Since we read a lot about celebrities of today, we don’t have time to learn about our great ancestors that contributed so much to this world. Ignorance from the wisdom of our ancestors is what brought us to this misery we face today in the first place. Here are 19 of the world’s greatest Muslim scientists.
Muhammad ibn-Zakariya Al-Razi
- Doctor’s Doctor.
- The Father of Phycology (not modern phycology).
- The Father of Psychotherapy.
- The Father of Pediatrics.
When it’s about medical, it’s about al-Razi. He is a very renowned doctor of medieval age. Besides medical, his contributions in chemistry are also remarkable. He has got many titles, like the world’s first best doctor, father of phycology (it’s the study of algae), father of psychotherapy, and father of pediatrics. Furthermore, he wrote 200 books on various sciences in which half of them were on medical subjects. His work and treatises were the part of Western University curriculum. His book on medical – Kitab al-Mansouri – is among the only two most influential medical books of medieval age. He wrote the other book as well! Al-Razi’s another book – Kitāb al-Hāwī fī al-Tibb – is a comprehensive encyclopedia on medical facts, which gained success under the Latin name Liber Continents.
Have you ever been through smallpox and measles? Most probably, you have. Thanks to al-Razi, the first person who identity the disease and gave most trustworthy treatment of that time. For his enormous contribution in medical field, he was honored the title “Doctor’s Doctor”. Indeed, he was one of the greatest Muslim scientists of the world.
While talking about chemistry, he was the person who classified minerals into 6 categories and found chemicals like alcohol and kerosene.
His end had a cruel fate. In later life al-Razi became blind because he tortured himself trying convert base metals into precious metals like silver and gold. Unfortunately he couldn’t and he died in in 925 or 935 in Ray, Iran.
Title: The Father of Algebra
1) Introduced Algebra.
2) Introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals.
You may not be familiar with this mathematician yet I’m sure you have faced his invention many times: Algebra. Yes, Al-Khwarizmi is the mathematician who first gave the concept of Algebra. He is best known as “the father of algebra”.
He was born in Baghdad in 780 AD. Like many other Muslim scientists and polymaths, he also had strong grip on several subjects like, mathematics, astronomy, and geography.
During Abbasid Caliphate, he worked in “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad where he translated Greek philosophical and scientific works. This is where he published his most renowned book titled, Al-Kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wal-muqābala, from which the title “algebra” was derived. Al-Khwarizmi published this book for teaching purpose, as it was the first time when a book can define algebraic linear and quadratic equations in a systematic way.
Not only algebra, he also introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals (whole numbers). Furthermore, his work on geography and astronomy holds prominent value as well.
Title: The Father of Modern Chemistry (not modern chemistry)
The alchemist, or I say the most influential alchemist of all time, Jabir ibn-e-Hayan was born 721 CE in Tus, present day Iran. In his early life, it is believed that he studied under Imam Jafar Sadiq, a prominent figure in Islam. Ibn Hayyan was a Muslim scientist polymath. He wrote many texts in various fields of science like chemistry, alchemy, philosophy, geography, astronomy, physics and engineering. His text on chemistry and alchemy laid the foundation of modern chemistry hence him being the taker of the “Father of Chemistry” title.
He took experimental chemistry into new levels by perfecting several experiments: calcification, crystallization, distillation, sublimation and evaporation.
As I said, he wrote many books on various subjects. 2,000 treatises and articles have credited to him but it is worth to mention that most of them are written by his followers not by him. In his later life, Hayyan was given house arrest by caliph Haroon-Rasheed, where he died in 803 C.E.
- The Canon of Medicine
- The Book of Healing
- Steam Distillation
Ibn-Sina (Latinized, Avicenna) born in Bukhara, present day Uzbekistan, in 980 AD. He is remembered as one of the most significant philosophers of Islamic culture and in philosophy’s pre-modern era. His predominance over various subjects can be seen in corpus of writings. He wrote about almost everything such as physics, mathematics, geology and geography, astronomy, alchemy, Islamic theology, logic, and poetry. He wrote 450 texts and sadly only over 240 survived.
Like Philosophy, Ibn-Sina contributed medicine in the best way possible. He wrote many books on medicines, in which 40 survived. His medical encyclopedia – The Canon of Medicine – became standard medical book in universities. His another encyclopedia (The Book of Healing) on philosophy gained fame in medieval time. Muslim scientists were admired highly in Europe at that time.
In chemistry he invented and performed steam distillation and produce essential oils like rose essence. After serving enormously in science, Ibn-Sina died at the age of 56 in Hamadan, Iran.
