Islamic Astronomy: Astronomical instruments
Muslim astronomers developed a number of astronomical instruments, including several variations of the astrolabe, originally invented by Hipparchus in the 2nd century BCE, but with considerable improvements made to the device in the Muslim world. These instruments were used by Muslims for a variety of purposes related to astronomy, astrology, horoscopes, navigation, surveying, timekeeping, Qibla, Salah, etc.
AstrolabesBrass astrolabe by Muhammad al-Fazari in the 8th century.
Earliest surviving astrolabe in 315 AH (927-928 CE).
Mechanical geared astrolabe by Ibn Samh (c. 1020).
Navigational astrolabe was invented in the Islamic world. It employed the use of a polar projection system.
In the 10th century, al-Sufi first described over 1000 different uses of an astrolabe, including uses in astronomy, astrology, horoscopes, navigation, surveying, timekeeping, Qibla, Salah, etc.
Orthographical astrolabe by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni in the 11th century.
Saphaea, a universal astrolabe for all latitudes, by Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Zarqali (Arzachel) in 11th century Islamic Spain.
Zuraqi, a heliocentric astrolabe where the Earth is in motion rather than the sky, by al-Sijzi in the 11th century.
Linear astrolabe ("staff of al-Tusi") by Sharaf al-Din al-Tusi in the 12th century.
Analog Machines (or Computers)Equatorium by Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Zarqali (Arzachel) in Islamic Spain circa 1015.
Planisphere by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni in the 11th century.
Mechanical lunisolar calendar computer with gear train and gear-wheels by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.
Fixed-wired knowledge processing machine by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.
Mechanical astrolabe with calendar computer and gear-wheels by Abi Bakr of Isfahan in 1235.
Oldest surviving complete mechanical geared machine by Abi Bakr of Isfahan in 1235.
The Plate of Conjunctions, a computing instrument used to determine the time of day at which planetary conjunctions will occur,and for performing linear interpolation, invented by al-Kashi in the 15th century.
A mechanical planetary computer called the Plate of Zones, which could graphically solve a number of planetary problems, invented by al-Kashi in the 15th century. It could predict the true positions in longitude of the Sun and Moon, and the planets in terms of elliptical orbits;the latitudes of the Sun, Moon, and planets; and the ecliptic of the Sun. The instrument also incorporated an alhidade and ruler.
Armillary spheresSeveral different types of armillary spheres.
Celestial globes which could calculate the altitude of the Sun and the right ascension and declination of the stars in the 11th century.
The spherical astrolabe was first produced in the Islamic world by the 14th century.
The first quadrants and mural instruments by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad, Iraq.
Sine quadrant for astronomical calculations by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad.
Horary quadrant for specific latitudes by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad.
The Quadrans Vetus, a universal horary quadrant which could be used for any latitude and at any time of the year to determine the time, as well as the times of Salah, invented by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad. This was the second most widely used astronomical instrument during the Middle Ages after the astrolabe.
The Quadrans Novus, an astrolabic quadrant invented in Egypt in the 11th century or 12th century, and later known in Europe as the "Quadrans Vetus" (New Quadrant).
Almucantar quadrant, invented in the medieval Islamic world. It employed the use of trigonometry. The term "almucantar" is itself derived from Arabic.
Astronomical sextant by Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi in Ray, Iran in 994.
Alhidade (the term "alhidade" is itself derived from Arabic).
Shadow square, an instrument used to determine the linear height of an object, in conjunction with the alidade for angular observations, invented by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad.
Highly accurate astronomical clocks.
Astrometric device in Islamic Spain around 1015.
Star chart by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni in the 11th century.
Shortly afterwards, Abbas Ibn Firnas built the first hang glider, which may have also been the first manned glider. Knowledge of Firman and Firnas' flying machines spread to other parts of Europe from Arabic references.
According to Philip Hitti in History of the Arabs:
"Ibn Firnas was the first man in history to make a scientific attempt at flying."
