View Full Version : Muslim Scientists 4 : Botanists, Pharmacists and Chemists

06-03-2005, 04:42 PM
AL-IDRISI - Botony

Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Idris al- Qurtubi al-Hasani, was born in Ceuta, Spain, in 1099 C.E. He was educated in Cordova. Later he traveled far and wide in connection with his studies and then flourished at the Norman court in Palermo. The date of his death is controversial, being either 1166 or 1180 C.E.

Biographical notes on him are to be found rather rararely, and according to F. Pons Boigues the underlying reason is the fact that the Arab biographers considered al-Idrisi to be a renegade, since he had been associated with the court of a Christian king and written in praise of him, in his work. The circumstances which led him to settle in Sicily at the court of Roger II are not on record.

His major contribution lies in medicinal plants as presented in his several books, specially Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat. He studied and reviewed all the literature on the subject of medicinal plants and formed the opinion that very little original material had been added to this branch of knowledge since the early Greek work. He, therefore, collected plants and data not reported earlier and added this to the subject of botany, with special reference to medicinal plants. Thus, a large number of new drugs plants together with their evaluation became available to the medical practitioners. He has given the names of the drugs in six languages: Syriac, Greek, Persian, Hindi, Latin and Berber.

In addition to the above, he made original contributions to geography, especially as related to economics, physical factors and cultural aspects. He made a planishere in silver for King Roger II, and described the world in Al-Kitab al-Rujari (Roger's Book), also entitled Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq al-Afaq (The delight of him who desires to journey through the climates). This is practically a geographical encyclopaedia of the time, containing information not only on Asia and Africa, but also Western countries.

Al-Idrisi, later on, also compiled another geographical encyclopedia, larger than the former entitled Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhat al-Nafs (Pleasure of men and delight of souls) also known as Kitab al- Mamalik wa al-Masalik.

Apart from botany and geography, Idrisi also wrote on fauna, zoology and therapeutical aspects. His work was soon translated into Latin and, especially, his books on geography remained popular both in the East and the West for several centuries.


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06-03-2005, 05:05 PM
Greatest Botanist and Pharmacist of the Middle Ages: IBN AL-BAITAR

Ibn Al-Baitar full name (Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi) was one of the greatest scientists of Muslim Spain and was the greatest botanist and pharmacist of the Middle Ages. He was born in the Spanish city of Malaqa (Malaga) towards the end of the 12th century. He learned botany from Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati, a learned botanist, with whom he started collecting plants in and around Spain. In 1219 he left Spain on a plant-collecting expedition and travelled along the northern coast of Africa as far as Asia Minor. The exact modes of his travel (whether by land or sea) are not known, but the major stations he visited include Bugia, Qastantunia (Constantinople), Tunis, Tripoli, Barqa and Adalia. After 1224 he entered the service of al-Kamil, the Egyptian Governor, and was appointed chief herbalist. In 1227 al-Kamil extended his domination to Damascus, and Ibn al-Baitar accompanied him there which provided him an opportunity to collect plants in Syria His researches on plants extended over a vast area: including Arabia and Palestine, which he either visited or managed to collect plants from stations located there. He died in Damascus in 1248.

Ibn Baitar's major contribution, Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al- Mufrada, is one of the greatest botanical compilations dealing with medicinal plants in Arabic. It enjoyed a high status among botanists up to the 16th century and is a systematic work that embodies earlier works, with due criticism, and adds a great part of original contribution. The encyclopedia comprises some 1,400 different items, largely medicinal plants and vegetables, of which about 200 plants were not known earlier. The book refers to the work of some 150 authors mostly Arabic, and it also quotes about 20 early Greek scientists. It was translated into Latin and published in 1758.

His second monumental treatise Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada is an encyclopedia of medicine. The drugs are listed in accordance with their therapeutical value. Thus, its 20 different chapters deal with the plants bearing significance to diseases of head, ear, eye, etc. On surgical issues he has frequently quoted the famous Muslim surgeon, Abul Qasim Zahrawi. Besides Arabic, Baitar has given Greek and Latin names of the plants, thus facilitating transfer of knowledge.

Ibn Baitar's contributions are characterized by observation, analysis and classification and have exerted a profound influence on Eastern as well as Western botany and medicine. Though the Jami was translated/published late in the western languages as mentioned above, yet many scientists had earlier studied various parts of the book and made several references to it.


06-03-2005, 05:07 PM
Father of Chemistry: Jabir Ibn Haiyan

Jabir Ibn Haiyan, the chemist Geber of the Middle Ages, is generally known as the father of chemistry. Abu Musa Jabir Ibn Hayyan, sometimes called al-Harrani and al-Sufi, was the son of the druggist (Attar). The precise date of his birth is the subject of some discussion, but it is established that he practiced medicine and alchemy in Kufa around 776 C.E. He is reported to have studied under Imam Ja'far Sadiq and the Ummayed prince Khalid Ibn Yazid. In his early days, he practiced medicine and was under the patronage of the Barmaki Vizir during the Abbssid Caliphate of Haroon al-Rashid. He shared some of the effects of the downfall of the Barmakis and was placed under house arrest in Kufa, where he died in 803 C.E.