Title: The Father Of Modern Surgery
Invention: Al-Tasrif, an Encyclopedia on medical and surgery.
Medical students, especially surgeons, may have heard his name before because of his contribution in the medical field.
Al-Zahrawi was a Muslim surgeon born in Medina Azahara, modern day Spain. At that time it was the part of the Islamic State. He was a famous surgeon of medieval age in Europe and also the physician to King of Spain, Hakim-II.
He is best known for his original work on Surgical Encyclopedia Al-Tasrif, which was consider as standard reference in medicine for 500 years. Al-Tasrif comprises of thirty volumes covering various aspects of medical science. The encyclopedia is based on Zahrawi’s operations that he performed for decades. Additionally, Al-Zahrawi is also an inventor of several surgical instruments for example an instrument for inspecting urethra and others. After serving medical for decades, he died in 1013 C.E.
1) Author of Kitab al-Manazir
2) Invented PinHole Camera.
How does vision work and how light is involved in that was one of the questions scientists tried to answer from the time of Aristotle. First Aristotle put his theory on visual perception and then Euclid put his. However, both were proved wrong when al-Haytham published a book on optics titled “Kitāb al-Manāẓir” (book of optics). In this book he proved that vision first bounces on an object and then directed into the eyes, which makes an object visible. Not only he gave a hypothesis on this proved it by experimentation. During the experiments, he invented PinHole camera, world’s first ever camera that served to be inspiration for the later models we use today!
Born in a small village of Basrain present day Iraq, Ibn al-Haytham managed to become an astronomer, mathematician and physicist. He was tutor of nobilities in Basra and also given an administrative post, which he left later. He left Basra and settled in Cairo where he wrote his famous book on optics, Kitab al-Manazir, which gained enormous success. Beside Kitab al-Manazir, al-Haytham wrote approximately 200 treatises on science in which only 50 survived, rest lost in history. After serving science for a whole lifetime, he died in 1040 AD in Cairo, Egypt.
1) Extension in real number system.
2) Probably, the first reformer of Ptolemaic system.
Ibn Qurra was born in 836 AD in Haran, present day Turkey. He contributed in many branches of science, notably mechanics, mathematics, and astronomy. At a young age, he travelled to Baghdad to join a scientific group, where he studied under the famous Banu Musa Brother. He wrote many texts from which only the mathematics, mechanics and astronomy ones survived. In mathematics he discovered the extension of real number system – positive real numbers. In mechanics he is known as “the father of statics”. In astronomy, he is the early reformer of Ptolemaic system. Ibn Qurra truly deserved to be in the greatest Muslims scientists.
Inventions: Calculated radius of Earth.
Al-Biruni was born in Khawarazm, modern day western Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan. The village where he was born is now named after him. He was a Muslim scientist, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and natural scientist. In his early age, he was a keen learner and studied under the famous mathematician Abu Nasr Mansur. At the age of 17 he calculated the latitude of his village. Furthermore, in his book al-Athar al-baqia he measured longitude and latitude of many locations, which in future proved right.
While traveling to India with Sultan Mahmood Gaznawi, the conqueror of Khawarazm, he devised and measured the radius of Earth by his own method. Additionally, he wrote extensive encyclopedia on astronomy, engineering, and geography which he named Masudi Canon after the son of Mahmood Gaznawi. After serving science for decades, he died in 1048 at the age of 74.
Discoveries: He was the first to discover sound waves.
You know most humans can’t read 200 books in their lifetime but Al-Kindi wrote 260 books on various subjects. His books influence the work of prominent scientist and mathematicians like, Roger Bacon and Al-Khawarzami.
Yaqub ibn-Ishaq al-Kindi was born in Kufa, Iraq in 801 AD. Al-kindi was a true genius as he was an expert in several subjects like physics, math, astronomy, geography, music, and specially philosophy. His philosophy drove a new wave of knowledge across middle-east and honored with the title of “Philosopher of Arabs”.
Furthermore, in chemistry he opposed the concept given by alchemists to change base metals into gold. In Mathematics, he laid the foundation of number system by giving 4 books on numbers. For such genius, Italian scholar Geralomo Cardano wrote “Al-Kindi is among the twelve greatest mind of medieval age”.
1) Classified and solve cubic equation, first time in the world.
2) Solar calendar, one of the most accurate.
