as you have clearly over analysed the book.

For me, the book hits all the main points (without going into too much detail), and therefore, I get the full understanding of the book......

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2013 07:58:20 GMT
My point was that we already know all this from previous research, so I was hoping that the author could expand the topic by providing some insight into the Muslim revolution. I also think you over-rate the influence of science books on engineering achievement, which was mainly made by practical needs and empirical development. Detail is they say, the devil is in the detail....

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2013 17:05:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jan 2013 17:22:06 GMT
Yes I understand what you mean about previous research. However, you only have to look at previous reviews to realise that the majority of the readers of this book are the 'general public' (me included). Furthermore, this suggests that, some people did not know about previous research. Therefore, the author has written a well balanced book, which has hit his target audience perfectly - if the author had gone into more detail, I don't think we would be getting the book for under £10, wouldn't you agree?

In regards to, me over-rating the influence of science books on engineering achievements. I'm sorry for making a mistake (as you state, detail is important) with my writing, as I meant to write "churning out translated books about the 'natural sciences' and 'mathematics' in quick succession".

Of course they had an influence on engineering achievements. Astrolabes (scientific instrument, used by astronomers in the same era) were used for surveying land so they could build dams in the best locations etc. In addition, they built dams by mixing sand, water with ashes and baked lime to make 'mortar', which in some cases was harder than the stone itself (chemistry) - it's for this reason why some still function today, because they were strongly built. As I've stated in the last post, engineers 'apply' mathematical and scientific principles.

By the way, are you an engineer who's work involves report making and investigation work, who may have written his own book? ha ha ha


Miss M

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2013 17:15:35 GMT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2013 17:37:54 GMT
It doesn't matter who invented them, the point is they used them and they are both a form of mathematical and scientific principles.

Most professions involve some form of experiment, and I know that engineering involves practical experiment, to do with wind and drag and if I dig an hole a certain way It might be safe to extract oil blah blah, and all that boring stuff.

No disrespect, just because you have 'jointly' published academic books (that go into detail), doesn't make you a better author than 'jim'. Furthermore, your book "Forensic Materials Engineering" isn't that popular on Amazon, as you have only sold one copy? My discussion with you is over, as I don't want hear anymore about engineering. bye

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2014 22:14:24 BDT
Sam says:
Mr/Ms Jack of all trades....

Only a illiterate, uncivilised person, who can't read and write would say likes of Avicenna (Ibn-Sina), Khwarizmi, Tusi, Khayyam, Farabi, Rhazes, were Arabs. They were not Arabs, the author is trying to buy the Arab world some credit. He steals Persian scientists and name them Arab. Such a phony book The whole is worth nothing, full of lies and fabrications. I would dare the so-called author to bring proofs that those mentioned scientists were arab and had arab roots!!

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2015 22:33:41 GMT
gary s says: the introduction - he's not trying to "steal Persian scientists".
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