Author(s): Ehsan Masood
Between the 8th and 15th centuries, scholars and researchers working from Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan to Cordoba in Spain advanced our knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine and philosophy to new heights. It was Musa al-Khwarizmi, for instance, who developed algebra in 9th century Baghdad, drawing on work by mathematicians in India; al-Jazari, a Turkish engineer of the 13th century whose achievements include the crank, the camshaft, and the reciprocating piston; ibn Sina, whose textbook Canon of Medicine was a standard work in Europe's universities until the 1600s. These scientists were part of a sophisticated culture and civilization that was based on belief in God - a picture which helps to scotch the myth of the 'Dark Ages' in which scientific advance faltered. Science writer Ehsan Masood weaves the story of these and other scientists into a compelling narrative, taking the reader on a journey through the Islamic empires of the middle ages, the cultural and religious circumstances that made this revolution possible, and its contribution to science in Western Europe.
'The fruits of the golden age of Islamic science are summarised briskly and engagingly in Ehsan Masood's Science & Islam, which was written to accompany a recent BBC television series ... Keen to dismantle the myth that Islam is fundamentally opposed to science, and [shows] that the words of Muhammad can be read as obliging rational inquiry.' Sunday Times 'Why did science and learning decline so rapidly [in the Islamic World]? Ehsan Masood gives a viable answer to this question. Masood's eminently readable survey of science in Islam fills many gaps in [Jonathan Lyons'] The House of Wisdom by providing the social and political context in which discoveries took place.' The Times 'A delightful and approachable work, packed with surprises and treats, and offered by a writer whose passion for the subject does not daunt his objectivity' Wharf
Ehsan Masood is Acting Chief Commissioning Editor at Nature and teaches international science policy at Imperial College London. He also writes for Prospect and OpenDemocracy.Net and is a regular panelist on BBC radio 4's Home Planet.