Al-Khwarizmi - CLIO History Journal

Jess and Taylor
• Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi lived in
Baghdad in the ninth-century
• The mathematician that invented Algebra and
solved linear and quadratic equations using
algorithms (the basis of modern computer
• Algebra was initially developed to help solve
property disputes.
• Al-Khwarizmi introduces the revision of
arithmetic, using zero’s to create multiples of
10, 100 1000 etc.
• The Indian-Arabic decimal system made
arithmetic quicker and easier to use.
• From the works of Euclid and Apollonius,
Greek scholars, Muslim mathematicians
helped expand Mathematics to what it is
• Fibonacci, the creator of the Fibonacci
sequence, aka. the Da Vinci Code (the
sequence not the book) learned advanced
arithmetic from Arab teachers, in what is now
present-day Algeria.
• Fibonacci was one of the founders of Western
• “The Arabs were not simply transmitters of Greek
concepts; they were creators in their own right.”
– Jean Audouze, Director of French National
Centre for Scientific Research in Paris.
• “Like astronomy, which evolved from the practical
necessities of finding the directions and hours for
prayers, Islamic mathematics was very much a
hands-on affair at the beginning, a product of the
marketplace and of the need for pragmatic legal
• Abu Amir al-Kahtani, the Regent of Cordoba in
the 10 century, had many academic manuscripts
burned, claiming “the teachings of the Greeks,
particularly in astronomy and philosophy,
contradicted the Qur’an.”
• Muhammad al-Ghazali, the Baghdad theologian
and mystic in the 12 century, banned theoretical
mathematics claiming it was dangerous and
encouraged atheism.
Islamic Astronomy
• Persian astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi,
dismissed Ptolemy’s model of planetary
motion and created his own model.
• “...Ptolemy’s Almagest, or The Great Book,
initially translated into Arabic by al-Hajjaj
around 828...” (Covington 2007)
• Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus took
his ideas to build his model where the sun is
at the centre 300 years later.
• “Although the Babylonians, Indians and
Egyptians had astronomical observatories,
those founded under Islamic rulers in
Maragha (in present-day Iran), Samarkand and
Istanbul were far more sophisticated,
equipped with an impressive array of
astrolabes, sundials, sextants, celestial globes
and armillary spheres to track the movements
of the planets and constellations.” (Covington
• Astronomy was used to determine the hours of prayer and
lunar calendars were used to set the dates of Ramadan.
• The Arabs were also able to determine latitude and
longitude with great accuracy. The calculated the Earth’s
circumference to around 37,380 kilometres. (the accepted
value today is 40,000)
• Persian Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973–1048) wrote
in Arabic, Greek, Persian, Hebrew and Sanskrit (A language
used by Hindus).
• With astronomer Abu al-Wafa, over 2km away in Baghdad
had a simultaneous observation of a lunar ecplispe.
• “...Mas’ud, al-Biruni also observed that the planets revolved
in apparent elliptical orbits...” (Covington 2007)
• The House of Wisdom was also an observatory.
• European astronomy is riddled with Arabic names for stars
and a basis for which Europeans could begin to explore
science for themselves. (Welser-Sherrill 2007)
• Al-Khwarizmi (780-850), a Muslim
Mathematician, drafted a map that traced the
Nile River.
• He also wrote work that gave the latitude and
longitude for 2402 localities. The book was
based on Ptolemy’s Geography (a GrecoRoman of Egypt) which was written in Greek.
• Ptolemy’s Geography was translated into
Arabic, during the 9th century.
• Al-Sufi wrote The Book of Constellations of the
Fixed Stars, which covered the topic of star
cartography/uranography. This book became a
classic of Islamic Astronomy.
• al-Biruni introduced new techniques of
measuring the Earth using triangulation.
• He found that radius of the earth to be 6339.6
(this was not discovered in the west until the
19th century
Arabic Surgery
• He lived in the 10th century (936 circa)
• Wrote an illustrated encyclopedia of medicine
and surgery named Al-Tasrif (The Method of
• 30 Chapter medical encyclopedia
• 3 parts: Cauterization, Surgery and Orthopaedics
• Described surgical instruments (Scalpels, cauterizing
• First listed the hereditary nature of haemophilia
• Dentistry, Created a method of replacing defective
teeth with artificial teeth
• Perfected the surgical procedure of removing dead
fetuses and the practice of amputation.
Influence on Europe
• Gerard of Cremona(1114-1187) translated AlTasrif into Latin
• Between the 12th and the 16th centuries nearly
all European authors of surgical texts referred
to the Al-Tasarif
Harun al-Rashid & Al-Ma’mun
Q 1.
• Harun al-Rashid established the ‘House of
Wisdom’ in Baghdad.
• The House of Wisdom facilitated the exchange
of Greek ideas, knowledge and books.
(Pioneer of Physicians).
• Subsequent caliphs encouraged the
translation of works from Archimedes,
Apollonius and Ptolemy. (The Tiles Of Infinity)
Q 2.
