Thursday, May 03, 2007

Medicine, Anatomy, Optics, Mathematics, and Philosophy: The Lost Legacies of the Arabs

At the height of their power the Muslim 'Abbasid caliphs (rulers) in Baghdad were patrons of the arts, literature, poetry, and the sciences. Through caliphal patronage hundreds and even thousands of scholars from across the Middle East, Byzantium, and the east (India, Central Asia and beyond), both Muslim and non-Muslim, gathered in the city at a place of scholarship and scientific inquiry renowned in its time, Bayt al-Hikma (The House of Wisdom.)

These scholars left behind a rich legacy. Greek philosophical tracts from Aristotle and Plato were translated into Arabic as were ancient Persian and Indian "wisdom literature" texts.

'Abbasid scholars also made significant advances in mathematics, building upon earlier work by Indian, Iranian, and other Asian scholars. Parts of modern algebra, decimal fractions, exponents, and the numeral system are part of this rich legacy of scholarship.
In medicine, the human body, optics, and pharmaecology were studied intensely. The origins of the modern hospital can be traced to 'Abbasid Baghdad where patients were quarantined according to their symptoms. Arab doctors also pioneered early forms of surgery including a technique for removing cataracts.

Arab scientists developed a theory that illnesses were caused by small organisms and not by curses or bad omens as was believed in Europe at that time. Mental illness was treated as a disorder and not as possession.
'Abbasid Optical Texts
'Abbasid Herbal Pharmaecology Text
'Abbasid Anatomy Texts

Sophocles (left) pictured in an Arabic Translation Text

Aristotle pictured in an Arabic Translation Text

'Abbasid Geometry Text

An EXCELLENT source for further readings on the subjects described above:

Recommended Books

Islamic Sciences and the Making of the European Renaissance (Georges Saliba)

The Legacy of Islam: 2nd Edition (C.E. Bosworth; Joseph Schacht)

No comments: