Joined: 24 Dec 2006
Location: Florida, USA
|Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:09 pm Post subject: Muslim Scientists - Abid Husain
|I think its time to think some more:
Who really changed Mathematics and science?
None of the medical milestones stated below could be even touched
without the ingenious contributions of muslims. This is a long list to
drive the point home. Please read them all carefull, and the rest of my
(1) Dr Ayub Khan Ommaya (1930-2008): World renowned neurosurgeon and
brain injury expert; among several inventions, he invented the "Ommaya
Tap" - the only effective way to deliver chemotherapy to the brain for
treatment of brain tumours.
(Have you ever heard of him? Why did he not get a nobel prize?)
(2) Renowned architect, Fazlur Khan, designed the world famous John
Hancock building in Chicago, IL, US. One of the most talented architects
of this century, he is credited with several architectural ideas and
plans for skyscrapers.
(3) Dr Teepu Siddique- One of the leading researchers of this decade,
and amongst the first to prove that diseases like ALS have a genetic
link. (Why did he not get a nobel prize????)
(4) A thousand years before the Wright brothers, a Muslim poet,
astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several
attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the
minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened
with wooden struts.
He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn't. But the cloak slowed his fall,
creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with
only minor injuries.
In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles' feathers
he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height
and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing - concluding,
correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it
would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on
the Moon are named after him.
(5) The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser,
which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters
the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim
mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham.
He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a
philosophical activity to an experimental one.
(6) Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in
their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam's
foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into
chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in
use today - liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification,
oxidisation, evaporation and filtration.
As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the
alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and
alcoholic spirits (although drinking them forbidden, in Islam). Ibn
Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of
(7) The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear
motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, not
least the internal combustion engine. One of the most important
mechanical inventions in the history of humankind, it was created by an
ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for
His Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206) shows he
also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of
the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the
father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination
( Quilting is a method of sewing or tying two layers of cloth with a
layer of insulating material in between. It is not clear whether it was
invented in the Muslim world or whether it was imported there from India
However, it certainly came to the West via the Crusaders. They saw it
used by Saracen warriors, who wore straw-filled quilted canvas shirts
instead of armour. As well as a form of protection, it proved an
effective guard against the chafing of the Crusaders' metal armour and
was an effective form of insulation - so much so that it became a
cottage industry back home in colder climates such as Britain and
(9) The pointed arch so characteristic of Europe's Gothic cathedrals was
an invention borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was much stronger
than the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, thus allowing the
building of bigger, higher, more complex and grander buildings.
Other borrowings from Muslim genius included ribbed vaulting, rose
windows and dome-building techniques. Europe's castles were also adapted
to copy the Islamic world's - with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican
and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended
round ones. The architect of Henry V's castle was a Muslim.
(10) Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as
those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi.
His scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many
of the 200 instruments he devised are recognisable to a modern surgeon.
It was he who discovered that catgut used for internal stitches
dissolves away naturally (a discovery he made when his monkey ate his
lute strings) and that it can be also used to make medicine capsules.
In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the
circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey discovered it.
Muslim doctors also invented anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and
developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes in a technique
still used today.
(11) The windmill was invented in 634 for a Persian caliph and was used
to grind corn and draw up water for irrigation. In the vast deserts of
Arabia, when the seasonal streams ran dry, the only source of power was
the wind which blew steadily from one direction for months. Mills had
six or 12 sails covered in fabric or palm leaves. It was 500 years
before the first windmill was seen in Europe.
(12) The technique of inoculation was not invented by Jenner and Pasteur
but was devised in the Muslim world and brought to Europe from Turkey by
the wife of the English ambassador to Istanbul in 1724. Children in
Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox at least
50 years before the West discovered it.
(13) The fountain pen was invented for the Sultan of Egypt in 953 after
he demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes. It held
ink in a reservoir and, as with modern pens, fed ink to the nib by a
combination of gravity and capillary action.
(14) The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably
Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first
appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi
and al-Kindi around 825.
Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi's book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah,
much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths
scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian
Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim
world. And Al-Kindi's discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the
codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern
(15) Ali ibn Nafi, known by his nickname of Ziryab (Blackbird) came from
Iraq to Cordoba in the 9th century and brought with him the concept of
the three-course meal - soup, followed by fish or meat, then fruit and
nuts. He also introduced crystal glasses (which had been invented after
experiments with rock crystal by Abbas ibn Firnas).
(16) Carpets were regarded as part of paradise by mediaeval Muslims,
thanks to their advanced weaving techniques, new tinctures from Islamic
chemistry and highly developed sense of pattern and arabesque which were
the basis of Islam's non-representational art.
In contrast, Europe's floors were distinctly earthly, not to say earthy,
until Arabian and Persian carpets were introduced. In England, as
Erasmus recorded, floors were "covered in rushes, occasionally renewed,
but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes
for 20 years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs
and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit
to be mentioned". Carpets, unsurprisingly, caught on quickly.
(17) The modern cheque comes from the Arabic "saqq", a written vow to
pay for goods when they were delivered, to avoid money having to be
transported across dangerous terrain. In the 9th century, a Muslim
businessman could cash a cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad.
(1 By the 9th century, many Muslim scholars took it for granted that
the Earth was a sphere. The proof, said astronomer Ibn Hazm, "is that
the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth". It was 500
years before that realisation dawned on Galileo.
The calculations of Muslim astronomers were so accurate that in the 9th
century they reckoned the Earth's circumference to be 40, 253.4km - less
than 200km out. Al-Idrisi took a globe depicting the world to the court
of King Roger of Sicily in 1139.
(19) Though the Chinese invented saltpetre gunpowder, and used it in
their fireworks, it was the Arabs who worked out that it could be
purified using potassium nitrate for military use. Muslim incendiary
devices terrified the Crusaders.
By the 15th century they had invented both a rocket, which they called a
"self-moving and combusting egg", and a torpedo - a self-propelled
pear-shaped bomb with a spear at the front which impaled itself in enemy
ships and then blew up.
(20) Mediaeval Europe had kitchen and herb gardens, but it was the Arabs
who developed the idea of the garden as a place of beauty and
meditation. The first royal pleasure gardens in Europe were opened in
11th-century Muslim Spain. Flowers which originated in Muslim gardens
include the carnation and the tulip. (Courtesy: The Independent)
AS for Nobel prizes, please remember that the process of selecting nobel
prize winners has largely come under speculation, with criticim that the
prizes are based on political reasons rather than merit.
When we talk of embryology, the most widely used textbook in medical
schools is one written by Professor Keith Moore (Professor of Anatomy
and Associate Dean Basic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of
Toronto), a revert to Islam. After a careful study of the Quran, Prof
Moore was amazed that 1400 years ago the Quran has already reavealed all
the stages that researchers were only now understanding. Why do most
people not know Professor Moore and they can only talk about Stanley
Well, go figure!