Geography in medieval Islam

Geography in medieval Islam

Islamic geography includes the advancement of geography, cartography and earth sciences under various Islamic civilizations. During the medieval ages, Islamic geography was driven by a number of factors: the Islamic Golden Age, parallel development of Islamic astronomy, translation of ancient texts (particularly Hellenistic ones) into Arabic, increased travel due to commerce and Hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage), and the "Muslim age of discovery" and "Muslim Agricultural Revolution".

After its beginning in the 8th century, Islamic geography was patronized by the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. Various Islamic scholars contributed to its development, and the most notable include Al-Khwārizmī, Abū Zayd al-Balkhī (founder of the 'Balkhī school'), Al-Biruni and Avicenna. Muslim geography reached its apex with Muhammad al-Idrisi in the 12th century. Later developments took place under Turks, particularly under the Ottoman Empire, with notable scholars such as Mahmud al-Kashgari and Piri Reis.


Islamic golden age

When the capital of the Muslim world moved to Baghdad in 750, the city became the center study and translation of scientific writings, attracting scholars of all sorts. Learned men enjoyed caliphal patronage, especially of Harun al-Rashid and Al-Mamun. This learning was undertaken by both Muslims and non-Muslims and by those who spoke Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Persian and Syriac; although Arabic remained the "lingua franca" and Islam the dominant faith. [Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 30]

Islamic astronomy

Muslim Arabs, for various reasons, were interested in astronomy: Bedouin land caravans and sea merchants used them for navigation during the night, and the encouragement given by certain verses of the Qur'an. Interest in astronomy directly led to the belief that earth was a globe. [Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 31-2] Technologies used for the furtherance of astronomy had immediate applications in geography as well. For example, the astrolabe used in astronomy was also used for celestial navigation and land surveying. [Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 40]

Previous learning

Both the Greeks and Romans were known to have made maps, albeit very primitive. In the case of the Romans this was a natural outcome of the expansion of their empire. Many of these writings and works were studied and translated by Muslims. [Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 49]


Long distance travel created a need for mapping, and travelers often provided the information to achieve the task. While such travel during the medieval period was hazardous, Muslims nonetheless undertook long journeys. One motive for these was the Hajj or the Muslim pilgrimage. Annually, Muslims came to Mecca in Arabia from Africa, Islamic Spain, Persia and India. Another motive for travels was commerce. Muslims were involved in trade with Europeans, Indians and the Chinese, and Muslim merchants travelled long distances to conduct commercial activities.Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 113-6]

Age of discovery

During the Muslim conquests of the seventh and early eighth centuries, Arab armies established the Islamic Arab Empire, reaching from Central Asia to the Iberian Peninsula. An early form of globalization began emerging during the Islamic Golden Age, when the knowledge, trade and economies from many previously isolated regions and civilizations began integrating due to contacts with Muslim explorers, sailors, scholars, traders, and travelers. Subhi Y. Labib has called this period the Pax Islamica, and John M. Hobson has called it the Afro-Asiatic age of discovery, in reference to the Muslim Southwest Asian and North African traders and explorers who travelled most of the Old World, and established an early global economy across most of Asia, Africa, and Europe, with their trade networks extending from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Indian Ocean and China Seas in the east,Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", "The Journal of Economic History" 29 (1), pp. 79–96.] and even as far as Japan, Korea [citation|last=Al-Monaes|first=Walled A.|title=Muslim contributions to geography until the end of the 12th century AD|journal=GeoJournal|volume=25|issue=4|pages=393-400|publisher=Springer Science+Business Media|date=December 1991] and the Bering Strait.Arabic silver "dirham" coins were also being circulated throughout the Afro-Eurasian landmass, as far as sub-Saharan Africa in the south and northern Europe in the north, often in exchange for goods and slaves. [Roman K. Kovalev, Alexis C. Kaelin (2007), "Circulation of Arab Silver in Medieval Afro-Eurasia: Preliminary Observations", "History Compass" 5 (2), pp. 560–80.] In England, for example, the Anglo-Saxon king Offa of Mercia (r. 757-796) had coins minted with the Shahadah in Arabic. [Mayor of London (2006), [ Muslims in London] , p. 14, Greater London Authority.] These factors helped establish the Arab Empire (including the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates) as the world's leading extensive economic power throughout the 7th–13th centuries.John M. Hobson (2004), "The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation", pp. 29–30, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521547245.]

Apart from the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, navigable rivers in the Islamic regions were uncommon, so transport by sea was very important. Navigational sciences were highly developed, making use of a magnetic compass and a rudimentary instrument known as a kamal, used for celestial navigation and for measuring the altitudes and latitudes of the stars. When combined with detailed maps of the period, sailors were able to sail across oceans rather than skirt along the coast. Muslim sailors were also responsible for introducing the lateen sails and large three-masted merchant vessels to the Mediterranean. The origins of the caravel ship, used for long-distance travel by the Spanish and Portuguese since the 15th century, also date back to the "qarib" used by Andalusian explorers by the 13th century.John M. Hobson (2004), "The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation", p. 141, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521547245.]

Ibn Battuta (1304–1368) was a traveler and explorer, whose account documents his travels and excursions over a period of almost thirty years, covering some 73,000 miles (117,000 km). These journeys covered most of the known Old World, extending from North Africa, West Africa, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe in the west, to the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China in the east, a distance readily surpassing that of his predecessors and his near-contemporary Marco Polo.

History and topics

Muslims translated many of the Hellenistic documents. The way in which earlier knowledge reached Muslim scholars is crucial. For example, since Muslims inherited Greek writings directly without the influence of the Latin west, T-O maps play no role in Islamic cartography though popular in the European counterpart. Some of the important Greek writings include the "Almagest" and the "Geographia". Muslim scientists then made many of their own contributions to geography and the earth sciences.

Many Islamic scholars declared a mutual agreement (Ijma) that celestial bodies are round, among them Ibn Hazm (d. 1069), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1200), and Ibn Taymiya (d. 1328). [ [ "History, Science and Civilization: Early Muslim Consensus: The Earth is Round"] .] Ibn Taymiya said, "Celestial bodies are round—as it is the statement of astronomers and mathematicians—it is likewise the statement of the scholars of Islam". Abul-Hasan ibn al-Manaadi, Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm, and Abul-Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi have said that the Muslim scholars are in agreement that all celestial bodies are round. Ibn Taymiyah also remarked that Allah has said, "And He (Allah) it is Who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon. They float, each in a Falak." Ibn Abbas says, "A Falaka like that of a spinning wheel." The word 'Falak' (in the Arabic language) means "that which is round." [ [ "History, Science and Civilization: Early Muslim Consensus: The Earth is Round"] .] [cite web|url=|title=Majmu'ul-Fatawa, Vol. 6, pp. 566 (In Arabic.)] Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), in his Muqaddimah, also identified the world as spherical.