Abbas Ibn Firnas was the first to make an attempt at controlled flight. He 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.
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.
Artificially-powered manned rocket
According 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.
Astronautics and space exploration
In the 20th century, Muslim rocket scientists from Soviet Central Asia were involved in research on astronautics and space exploration. Kerim Kerimov from Azerbaijan was one of the most important key figures in early space exploration. He was one of the founders of the Soviet space program, one of the lead architects behind the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1), and responsible for the launch of the first space stations (the Salyut and Mir series) as well as their predecessors (the Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188).
Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), the "father of optics" and pioneer of the modern scientific method, invented the camera obscura and pinhole camera.
In ancient times, Euclid and Ptolemy believed that the eyes emitted rays which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that rays of light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), who is regarded as the "father of optics".He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one, with his development of the scientific method. The word "camera" comes from the Arabic word qamara for a dark or private room.
Ibn al-Haytham first described pinhole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters.
Ibn al-Haytham worked out that the smaller the hole, the better the picture, and set up the first camera obscura, a precursor to the modern camera.
Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber), the father of chemistry, invented the alembic still and many chemicals, including distilled alcohol, and established the perfume industry.
Early forms of distillation were known to the Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians since ancient times, but it was Muslim chemists who first invented pure distillation processes which could fully purify chemical substances. They also developed several different variations of distillation (such as dry distillation, destructive distillation and steam distillation) and introduced new distillation aparatus (such as the alembic, still, and retort), and invented a variety of new chemical processes and over 2,000 chemical substances.
Geber first invented the following chemical processes in the 8th century:
Pure distillation (al-taqtir) which could fully purify chemical substances with the alembic.
Liquefaction, crystallization (al-tabalwur), purification, oxidisation, and evaporation (tabkhir). Al-Razi invented the following chemical processes in the 9th century:
Solution (al-tahlil), sublimation (al-tas'id), amalgamation (al-talghim), ceration (al-tashmi), and a method of converting a substance into a thick paste or fusible solid.
Other chemical processes introduced by Muslim chemists include:
Assation (or roasting), cocotion (or digestion), ceration, lavage, solution, mixture, and fixation.
Destructive distillation was invented by Muslim chemists in the 8th century to produce tar from petroleum.
Steam distillation was invented by Avicenna in the early 11th century for the purpose of producing essential oils.
Ahmad Y Hassan wrote:
"The distillation of wine and the properties of alcohol were known to Islamic chemists from the eighth century. The prohibition of wine in Islam did not mean that wine was not produced or consumed or that Arab alchemists did not subject it to their distillation processes. Jabir ibn Hayyan described a cooling technique which can be applied to the distillation of alcohol."
Alembic and still by Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber) in the 9th century.
Retort by Jabir ibn Hayyan.
Thermometer and air thermometer by Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna) in the 11th century.
Conical measure by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni in the 11th century.
Laboratory flask and pycnometer by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.
Hydrostatic balance and steelyard by al-Khazini in 1121.
Muslim chemists and engineers invented the cucurbit and aludel, and the equipment needed for melting metals such as furnaces and crucibles.
Al-Razi (Rhazes), in his Secretum secretorum (Latinized title), first described the following tools for melting substances (li-tadhwib): hearth (kur), bellows (minfakh aw ziqq), crucible (bawtaqa), the but bar but (in Arabic) or botus barbatus (in Latin), tongs (masik aq kalbatan), scissors (miqta), hammer (mukassir), file (mibrad).
Al-Razi also first described the following tools for the preparation of drugs (li-tadbir al-aqaqir): cucurbit and still with evacuation tube (qar aq anbiq dhu-khatm), receiving matras (qabila), blind still (without evacuation tube) (al-anbiq al-ama), aludel (al-uthal), goblets (qadah), flasks (qarura or quwarir), rosewater flasks (ma wariyya), cauldron (marjal aw tanjir), earthenware pots varnished on the inside with their lids (qudur aq tanjir), water bath or sand bath (qadr), oven (al-tannur in Arabic, athanor in Latin), small cylindirical oven for heating aludel (mustawqid), funnels, sieves, filters, etc.
