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Famous Muslim Scientists | World General Knowledge Series

Muslim Scientists
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Abu Ali Sina or Avicenna 980 – June 1037

            Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina was a Persian physician and philosopher. He was born in 980 A.D. at Afshana near Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan) then capital of the Samanid Dynasty. He was an encyclopeadist, philosopher, physiologist, physician, mathematician, astronomer, logi1cian and poet. He gained the titles of Shaikh al-Ra’is (leader among the wise men) and Hujjat al-Haq (proof of God), displayed a remarkable aptitude for learning from an early age.

Contributions and Achievements

  • His most important medical works are the Qanun (Canon) and a treatise on cardiac drugs (hitherto unpublished) Qanun contains many examples of good observation – distinction of mediastinitis from pleurisy; contagious nature of phthitis; distribution of diseases by soil and water; careful description of skin troubles, of sexual diseases; and supervisions; of nervous ailments (including love sickness); many psychological and pathological facts clearly analyzed if badly explained.
  • Sina’s interest in mathematics was philosophical rather than technical and such as we would expect in a late Neoplatonist. He explained the casting out of nines and its application to the verification of square and cubes. Many of his writings were devoted to mathematical and astronomical subjects.
  • He composed a translation on Euclid.
  • He made astronomical observations, and devised a contrivance the purpose of which was similar to that of the vernier, that is, to increase the precision of instrumental readings.
  • He made a profound study of various physical questions – motion, contact, force, vacuum, infinity, light, and heat. He observed that if the perception of light is due to the emission of some sort of particles by the luminous source, and speed of light must be finite.
  • He made investigations on specific gravity.
  • He did not believe the possibility of chemical transmutation, because in his opinion the differences of the metals were not superficial, but much deeper; coloring or bronzing the metals does not affect their essence.

Books:

  • The Kitab ash-shifa (“Book of Healing”), probably the largest work of its kind written by on person, is an encyclopaedia of knowledge that covers logic, the natural sciences, the quadrivium(geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, music), psychology and metaphysics.
  • The al-Qanun fi at-tibb (“Canon of Medicine”), the most famous book in the history of medicine of all civilizations, is an encyclopaedia of all medical knowledge of the time. It was translated into Latin in the 12th century and established Avicenna’s fame in the European civilization.
  • The Kitab an-najat (“Book of Salvation”), written partly in the field during a military campaign, is a masterful summary of Avicenna’s philosophical thought outlined in the Book of Healing.
  • The Kitab al-isharat wa at-tanbihat (“Book of Directives and Remarks”) is Avicenna’s testimony; it shows the development of his personal thought and philosophy in the direction of Islamic mysticism, from the first growth of faith to uninterrupted vision of God.
  • The Lisan al-‘arab (“The Arabic Language”), Avicenna’s answer to criticism that he did not master the Arabic language properly, did not get beyond the stage of a rough draft.

Jabir Ibn Hayyan or Geber 103-200 Hijri/ 721-815 AD

            Jabir Ibn Hayyan, is generally known as the Father of Chemistry He was born in Tus and settled in Baghdad after the establishment of the Abbassid caliphate He is famous for writing more than one hundred monumental treatises, of which twenty-two deal with chemistry. Jabir’s major practical achievement was the discovery of minerals and acids, which he prepared for the first time in his alembic. It is on the basis of such works that he is regarded as the father of modern chemistry.

            He was the first to introduce the laboratory experimental method, and the procedures he pursued in his researches are almost identical to those followed today.

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Contributions and Achievements

  • He prepared many chemical substances, he was the first to prepare sulfuric acid from alum by distillation, he also prepared mercury oxide, nitric acid, which is known as silver water and he used to call it hydrolyzing water or water of fire.
  • He was the first to discover caustic soda, as well as the first to retrieve silver nitrate, which he called the rock of hell.
  • He was the first to notice the precipitates of silver chloride upon adding table salt to silver nitrate
  • He was the first to use the sensitive balance and the extremely accurate weights in his laboratory experiments; he weighed amounts that are less than 1/100 pounds.

