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Friday, April 07, 2006

Thanks to the Muslim world

Your morning cup of coffee, the watch on your wrist and the fantastic three-course meal you had last night are all part of Islam's cultural legacy, according to an exhibition currently on in the UK.

'1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage of Our World', on at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester until June 4, charts one thousand years of Muslim contributions to medicine, science, education, architecture and astronomy.

Organisers, the Manchester-based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation, hopes the exhibition will show how hundreds of innovations now associated with the Western world owe their origins to Muslim scholarship and science.

"The extent to which Muslims have contributed to Western civilisation is not generally well-known. Yet scholars from the Islamic world gave us many of the everyday things we use today such as coffee, soap and clocks.

This exhibition shows that Muslims have always shared the heritage that provides a platform for developments that makes the Western world tick," Professor Al-Hassani, who has led a five-year project to collate and validate the research behind the exhibition, said.

"A lot of these scientific and cultural developments are accepted as fact in academic circles, but the vast majority of people - because of the nature of the education system - are completely unaware of their origins," Organisers want to challenge what they believe to be a widely-held belief that the Dark Ages was a period of stagnation and decline.

'1001 Inventions' presents evidence that the period, AD600 to AD1600 was a golden age for innovation, albeit in the Muslim world.

According to Professor Mark Halstead, a lecturer in moral education at Plymouth University, "Islam needs to take its place alongside other historic groups, such as the ancient Romans and Greeks.

When Europe was living in the dark ages, Islamic civilisation was blossoming, and the advances during this period are more relevant to the modern world than those of the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs."

Organisers say that '1001 Inventions' is a non-religious and non-political project intended to create "an understanding of the interdependence of communities throughout human history".


Adam Hart-Davisp, presenter of BBC Series 'What the ancients did for us' says that great ideas were overflowing during the Muslim middle ages "from al-Jazari and his elegant clocks and al-Kindi and Ibn al-Haitham with their revolutionary optical theories, experiments, and books, to the astronomers who navigated across the desert by the stars, and the map-makers who put north at the bottom."

>> The musical notes we play on our recorder or piano are actually the Arabic alphabet read out aloud. The basic scale do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti comes from Arabic alphabet: Dal-Ra-Mim-Fa-Sad-Lam-Sin.

>> Chess was originally a Persian game with pieces including Shah as King.

>> A Ninth Century Muslim introduced the concept of the three-course meal to Europe.

>> Sherbet, a juice of crushed fruit, herbs, or flowers was the world's first soft drink and was enjoyed by Western figures such as the 19th Century English poet Lord Byron.

>> Syrian Muslim and blind professor, Zain-Din al Amidi in the 14th Century improvised a method by which he identified his books and made notes - 600 years before braille was invented.

>> Unlike people in Medieval Europe, the Islamic world had a constant supply of fresh foods to eat throughout the year thanks to the development of crop rotation.

>> Apricots, oranges and artichokes were first introduced to Europe by the Muslims.

>> Cheese was first made in the Middle East. The earliest type was a form of sour milk.

One legend claims that cheese was 'discovered' by an Arab nomad who filled a saddlebag with milk to sustain him on a journey across the desert by horse. After several hours he stopped to drink, only to find that the milk had separated into a pale watery liquid and solid white lumps.

>> Tenth Century Muslim doctor Al-Zahrawi pioneered plastic surgery. And his practice of using ink to mark his incisions on the body is still a standard surgical procedure.

>> Al-Biruni, the 14th Century physicist was able to calculate the circumference of the Earth and its tilt 600 years before Galileo.

1001 Inventions Book

What do coffee beans, torpedoes, surgical scalpels, arches and observatories all have in common?
Were Leonardo da Vinci's flight ideas originals?
Who devised the casing for pill capsules and where did Fibonacci learn to flex his mathematical fingers?

All these answers can be found here in '1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World'.

Over 350 pages of colour photographs and written in an accessible style for those with limited knowledge of either Islam or history.

£25.00 plus postage and packing
Order your copy today!

A golden age of civilization, from 600 and 1600 CE, will unfold, because medieval Muslims were trailblazers in fields as diverse as medicine and mechanics, cartography and chemistry, education and engineering, architecture and astronomy. No area was too obscure to miss the scrutiny of enquiry backed up by rigid scientific experimentation.

So get comfortable with this guidebook and prepare to begin on a voyage of discovery through a thousand years of science and technology into the lives of medieval pioneers whose ingenious inventions have helped create our world today.

"This glorious book overflows with the great ideas of the Muslim middle ages. From al-Jazari and his elegant clocks and al-Kindi and Ibn al-Haitham with their revolutionary optical theories, experiments, and books, to the astronomers who navigated across the desert by the stars, and the map-makers who put north at the bottom, every page is a mine of joyous information.

There are even recipes to try out, and everything is beautifully illustrated. I wish I had had this book fifty years ago."

Adam Hart-Davis; Photographer, Writer and TV Science Presenter of BBC Series 'What the Ancients Did for Us'.

1001 Inventions Book only £25.00 plus postage and packing.
Order your copy today!


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