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Rediscovering Arabic Science

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    Posted: 28 May 2007 at 4:39am
[Interesting article. Click on the title to read the whole lot]

Rediscovering Arabic Science

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You have to hand it to Ahmed Djebbar: The science historian certainly knows how to draw a crowd. As we circulate among the astrolabes, maps and hydraulic models of an eye-opening Paris exhibition on medieval Arabic science, curious museum-goers gather around us.

“Did you know that the Egyptian doctor Ibn al-Nafis recognized that the lungs purify blood in the 13th century, nearly 350 years before the Europeans?” he asks, standing in front of an anatomical drawing of the human body. “Or that the Arabs treated the mentally ill with music therapy as early as the ninth century?”

Examining a case of rare manuscripts, the dapper Lille University professor launches into a mini-lecture before the rapt group. The 13th-century Persian astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, the author of one of the yellowing Arabic-language texts, upended the geocentric Greek view of the universe, Djebbar explains, by declaring Ptolemy’s model of planetary motion flawed and creating his own more accurate, but still Earth-centered, version. Three centuries later, the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus borrowed al-Tusi’s model to make the shocking proposition that the Earth revolves around the sun. “Al-Tusi made his observations without ctelescopes or even glasses,” says Djebbar, removing his own spectacles and waving them theatrically in the air. “Even though the Arabs possessed the knowledge to make lenses, they probably thought it was an idiotic idea. God made us like this; why hang something on our noses to see better?” he jokes, placing his glasses back on his nose with a flourish. His audience erupts into laughter as Djebbar, who was curator of “The Golden Age of Arabic Sciences”—the Paris exhibition, which ran from October 2005 through March 2006 at the Arab World Institute—tries to quiet them down.
"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.
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