Books:

  • Kitab al-Kimya
  • Kitab al Sab’een
  • Kitab al-Ahjar (Book of Stones)

            The book of Poisons and Preventing Their Damages is the most famous work of Jabir and it is composed of five chapters. He divided poisons in it into animal, plant and rock poisons. He also mentioned the antidotes to these poisons and their reactions in the body. This book is considered a link between chemistry and medicine.


Al Razi or Rhazes 860 A.D – November 923 AD

            Abu-Bakr Muhammad Ibn-Zakariya Al Razi was born in the city of Rayy, six kilometers south east of Tehran.

            Numerous “firsts” in medical research, clinical care, and chemistry are attributed to him, including being the first to differentiate smallpox from measles, and the discovery of numerous compounds and chemicals including alcohol, kerosene, among others. Edward Granville Browne considers him as “probably the greatest and most original of all the physicians and one of the most prolific as an author”

Contributions and Achievements

  • Razi introduced many practical, progressive, medical and psychological ideas
  • The invention of a suture which he constructed from cat guts.  This invention was used by doctors many centuries after his death, until the invention of an improved version at the end of the twentieth century.
  • The invention of mercury ointments.
  • The differentiation between venous and arterial hemorrhages, using the finger pressure to stop a venous hemorrhage and a bandage to stop the arterial one in the same way as modern medicine
  • The description of cataract extraction
  • The use of opium in treating dry cough.
  • The introduction of laxatives to pharmacy
  • Considering fever as a symptom, not a disease.

Books:

  • “Al-Hawi fi elm al- tadawi” orThe encompassing Book on Medicine
  • al-Tibb al-Mansouri
  • Smallpox and Measles
  • Al-Asrar fi al-Kimyaa” or “Secrets of Chemistry
  • At-Teb ar-Rawhani” or “Spritual Medicine

Ibn Rushd or Averroes 1126-1198 AD

            Muslim Spain has produced some of the brightest intellectual luminaries of the Middle Ages. One of them was Ibn Rushd, better known as Averroes in the west who is universally acknowledged as the greatest philosopher of Islam and one of the greatest of all times. Ibn Rushd, known as Averroes in the west was born in Cordova, the metropolis of Muslim Spain Averroes, who was considered Avicenna of the west, applied himself to philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, logic and Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Rushd was the most learned commentator of Aristotelian works and was more Aristotelian than Ibn Sina. He corrected some of the misconceptions of Ibn Sina about the rational philosophy of Aristotle.

Contributions and Achievements

  • In philosophy, his most important work Tuhafut al-Tuhafut was written in response to Al-Ghazali’s work
  • He discovered a previously unobserved star He also gave one of the first descriptions on sunspots.
  • In medicine his well-known book Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb was written before 1162 A.D Its Latin translation was known as ‘Colliget’. In it Ibn Rushd has thrown light on various aspects of medicine, including the diagnoses, cure and prevention of diseases and several original observations of him.

Books:

            His chief philosophical work is “Tahafutu’l Tahafut” (The Refutation of the Refutation), which was written in refutation of al-Ghazali’s work, “Tahafutu’l Falasifa” (The Refutation of Philosophy).


