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Islamic History

1,000 years of scientific text and research from the Islamic world displayed

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Between the 9th and 19th centuries, Arabic-speaking scholars translated Greek, Latin and even Sanskrit texts on topics such as medicine, mathematics and astronomy, fostering a vibrant scientific culture within the Islamic world. Some of the most influential texts are now available at the Qatar Digital Library.

The library, a joint project of the British Library and the Qatar Foundation, offers free access to 25,000 pages of medieval Islamic manuscripts. Among some of the most significant texts:

The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206 A.D.), which was inspired by an earlier, 9th-century translation of Archimedes’ writings on water clocks. Devices such as the “Elephant Clock” (pictured below) were the most accurate time-keeping pieces before the first pendulum clocks were built in the 17th century by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineEXPAND

Another water clock design features balls dropping onto a cymbal from a bird’s head.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineEXPAND

This is one of the only three recorded copies of an influential treatise on the construction and use of astrolabes by Abū al-Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī (973-1048), containing 122 diagrams.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineEXPAND

A translation (615 AD) of Ptolemy’s mathematical and astronomical treatise, The Almagest.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineEXPAND

An Arabic version of De Materia Medica, an encyclopedia of herbs and medicine written in the first century AD by Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek-born, Roman physician. This translation was completed in Baghdad in 1334 A.D.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineEXPAND

See more manuscripts at the Qatar Digital Library.

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