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Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science Paperback – 26 Jan 2012
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Brings alive the bubbling invention and delighted curiosity of the Islamic world ... his command of Arabic mathematical physics invests his story with sympathy as well as authority (Tim Radford Guardian)
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)
About the Author
Professor Jim Al-Khalili, OBE FRS, is a physicist, author and broadcaster based at the University of Surrey. He received his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics in 1989 and has published over a hundred research papers on quantum physics.
His many popular science books have been translated into twenty-six languages. He is a recipient of the Royal Michael Faraday medal and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal.
In 2016 he received the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. He lives in Southsea, Hampshire, with his wife Julie.
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I only have two criticisms: firstly, al-Khalili steers clear of philosophical and theological discussions, yet the nature of science at the time ("natural philosophy", in the terminology of the Western inheritors of the Arabic knowledge) was such that it was seen as a part of the same investigation; consequentially I would have liked more information about the general worldview of the sciento-philosophers he covers.
Secondly, in his eagerness to show how the Arabic-speaking world made genuine contributions (coupled with, I'd speculate, a slightly Kuhnian view of how science progresses), he sometimes seems a little over-keen to find each person's Great Contribution. Especially in the section on the mathematician al-Khwarizmi, he seems to be casting around rather desperately to locate the Single Great Thing that al-Khwarizmi did, yet unnecessarily so: it's clear that the guy massively progressed maths in general, and if that was by a little bit here and a little bit there, then that's fine by me. No need to locate his Nobel Prize-equivalent discovery.