Abu Raihan Al-Biruni 973-1048 AD

Abu Raihan Mohammad Ibn Ahmad al-Biruni was one of the well-known figures associated with the court of King Mahmood Ghaznawi. Al-Biruni was a versatile scholar and scientist who had equal facility in physics, metaphysics, mathematics, geography and history. Born in the city of Kheva near “Ural” (located in Xorazm Province, Uzbekistan)

Contributions and Achievements

  • His many scientific achievements include: pioneering the notion that the speed of light is much greater than the speed of sound, disputing the European Ptolemaic view that Africa stretched infinitely to the South, insisting it was surrounded by water, advancing the controversial but correct view that the Indus valley was once a sea basin, and explaining natural springs by the laws of hydrostatics.
  • Al-Biruni’s focus was mainly in the location of places relative to each other, their latitudes and longitudes, and the computation of their azimuths (angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system) of the qebla (direction to Mecca).
  • He wrote his famous text, Shadows, around 1021. It is a precious legacy of the history of mathematics, astronomy, and physics.
  • In Kitab-al-Jamahir, al-Biruni became the first to determine the hardness of minerals and their specific weights. He described the ratios between the densities of gold, mercury, lead, silver, bronze, copper, brass, iron and tin. He was the first to see gas-liquid inclusions in gems – ancient fluids that took part in the formation of mountain crystals, topaz, amethysts, sapphires, ambers, and other minerals
  • He described the general characteristics of the “planets,” Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon and describes their role in determining people’s actions and professions, their bodies and diseases, animals, vegetables & minerals.

Books:

  • Qanun-I Masoodi
  • al-Athar al-Baqia
  • Kitab-al-Saidana
  • Kitab-al-Jamahir

Al-Khawarizmi Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Musa 780-850 AD

            Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khawarizmi. The last-mentioned name (his nisba) refers to his birthplace, Khwarizm, modern Khiva, south of the Aral Sea. He was born around 780 in the town of Kath part of Khwarism. Kath is now buried in the sand.He was a mathematician, astronomer and geographer. He was perhaps one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived, as, in fact; he was the founder of several branches and basic concepts of mathematics.

            He is considered as “Father of Algebra”.Ftom the title of his work, Hisab Al-Jabr wal Mugabalah (Book of Calculations, Restoration and Reduction), Algebra (Al-Jabr) derived its name.

Contributions and Achievements

  • Al-Khwarizmi developed the concept of the algorithm in mathematics (which is a reason for his being called the grandfather of computer science by some people).
  • Al-Khwarizmi’s algebra is regarded as the foundation and cornerstone of the sciences. To al-Khwarizmi we owe the world “algebra,” from the title of his greatest mathematical work, Hisab al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabala.
  • Today, people use algorithms to do addition and long division, principles that are found in Al-Khwarizmi’s text written over 2000 years ago. Al-Khwarizmi was also responsible for introducing the Arabic numbers to the West, setting in motion a process that led to the use of the nine Arabic numerals, together with the zero sign.
  • Of great importance also was al-Khwarizmi’s contribution to medieval geography. He systematized and corrected Ptolemy’s research in geography, using his own original findings that are entitled as Surat al-Ard (The Shape of the Earth).

Books:

            Several of his books were translated into Latin in the early 12th century. In fact, his book on arithmetic, Kitab Al-Jam’a wal- Tafreeq bil Hisab Al-Hindi, was lost in Arabic but survived in a Latin translation. His astronomical tables were also translated into European languages and,later,into Chinese. His geography captioned Kitab Surat-Al-Ard,(The Face of the Earth) together with its maps, was also translated. In addition, he wrote a book on the Jewish calendar Istikhraj Tarikh Al-Yahud, and two books on the astrolabe. He also wrote Kitab Al-Tarikh and his book on sun-dials was captioned Kitab Al-Rukhmat, but both of them have been lost.


Yaqub ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi or Alkindus 801–873 AD

            Al-Kindī known as “the Philosopher of the Arabs”, was Muslim Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is unanimously hailed as the “father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy”for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy in the Muslim world

            On the scientific front, Al-Kindi plays a central role in Islamic scholarship for two principal reasons:

  • His early role in establishing a scientific methodology;
  • The diversity of subjects he addressed.

            Al-Kindi was one of the first Arab scholars involved in studying and commenting on Greek scientific and philosophical manuscripts. He defined philosophy as “the establishment of what is true and right”.

