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Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science Hardcover – 30 Sep 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (30 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141613
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141614
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 588,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A fascinating and user-friendly guide to this whole scientific movement (Noel Malcolm Seven, Sunday Telegraph )

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 )

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 )

About the Author

Jim Al-Khalili OBE is a theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds the first Surrey chair in the public engagement in science. He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication in 2007, elected Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and has also received the Institute of Physic's Public Awareness of Physics Award. Born in Baghdad, Jim was educated in Iraq until the age of 16 and it was there, being taught by Arabic teachers in Arabic that he first heard and learnt about the great Arab scientists and philosophers. He has long championed the influence of Islam on science and hopes to bring attention to the rich Arab heritage in our understanding of science today.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A stupendous piece of work by the author and a fascinating read once you get into it. And by putting the work of the scientists of this period into perspective the book also brings out and explains many of the basic scientific issues that have intrigued our species. It also illuminates historical aspects of the relationship between the Islamic world and "the west". I just wish the author had got stuck into the subject matter more quickly and saved us his personal history and photos of himself in Baghdad!

Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book, plugging the gap between the Greeks and the Renaissance in the commonly-told history of science. The ground Al-Khalili covers isn't particularly original, I suspect, but quite a lot of what he had to say was new to me. He writes well, clearly and with expertise, particularly about the Maths and the Physical sciences. In fact I would have liked a bit more detail in these areas. In spite of a useful chapter at the beginning explaining how Arabic names work, I found the impressive list of Arabic scholars the book covers, each with the latinised version of his name as well as the original, was a bit confusing, but that's my problem really. Slightly oddly, Al-Khalili frames the history with his own experiences growing up in Bhagdad, and that of previous generations of his family. This could have been a bit sentimental, but wasnt, and helped to show how Arabic science is faring in the current day. Interesting parallels can be drawn between the burning of the Arabic libraries when the Arabic-speaking world was turning to a more fundamental version of Islam at the start of the Renaissance, and attitudes to science in the US now
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pathfinders: The golden age of Arabic science, by Jim al-Khalili, Allen Lane, 2010, 336 ff.

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.
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Format: Paperback
An unusual book from Mr. Al-Khalili, but a very interesting one nonetheless. Part scientific study, part Islamic history, The Golden Age of Arabic Science describes how past Islamic Empires contributed to humanity's understanding of science and paved the way for the Renaissance in Europe a few centuries later. Building on Ancient Greek and Indian thinking, the Arabs of the Middle Ages expanded scientific thought beyond what had been known at the time. I was very impressed and Mr. Al-Khalili has sparked my interest in further study of the history of the Islamic Caliphates.

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.
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