An important influence in the development of cartography was the patronage of the Abbasid caliph, al-Ma'mun, who reigned from 813 to 833. He commissioned several geographers to re-measure the distance on earth that corresponds to one degree of celestial meridian. Thus his patronage resulted in the refinement of the definition of the mile used by Arabs ("mīl" in Arabic) in comparison to the "stadion" used by Greeks. These efforts also enabled Muslims to calculate the circumference of the earth. Al-Mamun also commanded the production of a large map of the world, which has not survived,Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 61-3] though it is known that its map projection type was based on Marinus of Tyre rather than Ptolemy. [Edward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", p. 193, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201] The first terrestrial globe of the Old World was also constructed in the Muslim world during the Middle Ages, [Mark Silverberg. [ Origins of Islamic Intolerence] .] by Muslim astronomers and geographers working under Caliph al-Ma'mun in the 9th century. His most famous geographer was Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (see Book on the appearance of the Earth below). He set the Prime Meridian of the Old World at the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, 10-13 degrees to the east of Alexandria (the prime meridian previously set by Ptolemy) and 70 degrees to the west of Baghdad. Most medieval Muslim geographers continued to use al-Khwarizmi's prime meridian. Other prime meridians used were set by Abū Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdānī and Habash al-Hasib al-Marwazi at Ujjain, a centre of Indian astronomy, and by another anynomous writer at Basra. [Edward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", p. 189, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201]

In the mid-9th century, Estakhri wrote the "General Survey of Roads and Kingdoms". It was the first non-East Asian geographical work to make a reference to Korea. [cite journal|last=Baker|first=Don|title=Islam Struggles for a Toehold in Korea |journal=Harvard Asia Quarterly|date=Winter 2006|url=|accessdate=2007-04-23] Also in the 9th century, the Persian mathematician and geographer, Habash al-Hasib al-Marwazi, employed the use spherical trigonometry and map projection methods in order to convert polar coordinates to a different coordinate system centred on a specific point on the sphere, in this the Qibla, the direction to Mecca. [citation|title=Mathematics and the Divine|last=T. Koetsier|first=L. Bergmans|publisher=Elsevier|year=2005|isbn=0444503285|page=169] Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī (973-1048) later developed ideas which are seen as an anticipation of the polar coordinate system. [MacTutor|id=Al-Biruni|title=Abu Arrayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni] Around 1025 CE, he was the first to describe a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. [David A. King (1996), "Astronomy and Islamic society: Qibla, gnomics and timekeeping", in Roshdi Rashed (ed.), "Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science", Vol. 1, pp. 128-184 [153] , Routledge, London and New York]

In the early tenth century, Abū Zayd al-Balkhī, originally from Balkh, founded the "Balkhī school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. The geographers of this school also wrote extensively of the peoples, products, and customs of areas in the Muslim world, with little interest in the non-Muslim realms. The "Balkhī school", which included geographers such as Estakhri, al-Muqaddasi and Ibn Hawqal, produced world atlases, each one featuring a world map and twenty regional maps. [Edward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", p. 194, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201]

Suhrāb, a late tenth century Muslim geographer, accompanied a book of geographical coordinates with instructions for making a rectangular world map, with equirectangular projection or cylindrical cylindrical equidistant projection. The earliest surviving rectangular coordinate map is dated to the 13th century and is attributed to Hamdallah al-Mustaqfi al-Qazwini, who based it on the work of Suhrāb. The orthogonal parallel lines were separated by one degree intervals, and the map was limited to Southwest Asia and Central Asia. The earliest surviving world maps based on a rectangular coordinate grid are attributed to al-Mustawfi in the 14th or 15th century (who used invervals of ten degrees for the lines), and to Hafiz-i-Abru (d. 1430). [Edward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", p. 200-1, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201]

;Regional cartography

Islamic regional cartography is usually categorized into three groups: that produced by the "Balkhī school", the type devised by al-Idrīsī, and the type that are uniquely foundin the "Book of curiosities".

The maps by the Balkhī schools were defined by political, not longitudinal boundaries and covered only the Muslim world. In these maps the distances between various "stops" (cities or rivers) were equalized. The only shapes used in designs were verticals, horizontals, 90-degree angles, and arcs of circles; unnecessary geographical details was eliminated. This approach is similar to that used in subway maps, most notable used in the "London Underground Tube Map" in 1931 by Harry Beck.Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 85-7]

Al-Idrīsī defined his maps differently. He considered the extent of the known world to be 160° in longitude, and divided the region into ten parts, each 16° wide. In terms of latitude, he portioned the known world into seven 'climes', determined by the length of the longest day. In his maps, many dominant geographical features can be found.

Mathematical geography and geodesy

The Muslim scholars who held to the spherical Earth theory used it in an impeccably Islamic manner, to calculate the distance and direction from any given point on the earth to Mecca. This determined the Qibla, or Muslim direction of prayer. Muslim mathematicians developed spherical trigonometry which was used in these calculations. [David A. King, "Astronomy in the Service of Islam", (Aldershot (U.K.): Variorum), 1993.]

Around 830, Caliph al-Ma'mun commissioned a group of astronomers to measure the distance from Tadmur (Palmyra) to al-Raqqah, in modern Syria. They found the cities to be separated by one degree of latitude and the distance between them to be 66 2/3 miles and thus calculated the Earth's circumference to be 24,000 miles. ["Gharā'ib al-funūn wa-mulah al-`uyūn" (The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes), 2.1 "On the mensuration of the Earth and its division into seven climes, as related by Ptolemy and others," (ff. 22b-23a) [] ] Another estimate given was 56 2/3 Arabic miles per degree, which corresponds to 111.8 km per degree and a circumference of 40,248 km, very close to the currently modern values of 111.3 km per degree and 40,068 km circumference, respectively. [Edward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", pp. 187-8, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201]