Contributions and Achievements

  • Al-Kindi took his view of the solar system from Ptolemy, who placed the Earth at the centre of a series of concentric spheres, in which the known heavenly bodies (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and the stars) are embedded.
  • He was also an opponent of alchemy; he debunked the myth that simple, base metals could be transformed into precious metals such as gold or silver He is sometimes credited as one of the first distillers of alcohol.
  • Al-Kindi was the first great theoretician of music in the Arab-Islamic world. He is known to have written fifteen treatises on music theory, but only five have survived. He added a fifth string to the’ud’
  • In the field of mathematics, al-Kindi played an important role in introducing Indian numerals to the Islamic and Christian world
  • Al-Kindi General Hospital, one of the biggest medical centres in present day Baghdad was named after the tremendous contributions in medical and pharmaceutical disciplines of the great Arab philosopher al-Kindi.

Books:

            He was a fertile writer; the total number of books written by him was 241, the prominent among which were divided as follows:

Astronomy 16, Arithmetic 11, Geometry 32, Medicine 22, Physics 12, Philosophy 22, Logic 9, and Psychology 5.

Gerard of Cremona translated many of his books into Latin. These books include Ikhtiyarat al-Ayyam, al-Mosiqa, Risalah dar Tanjim, Ilahyat-e-Aristu, Mad-o-Jazr and Adviyah Murakkaba.

(Gerard of Cremona (1114–1187) was an Italian translator of scientific books from Arabic into Latin.)


Ibn Al Haitham or Alhazan 965- 1939 AD

            Al-Haitham, known in the West as Alhazen, is considered as the father of modern optics. Ibn al-Haitham was born in 965 C.E. in Basrah (present Iraq), and received his education in Basrah and Baghdad. He traveled to Egypt and Spain. He spent most of his life in Spain, where conducted research in optics, mathematics, physics, medicine and development of scientific methods. He was called the “Physicist” in medieval Europe and nicknamed Ptolemaeus Secundus (Ptolemy the Second), according to the historian Henry Corbin.

Contributions and Achievements

  • Al-Haitham was the first to describe accurately the various parts of the eye and gave a scientific explanation of the process of vision.
  • He conducted experiments on the propagation of light and colors, optic illusions and reflections. He examined the refraction of light rays through transparent medium (air, water) and documented the laws of refraction. He also carried out the first experiments on the dispersion of light into colors.
  • In mathematics, he developed analytical geometry by establishing linkage between algebra and geometry.

Books:

            Ibn Al Haytham’s most important work is “Kitab Al Manazir” (The Book of Optics), a seven-volume treatise written between 1011 and 1021, and translated into Latin at the end of the 12th century.

            Ibn Al Haytham’s most famous work on astronomy is “Hay’at Al ‘Alam” (On the Configuration of the World), in which he presents a non-technical description of how the abstract mathematical models of Ptolemy’s “Almagest” can be understood according to the natural philosophy of his time.


Nasir al-Din alTusi 1201-1274 AD

            Al-Tusi, Nasir al-Din was one of the greatest scholars of his time and one of the most influential figures in Islamic intellectual history. He was a scientist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and theologian. He created ingenious mathematical models for use in astronomy.

Contributions and Achievements

  • Tusi recognized three types of living things: plants, animals, and humans. He wrote “Animals are higher than plants, because they are able to move consciously, go after food, find and eat useful things.
  • Al-Tusi was instrumental in building an observatory in the new capital. Al-Tusi spent 12 years at the observatory and produced an accurate table of planetary movements
  • In mathematics, al-Tusi pioneered spherical trigonometry and treated trigonometry as a new mathematical discipline.
  • He developed six fundamental formulas for the solution of spherical right-angled triangles.
  • He wrote on binomial coefficients, which Blaise Pascal later introduced.
  • In chemistry and physics, Tusi stated a version of the law of conservation of mass. He wrote that a body of matter is able to change, but is not able to disappear: “A body of matter cannot disappear completely. It only changes its form, condition, composition, colour and other properties and turns into a different complex or elementary matter.”

