science: Muslim Preservation of Learning

Muslim Preservation of Learning

With the eclipse of the Greek and Roman cultures, many of their works passed into the hands of the Muslims, who by the 7th and 8th cent. a.d. had extended their influence through much of the world surrounding the Mediterranean. All of the Greek works were translated into Arabic, and commentaries were added. Important developments from the East were also transmitted, and the Hindu numeral system was introduced, as well as the manufacture of paper and gunpowder, learned from the Chinese. Scholars gathered at cities like Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo, at one end of the Mediterranean, and at Cordova and Toledo, in Spain, at the other end. Many astronomical observations were made at different locations, but there was little effort to improve or modify the Greek model of Ptolemy. In medicine important contributions were made by Al-Razi (Rhazes, 865–925) and Ibn-Sina (Avicenna, 980–1037), and in alchemy and pharmacology by Jabir (Geber, 9th cent.), whose work was expanded in the 10th cent. by a mystical sect aligned with the Sufi tradition. At Cairo, Al-Hazen (965–1038) studied optics, particularly the properties of lenses, and Maimonides (1135–1204), the Jewish philosopher, came there from Spain to practice medicine as physician to Saladin, the Sultan. The Arabs thus preserved the scientific works of the Greeks and added to them, and also introduced other contributions from Asia. This body of learning first began to be discovered by Europeans in the 11th cent.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Science: General