Chemical substances invented for use in the chemical industries include:
Sulfuric acid, originally coined as oil of vitriol when it was discovered by Jabir ibn Hayyan.
The mineral acids: nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric acid, by Geber.
Pure distilled alcohol (ethanol) by Jabir ibn Hayyan in the 8th century.
Uric acid and nitric acid by Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber) in the 8th century.
Lustreware, by Geber in the 8th century.
Artificial pearl, purified pearl, dyed pearl, dyed gemstones, cheese glue, and plated mail, by Geber.
Kerosene and kerosene lamp by al-Razi in the 9th century.
Petrol by Muslim chemists.
Tar in the 8th century, and Naphtha in the 9th century.
Medicinal alcohol in the 10th century.
Essential oil by Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna) in the 11th century.
Hygienic cosmetics by Muslim chemists.
Dyestuff by Muslim chemists.
Arsenic, alkali, alkali salt, rice vinegar, boraxes, potassium nitrate, sulfur and purified sal ammoniac by Geber.
Sal nitrum and vitriol by al-Razi.
Ethanol, sulfuric acid, ammonia, mercury, camphor, pomades, and syrups.
Lead carbonatic, arsenic, and antimony.
Nitric and sulfuric acids, alkali, the salts of mercury, antimony, and bismuth.
Aqua regia, alum, sal ammoniac, stones, sulfur, salts, and spirits of mercury.
At least 2,000 medicinal substances.
The classification of all seven classical metals: gold, silver, tin, lead, mercury, iron, and copper, by Geber.
Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization IV: The Age of Faith:
"Chemistry as a science was almost created by the Muslims; for in this field, where the Greeks (so far as we know) were confined to industrial experience and vague hypothesis, the Saracens introduced precise observation, controlled experiment, and careful records. They invented and named the alembic (al-anbiq), chemically analyzed innumerable substances, composed lapidaries, distinguished alkalis and acids, investigated their affinities, studied and manufactured hundreds of drugs. Alchemy, which the Moslems inherited from Egypt, contributed to chemistry by a thousand incidental discoveries, and by its method, which was the most scientific of all medieval operations."
Robert Briffault wrote in The Making of Humanity:
"Chemistry, the rudiments of which arose in the processes employed by Egyptian metallurgists and jewellers combining metals into various alloys and 'tinting' them to resemble gold processes long preserved as a secret monopoly of the priestly colleges, and clad in the usual mystic formulas, developed in the hands of the Arabs into a widespread, organized passion for research which led them to the invention of distillation, sublimation, filtration, to the discovery of alcohol, of nitric and sulphuric acids (the only acid known to the ancients was vinegar), of the alkalis, of the salts of mercury, of antimony and bismuth, and laid the basis of all subsequent chemistry and physical research."
Coffee by Khalid in Kaffa, Ethiopia.
Distilled water and purified water by Muslim chemists.
Purified distilled alcohol by Jabir ibn Hayyan in the 8th century.
Sherbet and sharab, the first juiced carbonated soft drinks.
Recipes for drink syrups that can be kept outside the refrigerator for weeks or months.
True soap, made of vegetable oils (such as olive oil) with sodium hydroxide and aromatics (such as thyme oil), invented by al-Razi (Rhazes)
Soap bar by al-Razi (Rhazes)
Sodium Lye (Al-Soda Al-Kawia), perfumed and colored soaps, and liquid and solid soaps by Muslim chemists.
Recipes for soaps, such as ones made from sesame oil, potash, alkali, lime, and molds, leaving hard soap (soap bar).
Shampoo by the Bengali Muslim Sake Dean Mahomet in 1759.
Al-Kindi invented a wide variety of scent and perfume products, and is considered the father of the perfume industry.