Books

  • Tusi has about 150 works in Persian and Arabic
  • Kitab al-Shakl al-Qatta. A five volume summary of trigonometry.
  • Al-Tadhkirah Fi’ilm al-Hay’ah A memoir on the science of astronomy
  • Akhlaq-i-Nasri– A work on ethics.
  • Al-Risalah al-Asturlabiyah – A Treatise on astrolabe.
  • Zij-i ilkhani (Ilkhanic Tables) – A major astronomical treatise, completed in 1272.
  • Sharh al-isharat (Commentary on Avicenna’s Isharat)
  • Awsaf al-Ashraf a short mystical-ethical work in Persian

Omar Ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyam 1044-1123

            Ghiyath al-Din Abul Fateh Omar Ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyam was born at Nishapur (Iran) Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, physician and poet, he is commonly known as Omar Khayyam. Khayyam means the tent-maker, and although generally considered as Persian Khayyam was also a well-known poet. In this capacity, he has become more popularly known in the Western world since 1839, when Edward Fitzgerald published an English translation of his Rubaiyat (quatrains).

Contributions and Achievements

  • He made an attempt to classify most algebraic equa- tions, including the third degree equations and, in fact, offered solutions for a number of them.
  • His book Maqalat fi al-Jabr wa al-Muqabila is a masterpiece on algebra and has great importance in the development of algebra.
  • His remarkable classification of equations is based on the complexity of the equations, as the higher the degree of an equation, the more terms, or combinations of terms, it will contain.
  • His contributions to other fields of science include a study of generalities of Euclid, development of methods for the accurate determination of specific gravity, etc. In metaphysics, he wrote three books Risala Dar Wujud and the recently discovered Nauruznamah. He was also a renowned astronomer and a physician.

Books:

  • Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra
  • Explanations of the difficulties in the postulates in Euclid’s Elements

Abu Al-Nasr Al-Farabi 870-950 AD

            Abu Nasr Mohammad Ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi was born in a small village Wasij, near Farab in Turkistan He lived through the reign of six Abbasid Caliphs. As a philosopher and scientist, he acquired great proficiency in various branches of learning and is reported to have been an expert in different languages

            Farabi contributed considerably to science, philosophy, logic, sociology, medicine, mathematics and music. His major contribution seems to be in philosophy, logic and sociology and, of course, stands out as an Encyclopedist. As a philosopher, he may be classed as a Neoplatonist who tried to synthesize Platonism and Aristotelism with theology and he wrote such rich commentaries on Aristotle’s physics, meteorology, logic, etc., in addition to a large number of books on several other subjects embodying his original contribution, that he came to be known as the ‘Second Teacher’ (al-Mou’allim al-Thani) Aristotle being the First. One of the important contribu- tions of Farabi was to make the study of logic more easy by dividing it into two categories viz., Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof).

Contributions and Achievements

  • One of the most important contributions of Farabi, beyond his political views and scientific philosophies, was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories – Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He wrote several sociological books, including his famous work – Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila (The Model City).
  • Al-Farabi also wrote a book on music, called Kitab al-Musiqa (the Book of Music).
  • He was an expert in art and the science of music and invented several musical instruments
  • He was the first Islamic philosopher to separate philosophy and theology, influencing the scholars of many different religions who followed him.
  • He absorbed the components of Platonic and Neo-Platonic philosophy, which he then integrated into his knowledge of the Qur’an and the various sciences derived from it.

Books:

  • Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila ‘The Model City’ is a significant early contribution to socio- logy snd political science.
  • Kitab al-Musiqa
  • Kitab al-lhsa al ‘Ulum classification and fundamental principles of science
  • Fusus al-Hikam, which remained a text book of philosophy for several centuries at various centres of learning and is still taught at some of the institutions in the East.

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