The Arab Golden Ages

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Every civilization, no matter how long it has survived on Earth, has held some window of time as its grandest and referred to it as its golden age. In this age, the quality of life of the citizens and the rate of intellectual advancement has been the most notable and greatest. In terms of early Middle Eastern history, the Abbasid Empire is often looked back on with particular fondness and pride. This was one of the first examples of a full-fledged empire governing on the basis of Islamic principles. Though their reign lasted from the mid 700’s to the 1200’s, coming to a close when the Mongols invaded the Abbasid capital of Baghdad in 1258, the Abbasid influence can still be observed today. The phenomenal development amongst the Arabs and Persians living under the Abbasid Dynasty of the time seems even more impressive next to the dark ages happening simultaneously in Europe.

Here is a crazy list of everything the Abbasids of the time are credited as having either discovered or further highly developed…

Writing and Translation:
• Establishment of the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) in 830, which combined the work of library, translation, and high level school
• Translation of ancient Persian, Greek, and Hindu texts (the Islamic scholars who did these translations were responsible for bringing ancient Greek literature and philosophy to the Europeans via Spain)
• Writing of numerous books of poetry and prose, some that even denounced local rulers and religious hypocrisy, others that spoke of love
• Use of paper for printing as learned through the Chinese

Mathematics:
• Creation of Arabic numerals used today and development of algebra (Al Khwarizmi in the 800’s developed our current day numeric system and furthered the development of algebra after the Greeks)

Astronomy:
• Progression of astronomy under al-Battani who studied the change in the axis of earth as it rotates around the sun.
• Further development of the astrolabe.
• Measurement of the circumference of the globe.

Navigation
• Further development of geography, mapping, and navigation from what was learned from ancient Greece. This aided exploration, trade, and pilgrimage to holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Medicine:
• Writing of the Canon of Medicine in 1025 by Ibn Sina. This Canon was used in European medical schools through the 1600s and described surgery, contagion and quarantine, and measurement.
• Writing of the Comprehensive Book on Medicine, by Ibn Al-Nafis, the father of modern day physiology who described the circulation of the lungs.
• Adaptation of a primitive small pox inoculation to protect people, prior to the development of a vaccine
• Use of plaster casts

Optics
• Development of law of refraction to understand how mirrors and lenses focus light
• Analysis of ancient Greek work on optics with the description by Ibn al-Haytham that rays are actually light in his Book of Optics

Chemistry:
• Study of chemistry and distillation by Jabir ibn Hayyan who created sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid by distillation
• Distillation of alcohol

Architecture
• Further development of an Islamic style of architecture influenced by Byzantine and Persian styles, focusing on repetition, arches, and geometric forms.

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2 responses to “The Arab Golden Ages

  1. Talya: I’ve been reading all your blogs and not only are they very interesting but you’re such a great writer. Your grand-mother Audrey would have been so proud of you. I am, too. Love you, Auntie Shanie

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