In mathematical geography, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, around 1025, was the first to describe a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. [David A. King (1996), "Astronomy and Islamic society: Qibla, gnomics and timekeeping", in Roshdi Rashed, ed., "Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science", Vol. 1, p. 128-184 [153] . Routledge, London and New York.] He was also regarded as the most skilled when it came to mapping cities and measuring the distances between them, which he did for many cities in the Middle East and western Indian subcontinent. He often combined astronomical readings and mathematical equations, in order to develop methods of pin-pointing locations by recording degrees of latitude and longitude. He also developed similar techniques when it came to measuring the heights of mountains, depths of valleys, and expanse of the horizon, in "The Chronology of the Ancient Nations". He also discussed human geography and the planetary habitability of the Earth. He hypothesized that roughly a quarter of the Earth's surface is habitable by humans, and also argued that the shores of Asia and Europe were "separated by a vast sea, too dark and dense to navigate and too risky to try" in reference to the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.Harvard reference |last=Scheppler |first=Bill |year=2006 |title=Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the Eleventh Century |publisher=The Rosen Publishing Group |isbn=1404205128 |pp=41-2]

Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī is considered the father of geodesy for his important contributions to the field,Akbar S. Ahmed (1984). "Al-Beruni: The First Anthropologist", "RAIN" 60, p. 9-10.] [H. Mowlana (2001). "Information in the Arab World", "Cooperation South Journal" 1.] along with his significant contributions to geography and geology. At the age of 17, al-Biruni calculated the latitude of Kath, Khwarazm, using the maximum altitude of the Sun. Al-Biruni also solved a complex geodesic equation in order to accurately compute the Earth's circumference, which were close to modern values of the Earth's circumference.cite web|url=|title=Khwarizm|publisher=Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation|accessdate=2008-01-22] [James S. Aber (2003). Alberuni calculated the Earth's circumference at a small town of Pind Dadan Khan, District Jhelum, Punjab, Pakistan. [ Abu Rayhan al-Biruni] , Emporia State University.] His estimate of 6,339.9 km for the Earth radius was only 16.8 km less than the modern value of 6,356.7 km. In contrast to his predecessors who measured the Earth's circumference by sighting the Sun simultaneously from two different locations, al-Biruni developed a new method of using trigonometric calculations based on the angle between a plain and mountain top which yielded more accurate measurements of the Earth's circumference and made it possible for it to be measured by a single person from a single location. [Lenn Evan Goodman (1992), "Avicenna", p. 31, Routledge, ISBN 041501929X.]

By the age of 22, al-Biruni had written several short works, including a study of map projections, "Cartography", which included a method for projecting a hemisphere on a plane. Biruni's "Kitab al-Jawahir" ("Book of Precious Stones") described minerals such as stones and metals in depth, and was regarded as the most complete book on mineralogy in his time. He conducted hundreds of experiments to gauge the accurate measurements of items he catalogued, and he often listed them by name in a number of different languages, including Arabic, Persian, Greek, Syriac, Hindi, Latin, and other languages. In the "Book of Precious Stones", he catalogued each mineral by its color, odor, hardness, density and weight. The weights for many of these minerals he measured were correct to three decimal places of accuracy, and were almost as accurate as modern measurements for these minerals. [Harvard reference |last=Scheppler |first=Bill |year=2006 |title=Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the Eleventh Century |publisher=The Rosen Publishing Group |isbn=1404205128 |pp=42-3]

John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson write in the "MacTutor History of Mathematics archive":

Muslim astronomers and geographers were aware of magnetic declination by the 15th century, when the Egyptian Muslim astronomer 'Izz al-Din al-Wafa'i (d. 1469/1471) measured it as 7 degrees from Cairo. [citation|title=Turkish Mosque Orientation and the Secular Variation of the Magnetic Declination|first=Frank E.|last=Barmore|journal=Journal of Near Eastern Studies|volume=44|issue=2|date=April 1985|publisher=University of Chicago Press|pages=81-98 [98] ]


Many medieval Arabs had interests in the distribution and classification of plants and animals and evolution of life.

Islamic scholars attempted plant analysis. This was of particular interest to physicians who attempted to use herbs for treatment of illness. They classified plants by whether or not they possessed an erect stem, and then further by whether they produced fruits or flowers, root fibers, the types of leaves and bark. Geographers also distinguished plants by the nature of earth (sand, alkaline soil, shore of a body of salt water, in freshwater lakes, hard rock etc.) they grew in and determined their distribution on this basis. Islamic geographers also collected data on the seasonal distribution of plants (based on temperature and precipitation) and used this to classify ecological regions (such as tundra, forests, grasslands, deserts). [Alavi (1965), p. 65-7]

Geology, mineralogy, and paleontology

Fielding H. Garrison wrote in the "History of Medicine":

Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan), in the 8th century, is credited with the discovery of crystallization as a purification process, an important contribution to crystallography.citation|first=Zygmunt S.|last=Derewenda|year=2007|title=On wine, chirality and crystallography|journal=Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography|volume=64|pages=246-258 [247] ] He also contributed to geology, as George Sarton, the father of the history of science, notes in the "Introduction to the History of Science":

;Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī

Among his writings on geology, Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī (974-1048) observed the geology of India and discovered that the Indian subcontinent was once a sea, hypothesizing that it became land through the drifting of alluvium. He wrote:

In his "Book of Coordinates", Biruni described the existence of shells and fossils in regions that once housed seas and later evolved into dry land. Based on this discovery, he realized that the Earth is constantly evolving. He thus viewed the Earth as a living entity, which was in agreement with his Islamic belief that nothing is eternal and opposed to the ancient Greek belief that the universe is eternal. He further proposed that the Earth had an age, but that its origin was too distant to measure. [Harv|Scheppler|2006|p=86]

Biruni writes the following on the geological changes on the surface of the Earth over a long period of time:

As an example, he cites the 9th century Persian astronomer Abu'l Abbas al-Iranshahri who discovered the roots of a palm tree under dry land, to support his theory that sea turns into land and vice versa over a long period of time. He then writes:

Another example he cites is the Arabian desert which, like India, was also a sea at one time. He writes that the Arabian desert was a sea at one time and became land as it became filled by sand. He then goes on to discuss paleontology, writing that various fossils have been found in that region, including bones and glass, which could not have been buried there by anyone. He also writes about the discovery of:

It should be noted that he used the term "fish-ears" to refer to fossils. He then writes about how, a long time ago, the ancient Arabs must have lived on the mountains of Yemen when the Arabian desert was a sea. He also writes about how the Karakum Desert between Jurjan and Khwarezm must have been a lake at one time, and about how the Amu Darya (Oxus) river must have extended up to the Caspian Sea. This is in agreement with the modern geological theory of a Mesozoic Sea, the Tephys, covering the whole of Central Asia and extending from the Mediterranean Sea to New Zealand. [citation|title=The Age of Achievement: Vol 4: Part 1 - the Historical, Social and Economic Setting|last=M. S. Asimov|first=Clifford Edmund Bosworth|publisher=Motilal Banarsidass|year=1999|isbn=8120815963|pages=212–3|ISBN status=May be invalid - please double check]

;Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 981-1037) made significant contributions to geology and the natural sciences (which he called "Attabieyat") along with other natural philosophers such as Ikhwan AI-Safa and many others. He wrote an encyclopaedic work entitled “"Kitab al-Shifa"” ("The Book of Healing") (1027), in which Part 2, Section 5, contains his essay on mineralogy and meteorology, in six chapters: formation of mountains; the advantages of mountains in the formation of clouds; sources of water; origin of earthquakes; formation of minerals; and the diversity of earth’s terrain. These principles were later known in the Renaissance of Europe as the law of superposition of strata, the concept of catastrophism, and the doctrine of uniformitarianism. These concepts were also embodied in the Theory of the Earth by James Hutton in the Eighteenth century C.E. Academics such as Toulmin and Goodfield (1965), commented on Avicenna's contribution: "Around A.D. 1000, Avicenna was already suggesting a hypothesis about the origin of mountain ranges, which in the Christian world, would still have been considered quite radical eight hundred years later". [Toulmin, S. and Goodfield, J. (1965), "The Ancestry of science: The Discovery of Time", Hutchinson & Co., London, p. 64 (cf. [ Contribution of Ibn Sina to the development of Earth Sciences] )]

Ibn Sina's scientific methodology of field observation was also original in the Earth sciences, and remains an essential part of modern geological investigations. He also hypothesized on the causes of mountains:

The concept of uniformitarianism in geological processes can be traced back to Ibn Sina's "The Book of Healing". While discussing the origins of mountains in "The Book of Healing", Ibn Sina was also the first to outline one of the principles underlying geologic time scales, the law of superposition of strata:cite web|author=Munim M. Al-Rawi and Salim Al-Hassani|title=The Contribution of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) to the development of Earth sciences|publisher=FSTC|url=|date=November 2002|accessdate=2008-07-01]

In natural history, "The Book of Healing" was the first book to treat the three kingdoms (the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms) together systematically, and it contains the most extensive medieval discussion on geology and the mineral kingdom. It describes the structure of a meteor, dealt with the formation of sedimentary rocks, and the role of earthquakes in mountain formation. Ibn Sina also displays a clear awareness of the possibility of seas turning into dry land and vice-versa, and therefore provides a correct explanation for the discovery of fossils on mountain tops. Ibn Sina's theory on the formation of metals combined Geber's sulfur-mercury theory from Islamic alchemy (although he was critic of alchemy) with the mineralogical theories of Aristotle and Theophrastus. He created a synthesis of ideas concerning the nature of the mineral and metallic states.citation|last=Seyyed Hossein Nasr|title=The achievements of IBN SINA in the field of science and his contributions to its philosophy|journal=Islam & Science|volume=1|date=December 2003]

Ibn Sina also contributed to paleontology with his explanation of how the stoniness of fossils was caused in "The Book of Healing". Aristotle previously explained it in terms of vaporous exhalations, which Ibn Sina modified into the theory of petrifying fluids ("succus lapidificatus"), which was accepted in some form by most naturalists by the 16th century and was elaborated on by Albert of Saxony in the 19th century. [citation|title=The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the History of Palaeontology|first=M. J. S.|last=Rudwick|year=1985|publisher=University of Chicago Press|isbn=0226731030|page=24] Ibn Sina gave the following explanation for the origin of fossils from the petrifaction of plants and animals:

Human environment

An important topic of Islamic geography was the study of mankind. In general Arab scholars had divided different peoples in the climatic regions they inhabited. These regions were defined by topography, availability of water, natural vegetation, surface altitude and proximity to mountains and seas. Using this geographers estimated the habitable regions of earth.Alavi (1965), p. 68-71]

Geographers also studied the impact of urban environment on human life, as opposed to living in the wilderness. It was thought that such environments block fresh air, and the removal of dust by wind (which then accumulated). It was also concluded that urban settlements were more prone to the spread of epidemics.

While most scholars simply described people inhabiting different regions, Al-Mas'ūdi correlates human characteristics with their environment. For example he argues that because the air in Egypt is stagnant the residents tend to have dark complexion. Similarly Ibn Rusta claimed that people of intermediate type of physique existed near the tropic of cancer where the climate is neither too cold nor too hot.


In the 9th century, Al-Kindi (Alkindus) was the first to introduce experimentation into the Earth sciences.Plinio Prioreschi, "Al-Kindi, A Precursor Of The Scientific Revolution", "Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine", 2002 (2): 17-19.] He wrote a treatise on meteorology entitled "Risala fi l-Illa al-Failali l-Madd wa l-Fazr" ("Treatise on the Efficient Cause of the Flow and Ebb"), in which he presents an argument on tides which "depends on the changes which take place in bodies owing to the rise and fall of temperature." [ Al-Kindi] , FSTC] He describes the following clear and precise laboratory experiment in order to prove his argument:Plinio Prioreschi, "Al-Kindi, A Precursor Of The Scientific Revolution", "Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine", 2002 (2): 17-19 [17] ]

In the 10th century, Ibn Wahshiyya's "Nabatean Agriculture" discusses the weather forecasting of atmospheric changes and signs from the planetary astral alterations; signs of rain based on observation of the lunar phases, nature of thunder and lightning, direction of sunrise, behaviour of certain plants and animals, and weather forecasts based on the movement of winds; pollenized air and winds; and formation of winds and vapours. [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|page=842, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52] As weather forecasting predictions and the measurement of time and the onset of seasons became more precise and reliable, Muslim agriculturalists became informed of these advances and often employed them in agriculture, making it possible for them to plan the growth of each of their crops at specific times of the year.Zohor Idrisi (2005), [ The Muslim Agricultural Revolution and its influence on Europe] , FSTC]