Jabir's major contribution was in the field of chemistry. He introduced experimental investigation into alchemy, which rapidly changed its character into modern chemistry. On the ruins of his well-known laboratory remained after centuries, but his fame rests on over 100 monumental treatises, of which 22 relate to chemistry and alchemy. His contribution of fundamental importance to chemistry includes perfection of scientific techniques such as crystallization, distillation, calcinations, sublimation and evaporation and development of several instruments for the same. The fact of early development of chemistry as a distinct branch of science by the Arabs, instead of the earlier vague ideas, is well-established and the very name chemistry is derived from the Arabic word al-Kimya, which was studied and developed extensively by the Muslim scientists.

Perhaps Jabir's major practical achievement was the discovery of mineral and others acids, which he prepared for the first time in his alembic (Anbique). Apart from several contributions of basic nature to alchemy, involving largely the preparation of new compounds and development of chemical methods, he also developed a number of applied chemical processes, thus becoming a pioneer in the field of applied science. His achievements in this field include preparation of various metals, development of steel, dyeing of cloth and tanning of leather, varnishing of water-proof cloth, use of manganese dioxide in glass-making, prevention of rusting, lettering in gold, identification of paints, greases, etc. During the course of these practical endeavors, he also developed aqua regia to dissolve gold. The alembic is his great invention, which made easy and systematic the process of distillation. Jabir laid great stress on experimentation and accuracy in his work.

Based on their properties, he has described three distinct types of substances. First, spirits i.e. those which vaporize on heating, like camphor, arsenic and ammonium chloride; secondly, metals, for example, gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, and thirdly, the category of compounds which can be converted into powders. He thus paved the way for such later classification as metals, non-metals and volatile substances.

Although known as an alchemist, he did not seem to have seriously pursued the preparation of noble metals as an alchemist; instead he devoted his effort to the development of basic chemical methods and study of mechanisms of chemical reactions in themselves and thus helped evolve chemistry as a science from the legends of alchemy. He emphasized that, in chemical reactions, definite quantities of various substances are involved and thus can be said to have paved the way for the law of constant proportions.

A large number of books are included in his corpus. Apart from chemistry, he also contributed to other sciences such as medicine and astronomy. His books on chemistry, including his Kitab-al-Kimya, and Kitab al-Sab'een were translated into Latin and various European languages. These translations were popular in Europe for several centuries and have influenced the evolution of modern chemistry. Several technical terms devised by Jabir, such as alkali, are today found in various European languages and have become part of scientific vocabulary. Only a few of his books have been edited and published, while several others preserved in Arabic have yet to be annotated and published.

Doubts have been expressed as to whether all the voluminous work included in the corpus is his own contribution or it contains later commentaries/additions by his followers. According to Sarton, the true worth of his work would only be known when all his books have been edited and published. His religious views and philosophical concepts embodied in the corpus have been criticized but, apart from the question of their authenticity, it is to be emphasized that the major contribution of Jabir lies in the field of chemistry and not in religion. His various breakthroughs e.g., preparation of acids for the first time, notably nitric, hydrochloric, citric and tartaric acids, and emphasis on systematic experimentation are outstanding and it is on the basis of such work that he can justly be regarded as the father of modern chemistry. In the words of Max Mayerhaff, the development of chemistry in Europe can be traced directly to Jabir Ibn Haiyan.


03-29-2007, 10:31 PM
yes Roger the 2nd of Italy ended up crushing the globe of Al-Idrisi... maintaining that the earth was flat.... lol
these are excellent posts... I hope more Muslims read more about their history... there is much to be proud of...

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03-30-2007, 11:13 PM
why don't much Muslims get involved in science these days?

It's a great subject!

03-30-2007, 11:22 PM
what makes you think they are not involved in science?

03-31-2007, 12:54 AM
format_quote Originally Posted by M2A^AKIB^
why don't much Muslims get involved in science these days?

It's a great subject!
who do you think the father of india's nuclear program was? A man born in a muslim family

who made writing of Arabic and urdu on compter keyboard possible? A Pakistani Muslim

who made a nuclear device while being under sanctions so severe that they were not allowed to import even a prehistoric operating system like MS-dos? A Pakistani Muslim

few names today
Dr Naveed Zaidi, a Research Fellow in the Organic Electroactive Materials group at Durham
Abdus Salam, The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979
just google or enquire at home office to find out how many of them, there are in UK alone you'll be surprised if not shocked

Muslim scientists of the past

Muslim scientists and scholars have contributed immensely to human knowledge especially in the period between 8th and 14th century CE. However, their contributions have been largely ignored, forgotten or have gone un-acknowledged. On this site you can read fascinating accounts of some of the most talented Muslim scholars in history whose contributions have left lasting marks in the annals of science, astronomy, medicine, surgery, engineering and philosophy.

Jabir Ibn Haiyan died 803

Mohammad Bin Musa al-Khawarizmi died 840

Yaqub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi 800

Thabit Ibn Qurra 836

Ali Ibn Rabban al-Tabari 838

Abu Abdullah al-Battani 858

Al-Farghani 860

Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi 864

Abu al-Nasr al-Farabi 870

Abul Hasan Ali al-Masu'di died 957

Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi 936 (see also)

Abul Wafa Muhammad al-Buzjani 940

Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham 965

Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi 972

Abu Raihan al-Biruni 973

Ibn Sina 980 (see also)

Omar al-Khayyam 1044

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali 1058

Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr 1091

Al-Idrisi 1099

Ibn Rushd 1128

Ibn al-Baitar died 1248

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi 1201

Jalal al-Din Rumi 1207

Ibn al-Nafis 1213

Ibn Khaldun 1332

Ibn Sina - doctor of doctors

El Zahrawi - father of surgery

Ibn Battuta - the great traveller

Caesarean Birth - an Islamic view

Water Raising Machines

1000 years of missing science | Science in School

And how many would know of Zeng He, the Chinese Muslim admiral who used refined technology ... We could all learn much from the Muslim scientists, scholars, ...

Astronomy has been called the "queen of sciences". It incorporates many disciplines such as physics, particularly optics, mathematics and celestial mechanics. Since ancient times, Muslim scientists have studied astronomy, contributing greatly to human knowledge. Yaqub ibn Tariq, al-Kwarizmi, al-Battani, al-Farghani, al-Sufi, al-Biruni, al-Tusi and Omar Khayyam are just a few of the scholars who have left a lasting mark in the annals of astronomy.

03-31-2007, 01:06 AM

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from The Independent & The Independent on Sunday

Islamic artists were 500 years ahead of Western scientists
Home > News > World> Science & Technology

Islamic artists were 500 years ahead of Western scientists

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 23 February 2007

Islamic artists were exploiting a mathematical principle to decorate buildings with complicated patterns of tiles more than 500 years before its discovery in the West.
The decorative tilework that adorns some medieval Islamic buildings has been found to use basic geometric shapes that form a complex and highly intricate tiling pattern which does not repeat itself.
In modern mathematics the principle of non-repeating patterns on a flat surface is known as quasicrystal geometry, and the most famous example is known as Penrose tiling, after the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose, who was thought to have discovered it 30 years ago.
However, two American mathematicians believe that near-perfect quasicrystal geometry was used by Islamic scholars earlier than the 15th century to decorate the walls of important buildings.
Peter Lu, of Harvard University, and Paul Steinhardt, of Princeton University, said advanced quasicrystal geometry based on 10-sided shapes is seen in the tiling patterns of mosques and madrasas of the Middle East and central Asia, predating its discovery by Western mathematicians by 500 years.
"It could be proof of a major role of mathematics in medieval Islamic art, or it could have been just a way for artisans to construct their art more easily," said Mr Lu. "At the very least it shows us that a culture we often don't credit enough was far more advanced than we thought before."
In keeping with the Islamic tradition of not depicting images of people or animals, many religious buildings were decorated with geometric star-and-polygon patterns, often overlaid with a zigzag network of lines.
Lu and Steinhardt show in a study published in the journal Science that by the 13th century Islamic artisans had begun producing patterns using a small set of decorated, polygonal tiles which they call "girih" tiles.
Art historians have until now assumed that the intricate tilework had been created using straight edges and compasses, but the study in Science suggests the Islamic artisans were using a basic toolkit of girih tiles made up of shapes such as the decagon, pentagon, diamond and hexagon.
"Straight edges and compasses work fine for the recurring symmetries of the simplest patterns we see, but it probably required far more powerful tools to fully explain the elaborate tiling with decagonal [10-sided] symmetry," Mr Lu said.
"Individually placing and drafting hundreds of decagons with a straight edge would have been exceedingly cumbersome. It's more likely these artisans used particular tiles that we've found by decomposing the artwork," he said.
The scientists found that by 1453, Islamic architects had created overlapping patterns with girih tiles at two sites to produce near-perfect quasicrystalline patterns that did not repeat themselves. "The fact that we can explain so many sets of tiling, from such a wide range of architectural structures throughout the Islamic world with the same set of tiles, makes this an incredibly interesting universal picture," Mr Lu said.

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