In this video, Jonathan Lyons, scholar and intellectual historian, addresses the collective amnesia that has left many of us with the unshakeable—if deeply misguided—conviction that the world of Islam and that of the West have nothing in common.
Based on Lyons’s book, The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization (Bloomsbury Press, 2009), which has appeared in a dozen foreign editions, this video tells the story of Adelard of Bath, a 12-century Englishman who travelled to the Muslim world and brought back many of its scientific riches.
Lyons has a doctorate in sociology from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University. Before turning to writing full time in 2007, Lyons served for 21 years as a foreign correspondent, bureau chief, and editor with Reuters news agency, with postings in Moscow, Istanbul, Tehran, Washington, and Jakarta. He lives in British Columbias, Canada, with his wife Michelle Johnson and their dog Ziggy Stardust.
00:00 Geometric patterns that were understood in the West only 500 years later
00:59 The collective amnesia
01:42 Three goals in mind
02:34 Abbreviated list of the achievements of Islamic science
03:13 Imperial Muslim capital Baghdad and its royal library, known as the House of Wisdom
03:46 The riches of Muslim learning for Adelard of Bath
04:27 Adelard of Bath’s greatest legacy
05:12 Our intellectual debt to the Muslim world