In 1021, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), an Iraqi scientist, introduces the scientific method in his "Book of Optics".Rosanna Gorini (2003). "Al-Haytham the Man of Experience. First Steps in the Science of Vision", "International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine". Institute of Neurosciences, Laboratory of Psychobiology and Psychopharmacology, Rome, Italy.] He writes on the atmospheric refraction of light, for example, the cause of morning and evening twilight.Dr. Mahmoud Al Deek. "Ibn Al-Haitham: Master of Optics, Mathematics, Physics and Medicine, "Al Shindagah", November-December 2004.] He endeavored by use of hyperbola and geometric optics to chart and formulate basic laws on atmospheric refraction.Sami Hamarneh (March 1972). Review of Hakim Mohammed Said, "Ibn al-Haitham", "Isis" 63 (1), p. 119.] He provides the first correct definition of the twilight, discusses atmospheric refraction, shows that the twilight is due to atmospheric refraction and only begins when the Sun is 19 degrees below the horizon, and uses a complex geometric demonstration to measure the height of the Earth's atmosphere as 52,000 "passuum" (49 miles), [citation|first=H. Howard|last=Frisinger|title=Aristotle's Legacy in Meteorology|journal=Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society|volume=3|issue=3|date=March 1973|pages=198–204 [201] ] [George Sarton, "Introduction to the History of Science" (cf. Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq (1997), [ Quotations from Famous Historians of Science] )] which is very close to the modern measurement of 50 miles. He also realized that the atmosphere also reflects light, from his observations of the sky brightening even before the Sun rises.Bradley Steffens (2006), "Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist", [ Chapter Five] , Morgan Reynolds Publishing, ISBN 1599350246] Ibn al-Haytham later publishes his "Risala fi l-Daw’" ("Treatise on Light") as a supplement to his "Book of Optics". He discusses the meteorology of the rainbow, the density of the atmosphere, and various celestial phenomena, including the eclipse, twilight and moonlight. [Dr. Nader El-Bizri, "Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen", in Josef W. Meri (2006), "Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopaedia", Vol. II, p. 343-345, Routledge, New York, London.] Also in the early 11th century, Ibn Sina invented the air thermometer. [Robert Briffault (1938). "The Making of Humanity", p. 191]

In the late 11th century, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ma'udh, who lived in Al-Andalus, wrote a work on optics later translated into Latin as "Liber de crepisculis", which was mistakenly attributed to Alhazen. This was a short work containing an estimation of the angle of depression of the sun at the beginning of the morning twilight and at the end of the evening twilight, and an attempt to calculate on the basis of this and other data the height of the atmospheric moisture responsible for the refraction of the sun's rays. Through his experiments, he obtained the accurate value of 18°, which comes close to the modern value. [citation|title=The Authorship of the Liber de crepusculis, an Eleventh-Century Work on Atmospheric Refraction|first=A. I.|last=Sabra|author-link=A. I. Sabra|journal=Isis|volume=58|issue=1|date=Spring 1967|pages=77-85 [77] ]

In 1121, Al-Khazini, a Muslim scientist of Byzantine Greek descent, publishes the "The Book of the Balance of Wisdom", the first study on the hydrostatic balance. [Robert E. Hall (1973). "Al-Biruni", "Dictionary of Scientific Biography", Vol. VII, p. 336.] In the late 13th century and early 14th century, Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi and his student Kamāl al-Dīn al-Fārisī continued the work of Ibn al-Haytham, and they were the first to give the correct explanations for the rainbow phenomenon. [MacTutor|id=Al-Farisi|title=Al-Farisi]


Agricultural sciences

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Muslim scientists made significant advances in botany and laid the foundations of agricultural science. Muslim botanists and agriculturists demonstrated advanced agronomical, agrotechnical and economic knowledge in areas such as meteorology, climatology, hydrology, soil occupation, and the economy and management of agricultural enterprises. They also demosntrated agricultural knowledge in areas such as pedology, agricultural ecology, irrigation, preparation of soil, planting, spreading of manure, killing herbs, sowing, cutting trees, grafting, pruning vine, prophylaxis, phytotherapy, the care and improvement of cultures and plants, and the harvest and storage of crops. [Toufic Fahd (1996), "Botany and agriculture", p. 849, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-852]

Al-Dinawari (828-896) is considered the founder of Arabic botany for his "Book of Plants", in which he described at least 637 plants and discussed plant evolution from its birth to its death, describing the phases of plant growth and the production of flowers and fruit.citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=815, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|loc=volume 3]

In the early 13th century, the Andalusian-Arabian biologist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati developed an early scientific method for botany, introducing empirical and experimental techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and separating unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations. [Citation |first=Toby |last=Huff |year=2003 |title=The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West |page=218 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |isbn=0521529948 |pages=813-852] His student Ibn al-Baitar published the "Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada", which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations in history, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It contains details on at least 1,400 different plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. The "Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada" was also influential in Europe after it was translated into Latin in 1758. [Diane Boulanger (2002), "The Islamic Contribution to Science, Mathematics and Technology", "OISE Papers", in "STSE Education", Vol. 3.] [Russell McNeil, [ Ibn al-Baitar] , Malaspina University-College.]

Pollution and waste management

The earliest known treatises dealing with environmentalism and environmental science, especially pollution, were Arabic treatises written by al-Kindi, al-Razi, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Abd-el-latif, and Ibn al-Nafis. Their works covered a number of subjects related to pollution such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, municipal solid waste mishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. [L. Gari (2002), "Arabic Treatises on Environmental Pollution up to the End of the Thirteenth Century", "Environment and History" 8 (4), pp. 475-488.] Cordoba, al-Andalus also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection. [S. P. Scott (1904), "History of the Moorish Empire in Europe", 3 vols, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London.
F. B. Artz (1980), "The Mind of the Middle Ages", Third edition revised, University of Chicago Press, pp 148-50.
(cf. [ References] , 1001 Inventions)


:"See Age of discovery above"

The navigation skills learned by Muslim geographers were passed on to Arab and Persian navigators. This in turn led to long distance travel which brought back geographical knowledge of far off lands and islands. By the ninth century, navigation in the Indian Ocean had reached India, Sri Lanka, Malaya and Java in the east, and the east coast of Africa up to Madagascar in the west. Muslim navigators of the sam period also explored China, Japan, Korea, and according to some reports the Bering Strait.Alavi (1965), p.104-5]

During the medieval times Muslims made many journeys to China via the sea. Two geographers, Sulaiman and Abu Zaid, led many journeys and brought back valuable information about China and the path they took to it. They wrote literature on climate of the coast of China warning navigators of storms. They also prepared a list of potential agricultural imports from China, including exotic herbs hitherto unknown to Muslims. [Alavi (1965), p.75-6]

On land Muslims explored Central Asia and southeastern Europe. They tried to determine, unsuccessfully, the origins of the river Nile. In doing so, however, Arabs explored Sudan, the Sahara, reaching sub-Saharan regions such as Senegal and Nigeria.

In the 14th century, Ibn Baṭṭūṭah, a Moroccan, began his travels. He started as a pilgrim to Mecca, but continued his journeys for the next 30 years. Before returning home, he had visited most of the Muslim world, from southern Africa to eastern Asia. The universal use of Arabic and his status as judge trained in law gave him access to royal courts at most locations he visited.

Navigational instruments

;AlidadeThe alidade was invented in the Islamic world, while the term "alhidade" is itself derived from Arabic.

