Islamic Science and Math (continued)
D. Optics - Study of Light and Vision
1. Egyptians were already making glass in 3500 BCE, although
it was not perfectly transparent. A number of Greek and Roman references from
about 200 BCE cite the usefulness of curved glass lenses in starting
From Dr. Zahoor's
The Islamic Empire, through its massive work of translating
Greek and Roman texts into Arabic, learned about the manufacture of glass
lenses. Islamic scientist Ibn Sahl (984) developed the first accurate theory of
refraction of light. He gave Islamic science the
understanding needed to develop all the optical tools and theories later
developed in 17th century Europe.
2. Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham (965 - 1040 C.E.) was known in Europe as Alhazen. He studied the human
eye and describe how we see. His Book of
Optics recognized that sight is visual images
entering the eye, made perceptible by adequate light.
Read more about Ali Hasan Ibn
al-Haitham who is considered the father of modern optics.
E. Advances in Medicine: Another
important area of translation was medicine. One of its most famous scholars was
Hunayn ibn Ishaq (Joanitius) who eventually translated the entire set of Greek
medical books into Arabic, including the Hippocratic Oath. Later as a director
of the House of Wisdom, he also wrote at least twenty-nine original works of his
own on medicine and a collection of ten essays on
ophthalmology (the study of the
eye) which covered the anatomy and
physiology of the eye and the treatment of various
diseases which affect vision. His book was the first known medical work to
include anatomical drawings
(pictures showing parts of the body),
the book was translated into Latin and for centuries was used in both European
and Middle Eastern universities.
Other important medical scientists were al-Razi (Rhazes) who
was a giant of medical wisdom during the Islamic era.
While European "hospitals" at this time were usually simply
monasteries where the sick were told they would live or die according to God's
will, not human intervention, Muslim hospitals pioneered the practices of
diagnosis, cure, and future prevention.
The first hospital in the Islamic world was built in Damascus
in 707, and soon most major Islamic cities had hospitals, in which hygiene was
emphasized and healing was a priority. Hospitals were open 24 hours a day, and
many doctors did not charge for their services. Later, a central hospital was
established in Baghdad by order of the Abbasid ruler, the first of thirty-four
hospitals throughout the Muslim world, many of them with special wards for
Traveling clinics with adequate supplies of drugs toured the
countryside, and others paid regular visits to the jails.
2. Medical Schools:
The medical school at the University of Jundishapur, once the
capital of Sassanid Persia, became the largest in the Islamic world by the 9th
century. Its location in Central Asia allowed it to incorporate medical
practices from Greece, China, and India, as well as developing new techniques
3. Famous Doctors
a.) Al-Razi, a 9th century
Persian physician, made the first major Muslim contribution to medicine when
he developed treatments for smallpox and measles. He also made significant
observations about hay fever, kidney stones, and scabies, and first used
opium as an anesthetic.
b.) Ibn Sina was one of the
greatest physicians in the world, with his most famous book used in European
medical schools for centuries. He is credited with discovering the
contagious nature of diseases like tuberculosis, which he correctly
concluded could be transmitted through the air, and led to the introduction
of quarantine as a means of
limiting the spread of such infectious diseases.
c.) In the 10th century, Al-Zahravi
first conducted surgery for the eye, ear, and
throat, as well as performing amputations and cauterizations. He also
invented several surgical instruments, including those for the inner ear and
d.) Other Muslim physicians accurately diagnosed the plague, diphtheria, leprosy, rabies,
diabetes, gout, epilepsy, and hemophilia long before the rest of the
4. Muslims also made advancements in the field of
pharmacology (the study of drugs and medicines). They
experimented with the medical effects of various herbs and other drugs, and
familiarized themselves with anesthetics
used in India. The Arabs established the first
drugstores and wrote the first encyclopedias of drugs and medicines. Baghdad
had at one time as many as eight hundred sixty two registered pharmacists, all
of whom had passed formal examinations.
Learn more about Contributions of Muslim
- See Hyperion Culture Academy's math
and science section which includes:
- Be sure to see "Muslim
Scientists, Mathematicians and Astronomers Before European Renaissance,
700 - 1500 C.E." with its great chart!] Also see "Science in
Al-Andalusia" (Muslim Spain)
- For further information on the history of science in Andalusia, see
Scholarship in Al-Andalus"
- Quotations From Famous Historians of Science http://www.erols.com/zenithco/Introl1.html#refer1
- For a History of Islamic Scientists with some good images and
biographies of five scientists, see http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam12.html
- For a chronological listing of scientists and their contributions,
see "Timeline of Islamic Scientists" from 700 - 1400. http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam10.html
- Several biographies of scientists and mathematicians are found http://www.ummah.org.uk/history/scholars/index.html
- Learn about the use of "kerosene lamps" 1000 years before Europeans
in "The Oil Weapons:
Ancient Oil Industries"
- Sciences (contributions of Muslims) http://www.ummah.org.uk/science/islscience.htm
- In Spanish, see "Biomusulman"
biographies of Muslim leaders, scientists, poets, philosophers, etc.
For more information on medical sciences, see our own
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