Perfume usage recorded in 7th century Arabian Peninsula.
Perfume industry established by Geber (Jabir) (b. 722, Iraq) and al-Kindi (b. 801, Iraq).
Jabir developed many techniques, including distillation, evaporation and filtration, which enabled the collection of the odour of plants into a vapour that could be collected in the form of water or oil.
Al-Kindi carried out extensive research and experiments in combining various plants and other sources to produce a variety of scent products.
Al-Kindi elaborated a vast number of recipes for a wide range of perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The preparation of a perfume called ghaliya, which contained musk, amber and other ingredients, and the use of various drugs and apparatus, by al-Kindi.
Extraction of fragrances through steam distillation by Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna) in the 11th century.
Introduction of new raw ingredients in perfumery.
Perfumery produced from different spices, herbals, and other fragrance materials.
Introduction of jasmine from South and Southeast Asia, and citrus fruits from East Asia in modern perfumery.
Cheap mass production of incenses.
Musk and floral perfumes in the 11th-12th century Arabian Peninsula.
The bridge dam was used to power a water wheel working a water-raising mechanism. The first was built in Dezful, Iran, which could raise 50 cubits of water for the water supply to all houses in the town. Similar bridge dams later appeared in other parts of the Islamic world.
Cobwork (tabya) first appeared in the Maghreb and al-Andalus in the 11th century and was first described in detail by Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century, who regarded it as a characteristically Muslim practice. Cobwork later spread to other parts of Europe from the 12th century onwards.
The first diversion dam was built by medieval Muslim engineers over the River Uzaym in Jabal Hamrin, Iraq. Many of these were later built in other parts of the Islamic world.
High-rise skyscrapers and vertical construction urban planning
The 16th-century city of Shibam in Yemen is regarded as the "oldest skyscraper-city in the world" and the "Manhattan of the desert." This is the earliest example of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction. Shibam was made up of over 500 tower houses, each one rising 5 to 9 storeys high, with each floor being an apartment occupied by a single family.
In the 20th century, the Bangladeshi engineer Fazlur Khan, regarded as the "Einstein of structural engineering" and "the greatest architectural engineer of the second half of the 20th century" produced designs of structural systems that remain fundamental to all high-rise skyscrapers, which he employed in his constructions for the John Hancock Center and Sears Tower.
The Sears Tower remained the world's tallest building up until 2007, when the Burj Dubai, currently under construction in Dubai, surpassed its height as the world's tallest building.The world's tallest twin towers, the Petronas Twin Towers, was also built in Malaysia in 1998.
Prefabricated homes and movable structures
The first prefabricated homes and movable structures were invented in 16th century Mughal India by Akbar the Great. These structures were reported by Arif Qandahari in 1579.
Street lighting and litter collection facilities
The first street lamps were built in the Arab Empire, especially in Cordoba, which also had the first facilities and waste containers for litter collection.
Muslim engineers invented a variety of surveying instruments for accurate levelling, including a wooden board with a plumb line and two hooks, an equilateral triangle with a plumb line and two hooks, and a "reed level". They also invented a rotating alhidade used for accurate alignment, and a surveying astrolabe used for alignment, measuring angles, triangulation, finding the width of a river, and the distance between two points separated by an impassable obstruction.
Muslim astronomers and engineers constructed a variety of highly accurate astronomical clocks for use in their observatories.
In the 10th century, al-Sufi first described over 1000 different uses of an astrolabe, including timekeeping and Salah.
Mechanical lunisolar calendar computer with gear train and gear-wheels by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.
Mechanical astrolabe with calendar computer and gear-wheels by Abi Bakr of Isfahan in 1235.
The Quadrans Vetus, a universal horary quadrant which could be used for any latitude and at any time of the year to determine the time, as well as the times of Salah, invented by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad. This was the second most widely used astronomical instrument during the Middle Ages after the astrolabe.
