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Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science Kindle Edition
|Length: 325 pages|
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The origins of western science
By Howard Jones
In 2002, in her book Ornament of the World, Maria Rosa Menocal gave us an insight into the debt we owe the Islamic civilization of al-Andalus, which from 750 to 1492 did so much to shape the western culture of the post-Renaissance. We tend to think of western science as essentially beginning with Copernicus, with a nod in the direction of some of the ancient Greek philosophers, such as Aristarchus for the heliocentric theory; or Leucippus and Democritus for the atomic theory. Bertrand Russell portrayed the Islamic scholars as doing little other than transcribe the scientific philosophy of ancient Greece. Menocal showed us how Christian, Jewish and Islamic scholars worked together in harmony not only to render ancient Greek ideas into Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, but also to create much that was new. Al-Khalili adds to this source of original knowledge.
Jim al-Khalili presents another side of this story, but his book focuses on the 9th century Abbasid caliphate of Abu Ja'far Abdullah al-Ma'mum that was centred on Baghdad. It was called Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom. Jim al-Khalili is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Surry and has already written one of the more accessible books on quantum physics. There were scholars in Baghdad in many of the scientific disciplines. The names of some of these have emerged in the west over recent decades, like al-Khwarizmi whose book, the title of which is abbreviated to al-Jebr, gave us our algebra; al-Biruni, who was a contemporary of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and debated the philosophy of science with him.Read more ›
The author describes how Islamic scientific thinking grew after the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in the eighth century. The scholarly minded Caliph, al-Ma'mun, was a huge enthusiast of study and encouraged scholars of all creeds and beliefs to come to the empire to further their knowledge. By the middle of the ninth century the imperial capital of Baghdad was to become a centre of excellence for scientific progress. Mr. Al-Khalili identifies the areas where progress was made; mathematics, medicine, astronomy and chemistry were all to see advances and the author identifies particular scientists of the era and how they made history. Arab scientists were to make headway in the use of experimentation in their pursuit of knowledge.
The phenomena known as the 'Translation Movement' had a major impact on Abbasidian science and witnessed the translation of many Ancient Greek texts by philosophers and scientists of the day. Abbasid science was also to be heavily influenced by pre-Muslim Persian culture and (believe it or not) the invention of paper as a cheaper way to record results and data.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book by a great author. No prior knowledge needed and he doesn't mansplain things at you like some authors.Published 1 month ago by CharlotteLPowell
Learnt a great deal about the arab contribution to our knowledge of maths and the sciences.Published 3 months ago by Gabby
The title should give you an impression of the era and geographical area which is the focus of Al-Khalili’s study. It is a time and place about which I must confess my ignorance. Read morePublished 12 months ago by S. Meadows
It is no surprise to me that a writer of Arabic root would try to stick, or I would even dare to say, steal scientist and scholars of other nation and culture. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Sam
Reading this book has given me a valuable insight into the scholarship and genius of the mediaeval Arab scientists. Read morePublished on 27 May 2014 by beanfeasa
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