;AstrolabeIn the 10th century, al-Sufi first described over 1000 different uses of an astrolabe, in areas as diverse as astronomy, astrology, horoscopes, navigation, surveying, timekeeping, Qibla, Salah, etc.cite web|author=Dr. Emily Winterburn (National Maritime Museum)|url=|title=Using an Astrolabe|publisher=Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation|year=2005|accessdate=2008-01-22]

;BaculusThe baculus, used for nautical astronomy, originates from Islamic Spain and was later used by Portuguese navigators for long-distance travel. [Dr. Salah Zaimeche PhD (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology), [ 1000 years of missing Astronomy] , FSTC.]

;Cartographic instruments
*Cartographic grids in 10th century Baghdad.David A. King, "Reflections on some new studies on applied science in Islamic societies (8th-19th centuries)", "Islam & Science", June 2004.]
*Cartographic Qibla indicators, which were brass instruments with Mecca-centred world maps and cartographic grids engraved on them in the 17th century.
*Cartographic Qibla indicator with a sundial and compass attached to it, [David A. King (1997). "Two Iranian World Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca", "Imago Mundi" 49, p. 62-82 [62] .] by Muhammad Husayn in the 17th century. [Muzaffar Iqbal, "David A. King, "World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca: Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science", "Islam & Science", June 2003.]

Muslim physicists and geographers became aware of magnetism after the arrival of an early compass from China around the 12th or 13th century. Navigational sciences became highly developed with use of the magnetic compass. The first astronomical uses of the magnetic compass is found in a treatise on astronomical instruments written by the Yemeni sultan al-Ashraf (d. 1296). This was the first reference to the compass in astronomical literature. [Emilie Savage-Smith (1988), "Gleanings from an Arabist's Workshop: Current Trends in the Study of Medieval Islamic Science and Medicine", "Isis" 79 (2): 246-266 [263] .]

;Compass dialIn the 13th century, Ibn al-Shatir invented the compass dial, a timekeeping device incorporating both a universal sundial and a magnetic compass. He invented it for the purpose of finding the times of Salah prayers. [Harv|King|1983|pp=547-548]

;Compass roseThe Arabs invented the 32-point compass rose during the Middle Ages. [G. R. Tibbetts (1973), "Comparisons between Arab and Chinese Navigational Techniques", "Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies" 36 (1), p. 97-108 [105-106] .]

;Dry compass (Mariner's compass)In 1282, the Yemeni sultan Al-Ashraf developed an improved compass for use as a "Qibla indicator" instrument in order to find the direction to Mecca. Al-Ashraf's instrument was one of the earliest dry compasses, and appears to have been invented independantly of Peter Peregrinus. [citation|title=Two Early Arabic Sources On The Magnetic Compass|first=Petra G.|last=Schmidl|journal=Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies|year=1996-1997|volume=1|pages=81-132] The dry compass is commonly known as the "Mariner's compass".

;KamalArab navigators invented a rudimentary sextant known as a kamal, used for celestial navigation and for measuring the altitudes and latitudes of the stars, in the late 9th century. [Harv|McGrail|2004|pp=85-6] They employed in the Indian Ocean from the 10th century,Harv|McGrail|2004|p=316] They employed it in the Indian Ocean from the 10th century,Harv|McGrail|2004|p=316] and it was adopted by Indian navigators soon after, [citation|title=Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: The Nature of Mathematical Proof and Transmission of the Calculus From India to Europe in the 16th c. CE|last=Raju|first=C. K.|year=2007|isbn=8131708713|pages=240-59|url=|accessdate=2008-09-10] followed by Chinese navigators some time before the 16th century.Harv|McGrail|2004|p=393] The invention of the kamal allowed for the earliest known latitude sailing, and was thus the earliest step towards the use of quantitative methods in navigation.

;Navicula de VenetiisThis was a universal horary dial invented in 9th century Baghdad. It was used for accurate timekeeping by the Sun and Stars, and could be observed from any latitude. [Harv|King|2005] This was later known in Europe as the "Navicula de Venetiis", [Harv|King|2003] which was considered the most sophisticated timekeeping instrument of the Renaissance.David A. King, "Islamic Astronomy", in Christopher Walker (1999), ed., "Astronomy before the telescope", p. 167-168. British Museum Press. ISBN 0-7141-2733-7.]

;Navigational astrolabeThe first navigational astrolabe was invented in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages, and employed the use of a polar projection system. [Robert Hannah (1997). "The Mapping of the Heavens" by Peter Whitfield", "Imago Mundi" 49, pp. 161-162.]

;Orthographical astrolabe
Abu Rayhan al-Biruni invented and wrote the earliest treatise on the orthographical astrolabe in the 1000s.cite web|url=|title=Khwarizm|publisher=Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation|accessdate=2008-01-22] [Harv|Saliba|1980|p=249]

;Planisphere and star chartIn the early 11th century, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī invented and wrote the first treatise on the planisphere, which was the earliest star chart and an early analog computer. [Will Durant (1950). "The Story of Civilization IV: The Age of Faith", p. 239-45.]

;Shadow squareThe shadow square was an instrument used to determine the linear height of an object, in conjunction with the alidade, for angular observations. [cite web|url=|title=Shadow square|publisher=National Maritime Museum|accessdate=2008-01-22] It was invented by Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī in 9th century Baghdad. [Harv|King|2002|pp=238-239]

Taqi al-Din invented an early telescope, as described in his "Book of the Light of the Pupil of Vision and the Light of the Truth of the Sights" around 1574. He describes it as an instrument that makes objects located far away appear closer to the observer. He further states that the instrument helps to see distant objects in detail by bringing them very close. He also states that he wrote another earlier treatise explaining the way this instrument is made and used, suggesting that he invented it some time before 1574.citation|first=Hüseyin Gazi|last=Topdemir|title=Takîyüddîn'in Optik Kitabi|publisher=Ministry of Culture Press, Ankara|year=1999 (cf. cite web|author=Dr. Hüseyin Gazi Topdemir|title=Taqi al-Din ibn Ma‘ruf and the Science of Optics: The Nature of Light and the Mechanism of Vision|publisher=FSTC Limited|url=|date=30 June 2008|accessdate=2008-07-04)]

;Terrestial globeThe first terrestrial globe of the Old World was constructed in the Muslim world during the Middle Ages, [Mark Silverberg. [ Origins of Islamic Intolerence] .] by Muslim geographers and astronomers working under the Abbasid caliph, Al-Ma'mun, in the 9th century. [citation|first=Richard|last=Covington|journal=Saudi Aramco World, May-June 2007|year=2007|pages=17-21|url=|accessdate=2008-07-06]

Jabir ibn Aflah (Geber) (c. 1100-1150) invented the torquetum, an observational instrument and mechanical analog computer device used to transform between spherical coordinate systems. [citation|first=R. P.|last=Lorch|title=The Astronomical Instruments of Jabir ibn Aflah and the Torquetum|journal=Centaurus|volume=20|issue=1|year=1976|pages=11-34] It was designed to take and convert measurements made in three sets of coordinates: horizon, equatorial, and ecliptic.