• Cities within Iraq were renound for the
sophistication of their roads. The roads were
financed by Harun’s wife. Famous road: Darb
• 200 kilometers north-east of Medina; town
which was centre for religious teaching.
Q 3.
• Al-Razi, Abu-Bakr, Ishaq al-Sabbah, AlKhwarizmi. These people exemplified the
rationality of Islamic civilisation; they were the
some of the most prominent translators of
Greek works.
• The House of Wisdom also served as a
astronomical observatory; where al-Khwarizmi
developed algebra.
Q 4.
• Bimaristans introduced by the Abbasid
caliphs. Was the basis for modern European
hosptials. Hospitals became educational
institutions for students.
• Pharmacies established.
• “a network of intellectual cross-pollination
arose that spanned more than half a
millennium, ushering in a European scientific
renaissance”(Rediscovering Arab Science)
Arabic Science: the Lines of
Transmission of Arabic Learning to
• Around the 10th or 11th centuries European
scholarship became aware of the vast scientific
knowledge accumulated in the Islamic world
• Transmitted to Europe through “three main
geographical areas, in which contact between the
Islamic world and the Latin world allowed for the
transmission of knowledge from one culture to
the other; Spain, southern Italy and Sicily, and the
area encompassing the Holy Land”(Gale 2005/6)
• The Crusades in the Levant and the Reconquista of the Iberian
peninsula brought many Arabic works into circulation in Europe,
from captured Muslim cities, schools and libraries.
• However, the process was not purely one of conquest; “Translators
such as Gerard of Cremona from Italy, Adelard of Bath from
England, Constantine the African, [...], and Michael Scot, a
Scotsman who studied in Spain and Sicily, crisscrossed
Europe”(Covington 2007), bringing back works of science from the
• As well, Covington tells us “...Arabic-speaking Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II maintained a thriving correspondence with Muslim
philosophers and scientists from his court in Palermo, Sicily, and
(sic) even during his occupation of Jerusalem...” showing that
despite the crusades a peaceful transfer of knowledge between the
east and west was underway.
• Covington, Richard. "Saudi Aramco World :
Rediscovering Arabic Science." Saudi Aramco
World : Rediscovering Arabic Science. N.p.,
2007. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.
• Gale, Thomson. "Research Article: The
Transmission of Arabic Science to Europe."
BookRags. BookRags, 2005/6. Web. 27 Mar.
Decline of Islamic Science
By Nic and Nikolai
Decline of Islamic Science
• The Crusades, instead of damaging Islamic scientific
progress, energised it. According to Rashed, “The
Crusades encouraged Muslims & to find out the secrets
of their enemies’ forces”.
• “The first crippling blow to Islamic science occurred
with the Mongol invasions”. In 1258, the Mongols
sacked Baghdad; two million Muslims were killed, and
the libraries, hospitals, Observatories and House of
Wisdom were destroyed. It is said that the “...Tigris ran
red with the blood of scholars and black with the ink of
their books.”
Decline of Islamic Science
• Despite the Mongol Invasions, there was still
plenty of scientific innovation. However,
according to Rashed, “...scholars had to spend
more time and energy preserving knowledge
instead of pushing ahead with new explorations.”
• Portuguese and Spanish ships began to exploit
the East-West sea trade routes, which resulted in
the abandonment of the silk road, which the
Arabs maintained a monopoly over. This
economic damage led to even more decline in
Islamic science.
Decline of Islamic Science
‘Arabic science had arrived at a critical turning
point where a cognitive revolution was needed
in order to continue,” the French science
historian explains. In mathematics, for
example, complex equations became so
cumbersome they required 50 pages to
articulate. “Creating new symbols to condense
these equations required a conceptual leap
that’s possible in a society in expansion, but
not in a society in decline,” says Rashed.’
Decline of Islamic Science
• The rise of the Ottoman Empire also dealt a blow
to Islamic science. The Ottoman sultans were
more interested in funding military expansion
than research and science.
• “Science only develops in cultivated societies
where the economy and commerce are in good
health, and it creates a virtuous circle where the
economy favours science which in turn generates
profits and wealth of all kinds, spiritual as well as
Decline of Islamic Science
• “Academics have long maintained that the great
Islamic theologian, Abu Hamid Al Ghazali, who
lived from 1055 to 1111, single-handedly steered
Islamic culture away from independent scientific
inquiry towards religious fundamentalism.” Abu
Hamid maintained that scientific topics such as
physics and mathematics were not compatible
with Islam.
• Spanish reconquest of former Islamic territory,
and other losses of Arabic territory to the east
hindered scientific growth.
Covington, Richard (2007), Rediscovering Arab Science, Accessed 28 March 2013,
Hassan, Hassan (2012), How the Decline of Muslim Scientific Thought still Haunts, Accessed 28 March 2013,
Ofek, Hillel (2011), Why the Arabic World turned away from Science, Accessed 28 March 2013,

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