Al-Jazari invented monumental water-powered astronomical clocks which displayed moving models of the Sun, Moon, and stars. His largest astronomical clock displayed the zodiac and the solar and lunar orbits. Another innovative feature of the clock was a pointer which travelled across the top of a gateway and caused automatic doors to open every hour.
Taqi al-Din invented the "observational clock", which he described as "a mechanical clock with three dials which show the hours, the minutes, and the seconds", used this for astronomical purposes, specifically for measuring the right ascension of the stars. This is considered one of the most important innovations in 16th century practical astronomy, as previous clocks were not accurate enough to be used for astronomical purposes.
Al-Jazari described the most sophisticated candle clocks known to date. These clocks were designed using a large candle of uniform weight and cross section, whose rate of burning was known, which was placed in a metal sheath with a fitted cap. The bottom of the candle rested on a shallow dish that had a ring on its side connected through pulleys to a counterweight. As the candle burned away, the weight pushed it upward at a constant speed, while an automaton was operated from the dish at the bottom of the candle.
Universal sundials for all latitudes used for timekeeping and for the determination of the times of Salah in 9th century Baghdad.
The Navicula de Venetiis, a universal horary dial used for accurate timekeeping by the Sun and Stars, and could be observed from any latitude, invented in 9th century Baghdad.This was later considered the most sophisticated timekeeping instrument of the Renaissance.
The compass dial, a timekeeping device incorporating both a universal sundial and a magnetic compass, invented by Ibn al-Shatir in the 13th century.
The elephant clock from Al-Jazari's manuscript.
Elephant clock with automaton, regulator and closed loop
The elephant clock described by al-Jazari in 1206 is notable for several innovations. It was the first clock in which an automaton reacted after certain intervals of time (in this case, a humanoid robot striking the cymbal and a mechanical bird chirping), the first mechanism to employ a flow regulator, and the earliest example of a closed-loop system in a mechanism.
The float regulator employed in the clock later had an important influence during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, when it was employed in the boiler of a steam engine and in domestic water systems.
The first mechanical clocks driven by weights and gears were invented by Muslim engineers. The first geared mechanical clocks were invented by the 11th century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi from Islamic Spain. He employed gear trains with the earliest segmental and epicyclic gears used to transmit high torque in his mechanical clock. The first weight-driven mechanical clocks, employing a mercury escapement mechanism and a clock face similar to an astrolabe dial, were first invented by Muslim engineers in the 11th century. A similar weight-driven mechanical clock later appeared in a Spanish language work compiled from earlier Arabic sources for Alfonso X in 1277. The knowledge of weight-driven mechanical clocks produced by Muslim engineers in Spain was transmitted to other parts of Europe through Latin translations of Arabic and Spanish texts on Muslim mechanical technology.
Al-Jazari invented some of the earliest mechanical clocks driven by both water and weights, including a water-powered scribe clock. This water powered portable clock was a meter high and half a meter wide. The scribe with his pen was synonymous to the hour hand of a modern clock. This is an example of an ingenious water system by al-Jazari.Al-Jazari's famous water-powered scribe clock was reconstructed successfully at the Science Museum (London) in 1976.
Other monumental water clocks constructed by medieval Muslim engineers also employed complex gear trains, arrays of automata, and weight-drives, while the escapement mechanism was present in their mercury clocks and in the hydraulic controls they used to make heavy floats descend at a slow and steady rate.
According to a 1202 manuscript written by Ridhwan al-Sa’ati, Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad b. Naser b. Saghir b. Khalid al-Kaysarani contructed the first striking clock in 1154 as part of a clock tower, similar to the Big Ben, near the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.
According to Will Durant, Abbas Ibn Firnas invented a watch-like device in the 9th century which kept accurate time.
While simple water clocks were known since ancient China and India, Muslim engineers designed complex water clocks with the a variety of innovations. One example is the 11th century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi from Islamic Spain, who invented the first water clocks to be powered by water wheels, as well as water clocks run by both water power and gear trains.