Navigational transport

;CaravelThe origins of the caravel ship, used for long distance travel by the Spanish and Portuguese since the 15th century, date back to the "qarib" used by explorers from Islamic Spain in the 13th century.John M. Hobson (2004), "The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation", p. 141, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521547245.]

;Corn-grinding carriageIn the 16th century, Fathullah Shirazi invented an unusual corn-grinding carriage, which was called comfortable by Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak. It could be used to grind corn, when not transporting passengers.cite book|url=,M1|title=The Emperor Akbar|author=Friedrich Christian Charles August|coauthors=Gustav von Buchwald|publisher=Trübner & Co.|year=1890|accessdate=2008-04-04]

;LateenMuslim sailors were responsible for introducing the lateen sails to the Mediterranean Sea, and though it was invented the Middle East, it is uncertain whether it was invented before or after the Muslim conquests.

;Naval trawlerThe earliest naval trawler was the "TS Pelican", a 150 ft converted trawler employed by the Barbary pirates for naval warfare from the 16th century.

;Permanent sternpost-mounted rudderThe Arab ships used a sternpost-mounted rudder which differed technically from both its European and Chinese counterparts. On their ships "the rudder is controlled by two lines, each attached to a crosspiece mounted on the rudder head perpendicular to the plane of the rudder blade." [Lawrence V. Mott, p.93] The earliest evidence comes from the "Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Marifat al-Aqalim" ('The Best Divisions for the Classification of Regions') written by al-Muqaddasi in 985:

According to Lawrence V. Mott, the "idea of attaching the rudder to the sternpost in a relatively permanent fashion, therefore, must have been an Arab invention independent of the Chinese."Lawrence V. Mott, p.93]

;Postal systemAn important postal system was created in the Islamic world by the "caliph" Mu'awiyya; the service was called "barid", by the name of the towers built to protect the roads by which couriers travelled. Homing pigeons and carrier pigeons were often used in a pigeon post system early as 1150 in Baghdad. [ First Birds' Inn: About the Sport of Racing Pigeons] ]

;SubmarineOn October 1, 1720, the Ottoman dockyard architect Ibrahim Efendi invented a submarine called the "tahtelbahir". The Ottoman writer Seyyid Vehbi, in his "Surname-i-Humayun", compared this submarine to an alligator. He recorded that during the circumcision ceremony for Sultan Ahmed III's sons, "the alligator-like submarine slowly emerged on the water and moved slowly to the sultan, and after staying on the sea for half an hour, submerged in the sea again to the great surprise of the public; then emerged one hour later, with five people walking outside the mouth of this alligator-like submarine, with trays of rice and "zerde" (a dish of sweetened rice) on their heads." He explained the technical information concerning the submarine "submerging in the sea and the crew being able to breath through pipes while under the sea".

;Three-masted merchant vesselAccording to John M. Hobson, Muslim sailors introduced the large three-masted merchant vessels around the Mediterranean Sea, though they may have borrowed the three-mast system from Chinese ships. However, Howard I. Chapelle argues that some ancient Roman ships may have also been three-masted cargo ships, [ Nautical History Early Vessels] ] though Kevin Greene writes that three-masted ships were not developed until the 15th century. [citation|title=The Archaeology of the Roman Economy|first=Kevin|last=Greene|year=1990|publisher=University of California Press|isbn=0520074017|pages=23 & 28]

;Windward shipThe first windward ship, which could sail into the wind without slowing down, was the "TS Pelican" employed by the Barbary pirates from the 16th century. It was able to sail at nearly 10 knots at 38 degrees off the relative wind. Graham Neilson, who reconstructed the ship, wrote: “The "Pelican" can sail over 20 degrees nearer the wind than any square rigger at sea. The yards come to within 18 degrees of the centreline. It is a combination of the fore and aft and the square sails, along with the aerodynamics, that is the secret of how to move so close to the wind. I think we can get more out of her. It could really tear up the field in a tall ships race.”cite web|publisher="The Times"|date=28 February 2007|title=Pirates who got away with it by sailing closer to the wind|author=Simon de Bruxelles|url=|accessdate=2008-09-10]

;Xebec and PolaccaThe Xebec and Polacca, which were sailing ships used around the Mediterranean Sea from the 16th to the 19th centuries, originated from the Barbary pirates, who successfully used them for naval warfare against European ships during that time.


;ParachuteIn 9th century Islamic Spain, Abbas Ibn Firnas (Armen Firnas) invented a primitive version of the parachute.Poore, Daniel. A History of Early Flight. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1952.] Smithsonian Institution. Manned Flight. Pamphlet 1990.] [David W. Tschanz, [ Flights of Fancy on Manmade Wings] , "".] [ [ Parachutes] , "Principles of Aeronautics", Franklin Institute.] John H. Lienhard described it in "The Engines of Our Ingenuity" as follows:

;Controlled flight
Abbas Ibn Firnas was the first to make an attempt at controlled flight, as opposed to earlier gliding attempts in ancient China which were not controllable. Ibn Firnas manuipulated the flight controls of his hang glider using two sets of artificial wings to adjust his altitude and to change his direction. He successfully returned to where he had lifted off from, but his landing was unsuccessful.Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (Spring, 1961). "Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition", "Technology and Culture" 2 (2), p. 97-111 [100-101] .] [ [ First Flights] , "Saudi Aramco World", January-February 1964, p. 8-9.]

According to Philip Hitti in "History of the Arabs":

;Hang glider
Abbas Ibn Firnas possibly built the first hang glider, though there were earlier instances of manned kites being used in ancient China. Knowledge of Firman and Firnas' flying machines spread to other parts of Europe from Arabic references.

;Artificial wings
Abbas Ibn Firnas' hang glider was the first to have artificial wings, though the flight was eventually unsuccessful. According to Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi was the first aviator to have made a successful flight with artificial wings between 1630-1632.Arslan Terzioglu (2007), "The First Attempts of Flight, Automatic Machines, Submarines and Rocket Technology in Turkish History", in "The Turks" (ed. H. C. Guzel), pp. 804-810.]

