• Surgery wouldn't quite be the same without the medical instruments developed during the Islamic Golden Age. (Pixabay)Source: Pixabay
We know a lot about the inventions and discoveries of Western scientists and researchers, bud did you know we also owe a lot to Islamic civilization?
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

12 Jul 2016 - 4:47 PM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2016 - 4:47 PM

For nearly 1,000 years - from the 8th to the 16th centuries - Islamic civilization underwent what is now known as the Islamic Golden Age.

The period of economic growth and intellectual and cultural developments resulted in a number of inventions and advancements which we still rely on today. 

While most of the research was conducted in Arabic in this period, not all scholars were Arab (many were Persian). 

Here are six of our top picks:

1) Surgical Instruments - Al-Zahrawi

Around the year 1,000 AD the celebrated surgeon al-Zahrawi, who practised in Cordoba, published a 1,500 page illustrated encyclopedia of surgery.

It was hugely influential in Europe, and many of his instruments are still used today.

He is credited with inventing the syringe, the forceps, the surgical hook and needle, the bone saw, and using dissolving catgut to stitch wounds.

2) The Toothbrush and Soap

Islam was one of the first global religions to place emphasis on bodily hygiene.

The Prophet Mohammed popularised the use of the first toothbrush in around the 7th Century, using a twig from the Miswak tree.The twig not only cleaned his teeth but freshened his breath.

There is no mention of miswak twigs in the Qur'an, but they are mentioned many times in later writings by Muslim scholars.

Arab people also perfected the recipe for soap which we still use today - combining vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil.

3) The World Map by Al-Idrisi

Andalusian cartographer Al-Idrisi produced this world map in the 12th Century, which is regarded as the most elaborate and complete description of the world made at the time.

It was used extensively by travelers for several centuries.

   

4) Algebra

To the chagrin of maths students everywhere, we have a number of Persian and Arab scholars to thank for the development of algebra as a method of solving equations. 

The word algebra comes from the title of a 9th Century Arabic thesis,The Book of Reasoning and Balancing. 

The process for ordering unknown numbers and solving equations built on Greek and Hindu systems. Texts produced by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi were responsible for transferring and developing those systems in the Islamic world and the West. 

5) Ibn Firnas' flying contraption

Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer Abbas Ibn Firnas is the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Islamic world.

The 9th Century inventor was 65 when he made his famous attempt at controlled flight in a rudimentary hang-glider he built.

He launched himself off the side of a mountain and according to some accounts remained airborne for several minutes before landing badly and hurting his back.

He is honoured on Arabic postage stamps, has a crater on the moon named after him, and has a statue at Baghdad International Airport.

6) Magnifying glass / glasses / camera obscura

The scholar Alhazen from Basra was the first person to describe how the eye works. He carried out experiments with reflective materials and proved that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, as Greek scientists had believed.

He also discovered that curved glass surfaces can be used for magnification. His glass "reading stones" were the first magnifying glasses.

Alhazen also invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters.

He worked out that the smaller the hole, the better the picture, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room).

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