Al-Jazari invented water clocks which employed automata to mark the passage of time, including mechanical birds which discharge pellets from their beaks onto cymbals, doors which opened to reveal humanoid robots, rotating Zodiac circles, humanoid robot musicians who strike drums or play trumpets, etc. He introduced pulley systems and tripping mechanisms as means of transmitting power from the prime movers to the automata.
The largest of his water clocks had a working clock face that was 11 feet high and 4.5 feet wide, and a drive which came from the steady descent of a heavy float in a circular reservoir. He introduced the use of a float chamber and the method of feedback control in order to maintain a constant outflow from the reservoir. Another innovative feature of the clock was how it recorded the passage of temporal hours, which meant that the rate of flow had to be changed daily to match the uneven length of days throughout the year. This was achieved with the use of a pipe leading from the float chamber into a flow regulator which was accurately calibrated using trial and error methods.
Al-Jazari invented another type of clock which incorporated a closed-loop system, where the clock worked as long as it was loaded with metal balls with which to strike a gong. Al-Jazari also invented water clocks with oil lamps and automatic clocks.
Further information: Muslim Agricultural Revolution - Industrial growth
The bridge mill was a unique type of water mill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Cordoba, Spain in the 12th century.
Factory milling installation
The first factory milling installations were built by Muslim engineers throughout every city and urban community in the Islamic world. For example, the factory milling complex in 10th century Baghdad could produce 10 tonnes of flour every day.The first large milling installations in Europe were built in 12th century Islamic Spain.
Geared and wind-powered gristmills with trip hammers
The first geared gristmills were invented by Muslim engineers in the Islamic world, and were used for grinding corn and other seeds to produce meals, and many other industrial uses such as fulling cloth, husking rice, papermaking, pulping sugarcane, and crushing metalic ores before extraction. Gristmills in the Islamic world were often made from both watermills and windmills. In order to adapt water wheels for gristmilling purposes, cams were used for raising and releasing trip hammers to fall on a material.
The first wind powered gristmills driven by windmills were built in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the 9th and 10th centuries.
A variety of industrial mills were first invented in the Islamic world, including fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, and windmills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.
Other innovations that were unique to the Islamic world include the situation of water mills in the underground irrigation tunnels of a qanat an on the main canals of valley-floor irrigation systems.
These advances made it possible for many industrial operations that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be driven by machinery instead in the Islamic world. The transfer of these technologies to medieval Europe later laid the foundations for the Industrial Revolution in 18th century Europe.
The milling dam was used to provide additional power for milling, which Muslim engineers called the Pul-i-Bulaiti. The first was built at Shustar on the River Karun, Iran, and many of these were later built in other parts of the Islamic world. Water was conducted from the back of the dam through a large pipe to drive a water wheel and water mill.
Paper was introduced into the Muslim world by Chinese prisoners after the Battle of Talas. Muslims made several improvements to papermaking and built the first paper mills in Baghdad, Iraq, as early as 794. Papermaking was transformed from an art into a major industry as a result.
The shipmill was a unique type of water mill powered by water wheels mounted on the sides of ships moored in midstream. This was first employed along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in 10th century Iraq, where shipmills could produce 10 tons of flour from corn every day for the granary in Baghdad.
The spiral scoop-wheel is a device which raises large quantities of water to ground level with a high degree of efficiency. This was invented in 12th century Baghdad and is still commonly used in modern Egypt.
The first sugar refineries were built by Muslim engineers. They were first driven by water mills, and then windmills from the 9th and 10th centuries in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
Tide mill and tidal-powered machine
The tide mill, the first machine driven by tidal power, was also invented by Muslim engineers in 10th century Basra. It was first described by al-Muqaddasi in 990. Similar tide mills later appear in medieval France.
Water-powered finery forge
The first forge to be driven by a hydropowered water mill rather than manual labour, also known as a finery forge, was invented in 12th century Islamic Spain.