;Artificially-powered manned rocketAccording to Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century, Lagari Hasan Çelebi launched himself in the air in a seven-winged rocket, which was composed of a large cage with a conical top filled with gunpowder. The flight was accomplished as a part of celebrations performed for the birth of Ottoman Emperor Murad IV's daughter in 1633. Evliya reported that Lagari made a soft landing in the Bosporus by using the wings attached to his body as a parachute after the gunpowder was consumed, foreshadowing the sea-landing methods of astronauts with parachutes after their voyages into outer space. Lagari's flight was estimated to have lasted about twenty seconds and the maximum height reached was around 300 metres. This was the first known example of a manned rocket and an artificially-powered aircraft.

Notable works

Book on the appearance of the Earth

Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī's "transl|ar|Kitāb ṣūrat al-Arḍ" ("Book on the appearance of the Earth") was completed in 833. It is a revised and completed version of Ptolemy's "Geography", consisting of a list of 2402 coordinates of cities and other geographical features following a general introduction. [ [ MacTutor: Cartography] ]

Al-Khwārizmī, Al-Ma'mun's most famous geographer, corrected Ptolemy's gross overestimate for the length of the Mediterranean SeaEdward S. Kennedy, "Mathematical Geography", p. 188, in Harv|Rashed|Morelon|1996|pp=185-201] (from the Canary Islands to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean); Ptolemy overestimated it at 63 degrees of longitude, while al-Khwarizmi almost correctly estimated it at nearly 50 degrees of longitude. Al-Ma'mun's geographers "also depicted the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as open bodies of water, not land-locked seas as Ptolemy had done."citation|first=Richard|last=Covington|journal=Saudi Aramco World, May-June 2007|year=2007|pages=17-21|url=|accessdate=2008-07-06] Al-Khwarizmi thus set the Prime Meridian of the Old World at the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, 10-13 degrees to the east of Alexandria (the prime meridian previously set by Ptolemy) and 70 degrees to the west of Baghdad. Most medieval Muslim geographers continued to use al-Khwarizmi's prime meridian.

Book of curiosities

Compiled between 1020 and 1050, the anonymous work contains a series of maps. It includes both regional and world maps, many of which are without parallel. The work deals with Islamic geography alongside cosmography and map-making. The book contained rectangular map with a carefully executed graphic scale. The work contains a highly accurate map of the Mediterranean, including the earliest known map of the island Cyprus.

Compendium of the languages of the Turks

Qarakhanid scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari compiled a "Compendium of the languages of the Turks" in the 11th century. The manuscript is illustrated with a "Turkocentric" world map, oriented with east (or rather, perhaps, the direction of midsummer sunrise) on top, centered on the ancient city of Balasagun in what is now Kyrgyzstan, showing the Caspian Sea to the north, and Iraq, Azerbaijan, Yemen and Egypt to the west, China and Japan to the east, Hindustan, Kashmir, Gog and Magog to the south. Conventional symbols are used throughout- blue lines for rivers, red lines for mountain ranges etc. The world is shown as encircled by the ocean. [ [ 81 - The First Turkish World Map, by Kashgari (1072) « Strange Maps ] ] The map is now kept at the Pera Museum in Istanbul.

Tabula Rogeriana

The Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Arab merchants and explorers with the information inherited from the classical geographers to create the most accurate map of the world up until his time. It remained the most accurate world map for the next three centuries.

The Tabula Rogeriana was drawn by Al-Idrisi in 1154 for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily, after a stay of eighteen years at his court, where he worked on the commentaries and illustrations of the map. The map, written in Arabic, shows the eurasian continent in its entirety, but only shows the northern part of the African continent.

On the work of al-Idrisi, S. P. Scott commented:

Kitab-ı Bahriye

The Muslim Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis published navigational maps in his "Kitab-ı Bahriye". The work includes an atlas of charts for small segments of the mediterranean, accompanied by sailing instructions covering the sea. In the second version of the work, he included a map of the Americas. [Edson and Savage-Smith (2004), p. 106] The Piri Reis map drawn by the Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis in 1513, is the oldest surviving map to show the Americas, [Dutch, Steven. [ The Piri Reis Map] . University of Wisconsin - Green Bay] [cite journal
last = Hamdani
first = Abbas
title = Ottoman Response to the Discovery of America and the New Route to India
journal = Journal of the American Oriental Society
volume = 101
issue = 3
pages = 327
publisher = American Oriental Society
location =
date = Jul. - Sep., 1981
] [cite journal
last = Papp-vÁry
first = Á
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Egy térképészeti rejtély : Piri Reis Dél-Amerika térképe [Un mystère cartographique : carte de Piri Reis de l'Amérique du Sud]
journal = Földrajzi kõzlemények
volume = 53
issue = 3-4
pages = 177–187
publisher =
location = Hungary
date = 2005
accessdate =
] and perhaps the first to include Antarctica. His map of the world was considered the most accurate in the 16th century.



*Alavi, S. M. Ziauddin (1965), "Arab geography in the ninth and tenth centuries", Aligarh: Aligarh University Press
*Edson, E; Savage-Smith E, "Medieval Views of the Cosmos", Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
*Harvard reference
first=David A.
title=The Astronomy of the Mamluks

*Harvard reference
first=David A.
title=A Vetustissimus Arabic Text on the Quadrans Vetus
journal=Journal for the History of Astronomy

*Harvard reference
first=David A.
date=December 2003
title=14th-Century England or 9th-Century Baghdad? New Insights on the Elusive Astronomical Instrument Called Navicula de Venetiis

*Harvard reference
first=David A.
title=In Synchrony with the Heavens, Studies in Astronomical Timekeeping and Instrumentation in Medieval Islamic Civilization: Instruments of Mass Calculation
publisher=Brill Publishers

title=Boats of the World
publisher=Oxford University Press

* Mott, Lawrence V. (May 1991), [ "The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale", Thesis] , Texas A&M University
title=Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science
volume=1 & 3

*cite book|last=Sezgin|first=Fuat|title=Geschichte Des Arabischen Schrifttums X–XII: Mathematische Geographie und Kartographie im Islam und ihr Fortleben im Abendland, Historische Darstellung, Teil 1–3|year=2000|language=German|location=Frankfurt am Main
*Harvard reference
title=Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the Eleventh Century
publisher=The Rosen Publishing Group

External links

* [ A review of Muslim Geography]
* [ Islamic Geography in the Middle Ages]

ee also

*List of Muslim geographers
*Islamic Golden Age
*Islamic science
**Islamic physics
**List of Arab scientists and scholars
**Timeline of Muslim scientists and engineers
*History of geography
**Chinese geography
*History of cartography

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