The Arab World is spread over a number of countries in the continents of Africa and Asia. The world is indebted to Arab culture as several scientific advancements were made in the region during the Golden Age of Arabic Science. There are several accounts of discoveries made in different fields from this region. Scientists from the Islamic civilization were of varied backgrounds. Nevertheless the contributions they made to science are invaluable.
The Golden Age began around the 8th century and lasted for another 500 years. The scientific achievements began in the Arabian Peninsula when the Muslim religion was inducted by the prophet. Most of the feats occurred as extensions of the works of ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Hebrews. In Baghdad, a group of scientists and researchers together studied the past in order to understand the present. Being aware of the developments taking place in Baghdad, the rulers of Spain called on intellectuals who made significant contributions to the fields of medicine, technology, philosophy and art.
Factors that led to Golden Age
The driving force behind the Golden Age was predominantly the want to acquire knowledge by the Muslims under the directives of the prophet. Scholars did extensive travelling around the Arabian Peninsula in order to spread new ideas and thoughts. The Arabic language which was used commonly by all the people of the region facilitated easier communication of novel ideas. Arabs translated theories made by ancient Chinese, Greek and Latin to study them better. Later, an academic institution called ‘The House of Wisdom’ was established in Baghdad in the year 1004 C.E.
In primitive tribes, medicine was practised as a mixture of magic, herbal cures and delusions. One of the primary developments was the Kahun Gynecology Papyrus. This describes ways of detecting pregnancy and other female ailments.
During that time, it was believed that the human body could not fall ill unless foreign body interference occurred. The default state of humans was healthy. Even though they had less information about microbiology and related microscopic organisms, their knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology was very much advanced.
In Egypt, the medics referred to the heart as a source of blood vessels. They were aware of the hollow nature of blood vessels and that they were used for circulation. This also hinted that medications could be given through them. It was also known that blood circulated through the vessels around the entire body. However, they were not able to distinguish between blood vessels and nerves.
Medical check-ups of that time were very much similar to that of the present era. The steps for check-up were as follows:
After the diagnosis was over, the doctor would decide whether the ailment could be treated or not.
Since ancient times, man has been curious to know more about his environment and the universe. Before the Arabs descended on this area, many phenomenon were already known such as those of constellations and stars etc.
Ancient Egyptians had noticed that on a particular day during the year a bright star would appear. The appearance of this star coincided with the flooding of the river Nile. By counting the number of days between different sightings of they discovered that there were around 365 days in a year. Thus they created the Gregorian calendar.
Since the study of stars was essential for navigation, the Arabs knew that astronomy was one area they could not ignore.
Some notable scientists of that time were:
Jabir ibn Hayyan was a scientist who specialised in the field of alchemy. Many of his works have helped in forming the base of alchemy as a subject.
Jafar Muhammad, Ahmad and al-Hasan (together known as The Banu Musa brothers) were scholars who lived during the time when al-Mamun was the caliph. They’ve been known to have translated a number of famous works into Arabic. Their contribution to the field of automation can be regarded as their most important input.
Influence from other countries also affected the growth of science in the Arab world. Nevertheless the contributions of the Arabian Peninsula to world science are fathomless.