Omar Khayyam was a medieval age Muslim scientist, mathematician, astronomer and poet. Born in 1048, Nishapur, Iran. Among his contributions, the most notable work is in mathematics. He solved and classified cubic equation. His method was largely based on geometric solution. Khayyam recognized 13 forms of cubic equation and solved them with the same geometrical method. In astronomy, he was assigned a task by ruler Malikshah Jalal al-Din to reform a solar calendar. Later, he successfully combined a calendar which proved to be more accurate than that of Gregorian calendar. However, in poetry his text – Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám – gained fame in Europe, after English translation by Edward FitzGerald.
He was an Egyptina-American scientist from Egypt to receive Nobel Prize and became the first Egyptian to earn a Nobel Prize in science. Zewail invented and introduced “femtochemistry”. He is called “father of femtochemisty”.
Invention: Found femtochemistry, a branch of chemistry.
1) He cataloged 489 stars.
2) Refined the value of a solar year, which is still 99% accurate.
He was among the few Golden Age Muslim scientists and astronomers that featured by many European medieval age scientists. Al-Battani was born in c. 858 AD in Harran, Turkey. He was a famous mathematician and astronomer. His treatise on astronomy – Kitab az-Zij – he calculated a year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds which is 99% accurate. Among his best-known works is the use of sines and tangents (trigonometry) in calculation got much fame.
Nasir ad-Din al-Tusi
Invention: Al-Zij-Iikhan, an astronomical table.
Like many other Muslim scientist, al-Tusi contributed in many sciences: Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, and Philosophy. Al-Tusi was born in Tus, present day Iran, in 1201 C.E. He was among the scientist that were kidnapped by Hassan bin Sabah’s agents. When Mongol conquer Almut (Hassan’s stronghold) al-Tusi joined Halagu Khan’s reign, where he was appointed as minister due to his knowledge.
In Astronomy, he contributed in astronomical tables by developing his own table – Al-Zij-Iikhan. The tables was followed by many astronomers till 15th century. Additionally, he invented instruments like, turquet.
In Mathematics, he wrote a book of complete quadrilaterals with a 5 volume summary of trigonometry.
Banu Musa Brothers
1) First to give numerical values of area and volume.
2) 100 mechanical devices.
3) Measured the length of a year.Unlike Muslims scientists in this list, Banu Musa is not just one person but it is the group of 3 brothers – Abu Jafar, Abu al-Qasim, and Ahmad. Their work on mathematics and mechanics was frequently quoted by scientists of that time. Their treatise on mathematics (The Book of the Measurement of Plane and Spherical Figures) gave the numerical values of area and volume. Their famous treatise was (The Tricks Book) on mechanics consists of 100 mechanical devices. While in astronomy they measured the length of a year – 365 days 6 hours.
Abu al-Wafa Buzjani
1) Introduced secant and cosecant functions.
2) Gave values of sine and tangent at 15 degree.
3) Build a quadrant (astronomical instrument).
Abu al-Wafa was a Persian, mathematician and astronomer of the medieval age. He was born in 940 AD in Buzhgan, Iran. His work on trigonometry and arithmetic and hence opened the gate of knowledge for the scientists of medieval age.
Abu al-Wafa contribute in trigonometry by introducing secant and cosecant functions. He also compiled a table of sines and tangents at the angel of 15 degree. Additionally, Abu al-Wafa was the first person invented and used wall-quadrant to observe the sky. For this inventions his name “Abu Wafa” was kept on one of the moon’s crater. Google changed their doodle in 2015 to honor Abu al-Wafa.
Invention: Describe right sided pulmonary circulation.
Ibn al-Nafis was a doctor and physician of the Islamic Golden Age. Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1213 AD. He is famously known for his work on blood circulations. He was the first who fully describe the pulmonary circulation of the blood. He describes the right sided circulation, while William Harvey, after 400 years, described right sided circulation.
Discover: Al-Baitar discovered 200 plants for medicine usage.
In old times the manufacturing of medicines was largely depends upon the herbs and plants. However, in Islamic Golden Age many Muslim botanists invented new kinds of medicines for treatment. Among them the most credited botanist was Ibn al-Baitar. His work in the field of medicines was acknowledged and followed for centuries even after his death.
One of his famous text, which was widely used was Compendium on Simple Medicaments and Foods. In this pharmaceutical encyclopedia al-Baitar listed 1,400 plants, herbs, and foods. Among 1,400 plants, 200 were discovered by him and he gave the proper guidelines for their usage in medicine.
After his services, he was appointed as chief herbalist in Damascus in 1224 AD. He died in 1248 AD in Damascus at the age of 21.