Science and Technology flourished during the Islamic Golden Age from around 780 CE to 1248 CE. During this time, scholars in the Middle East made great advances in the areas of mathematics, physics, geography, and medicine.
Why did science technology flourish during this time?
A Page from Algebra by al-Khwarizmi
Source: John L. Esposito The Oxford History of Islam.
Science and technology advanced during the Islamic Golden Age for many reasons. First, the pursuit of knowledge was encouraged both by the Islamic religion and the Islamic government. Scholars were respected by the people and sponsored by the government. At the same time, paper technology was introduced from China, allowing for the production of books. Large libraries were built in cities throughout the Muslim empire helping technology and knowledge to be shared between scholars.
Islamic scholars studied the mathematics of earlier civilizations in Greece, India, and China. They then made advances in many areas including geometry and trigonometry. Perhaps the most important mathematical advancement was in the area of algebra. Two great Islamic mathematicians, al-Khwarizmi and Omar Khayyam, helped develop algebra into a separate field of mathematics. In fact, the name "algebra" comes from the Arabic "al-jabr", which means "reunion of broken parts."
Astronomy was an important part of Islamic science. It was used for navigation, determining an accurate calendar, and for religious purposes (determining the direction of Mecca and prayer times). Islamic astronomers built large observatories for viewing the stars. They also designed detailed celestial globes showing the positions of the stars and planets in relation to the Earth. New tools were developed including the quadrant and the astrolabe.
Scientists in an Observatory by Ala ad-Din Mansur-Shirazi c. 1574-1595.
Islamic medicine was well-advanced for this period of time. Doctors were required to attend medical school where they studied the works of the Ancient Greeks and Indians. Islamic scholars added to this work with new medical theories and ideas. Most major cities had a large hospital where anyone could go to seek healthcare. One of the largest hospitals in Cairo, Egypt was said to help 4,000 patients a day.
One of the most lasting influences of Islamic medicine was a medical book written by Ibn Sina called The Canon of Medicine. This book was used as the standard medical textbook both in the Islamic world and throughout Europe for hundreds of years.
Due to the scarceness and importance of water in the Middle East, much of the efforts of Islamic engineers went into ways to store and move water. They built dams, irrigation canals, waterwheels, pumps, aqueducts, and cisterns. They also invented various ways to measure water and control the flow of water.
Islamic engineers also made significant contributions in the areas of optics, mechanics, clocks, wind power, and chemistry.
Interesting Facts about Science and Technology in the Islamic Golden Age
Due to the large libraries and many books produced in the Muslim world, Arabic became the international language of science and learning.
Islamic scholars helped to reproduce the work of many Greek scientists and mathematicians such as Aristotle.
The work of Islamic astronomers had a significant influence on later astronomers such as Galileo and Copernicus.
Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham is considered one of the world's first theoretical physicists. He developed the scientific theory and wrote a famous book on vision and light called the Book of Optics.