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Contributions to Science [an excerpt]

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Classical Muslim scholars and scientists preserved, built upon, and translated classical Greek treatises. They also analyzed, collated, corrected, supplemented, and transferred classical Greek science and philosophy to Europe, thereby enabling its Renaissance. During Islam’s 200-year Golden Age, great Muslim scientists spread their knowledge through books.

The first hospital was built in Damascus (707 CE) by Caliph Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik. Muslims made many advances, such as the idea of blood circulation and quarantine. Ibn Sina’s (d. 1037 CE) 20-volume The Book of Healing, consisting of The Canons of Medicine, was Europe’s chief medical science guide from the twelfth to the seventeenth century. Ibn Sina, the first to describe meningitis, surveyed all available medical knowledge, from ancient and Muslim sources, and made original contributions.

The founder of modern algebra, al-Khwarizmi’s (d. 850 CE) Calculating Integration and Equation was used until the sixteenth century as the principal textbook in European universities. He also helped introduce Arabic numerals, the decimal point system, and the concept of zero. Algebra and algorithm are corruptions of his work and name. Under al-Ma’mun, he and his colleagues were the first to map the globe. In algebra, the Muslims continued with Thabit Ibn Qurra’s more general equations solved by geometrical arguments. In 901 Abu Kamil, “the Egyptian calculator,” established rules for manipulating algebraic expressions. Around 1000, al-Karaji’s The Marvelous discussed higher order equations, combing geometry and arithmetic. Al-Samaw’al established the power law x^nx^n=x^(m+n) in 1180. Abu Yunus proved the famous identity cos(a)cos(b)={cos(a+b)+cos(a-b)}/2 and used spherical trigonometry to compute prayer times. Al-Biruni (d. 1050 CE) used spherical trigonometry to find any city’s direction. Another outstanding late-fourteenth century mathematician, Ghiyath al-Din al Kashani, worked on number theory and computation techniques. In 1424, he computed a value of 2pi to 16 decimal points. In his The Calculators’ Key, he described an algorithm for finding the fifth root of any number.

Omar Khayyam (d. 1131 CE), famous in the West as a poet, was an excellent mathematician who criticized Euclid’s theorems, evolved a methodology to solve thrid degree equations, and researched binomials and their coefficients. Methematician and atronomer al-Buzanji’s (d. 997 CE) main contribution lies in mathematics, especially geometry, and a sizable part of today’s trigonometry can be traced to him. Al-Battani (d. 929 CE) was a famous astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer who is often considered one of Islam’s greatest astronomers. He determined the solar year to be 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds – very close to modern estimates. He proved that, in contrast to Ptolemy, the sun’s variation of the apparent angular diameter and the possibility of annular eclipses. In 1749, Dunthorne used al-Battani’s observations of lunar and solar eclipses to determine the moon’s secular acceleration of motion. His most famous astonomical treatise, translated into Latin in the twelfth century, was extremely influential in Europe until the Renaissance.

Muslims discovered such new substances as potash, silver nitrate, corrosive sublimate, nitrate, and sulfuric acid, and improved methods for evaporation, filtration, sublimation, calcinations, melting, distillation, and crystallization.

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Written by sunupradana

August 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Science in Al-Andalus [an excerpt]

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Another great area of Andalusian intellectual activity was philosophy, but it is impossible to do more than glance at this difficult and specialized study. From the ninth century, Andalusian scholars, like those in Baghdad, had to deal with the theological problems posed by the introduction of Greek philosophy into a context of Islam. How could reason be reconciled with revelation? This was the central question.



Ibn Hazm was one of the first to deal with this problem. He supported certain Aristotelian concepts with enthusiasm and rejected others. For example, he wrote a large and detailed commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analects, that abstruse work on logic. Interestingly, Ibn Hazm appears to have had no trouble relating logic to Islam—in fact, he gives illustrative examples of how it can be used in solving legal problems, drawn from the body of Islamic law. Nothing better illustrates the ability of Islam to assimilate foreign ideas and acclimatize them than Ibn Hazm’s words in the introduction to his work: “Let it be known that he who reads this book of ours will find that the usefulness of this kind of work is not limited to one single discipline but includes the Qur’an, hadith and legal decisions concerning what is permissible and what is not, and what is obligatory and what is lawful.”
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Written by sunupradana

August 30, 2011 at 9:14 pm