The first water turbine, which had water wheels with curved blades onto which water flow was directed axially, was first described in a 9th century Arabic text for use in a watermill.
Windmills were first built in Sistan, Afghanistan, sometime between the 7th century and 9th century, as described by Muslim geographers. These were vertical axle windmills, which had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. The first windmill may have been contructed as early as the time of the second Rashidun caliph Umar (634-644 AD), though some argue that this account may have been a 10th century amendment. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries.
The first horizontal windmills were built in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the 9th and 10th centuries. They had a variety of uses, such as grinding grain, pumping water, and crushing sugar-cane.
The early Muslim Arab Empire was ahead of its time regarding domestic water systems such as water cleaning systems and advanced water transportation systems resulting in better agriculture, something that helped in issues related to Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.
Al-Jazari invented a variety of machines for raising water in 1206, as well as water mills and water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata in the 12th century.
Artificial weather simulation
Abbas Ibn Firnas invented an artificial weather simulation room, in which spectators saw stars and clouds, and were astonished by artificial thunder and lightning. These were due to mechanisms hidden in the basement.
Al-Jazari invented the earliest known automatic gates, which were driven by hydropower. He also created automatic doors as part of one of his elaborate water clocks.
Complex segmental and epicyclic gears
Segmental gears ("a piece for receiving or communicating reciprocating motion from or to a cogwheel, consisting of a sector of a circular gear, or ring, having cogs on the periphery, or face." and epicyclic gears were both first invented by the 11th century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi from Islamic Spain. He employed both these types of gears in the gear trains of his mechanical clocks. Simple gears have been known before him, but this was the the first known case of complex gears used to transmit high torque.
Segmental gears were also later employed by al-Jazari in 1206. Professor Lynn Townsend White, Jr. wrote:
"Segmental gears first clearly appear in Al-Jazari, in the West they emerge in Giovanni de Dondi‘s astronomical clock finished in 1364, and only with the great Sienese engineer Francesco di Giorgio (1501) did they enter the general vocabulary of European machine design."
Crankshaft and connecting rod
Al-Jazari's invention of the crankshaft (and the crank mechanism) is considered the most important single mechanical invention after the wheel, as it transforms continuous rotary motion into a linear reciprocating motion,which is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, including the internal combustion engine and steam engine.
The connecting rod was also invented by al-Jazari, and was used in a crank and connecting rod system in a rotating machine he developed in 1206, in two of his water raising machines.
Crank-driven screw and screwpump
In ancient times, the screw and screwpump were driven by a treadwheel, but from the 12th and 13th centuries, Muslim engineers operated them using the crankshaft invented by al-Jazari.
Double-action reciprocating suction piston pump
The valve-operated reciprocating suction piston pump with crankshaft-connecting rod mechanism from a manuscript of al-Jazari, the "father of modern day engineering".
In 1206, al-Jazari demonstrates the first conversion of rotary to reciprocating motion, the first suction pipes and suction piston pump, the first use of double-action, and one of the earliest valve operations, when he invented a twin-cylinder double-action reciprocating suction piston pump, which seems to have had a direct significance in the development of modern engineering. This pump is driven by a water wheel, which drives, through a system of gears, an oscillating slot-rod to which the rods of two pistons are attached. The pistons work in horizontally opposed cylinders, each provided with valve-operated suction and delivery pipes. The delivery pipes are joined above the centre of the machine to form a single outlet into the irrigation system. This pump is remarkable for three reasons:
The earliest known use of a true suction pipe in a pump
The first application of the double-acting principle
The first conversion of rotary to reciprocating motion
For these reasons, this invention is considered important to the development of the steam engine, modern reciprocating pumps, internal combustion engine, artificial heart, bicycle, bicycle pump, etc.
Flywheel-driven chain pump and noria
A flywheel is used to smooth out the delivery of power from a driving device to a driven machine. The mechanical flywheel was first invented by Ibn Bassal (fl. 1038-1075) of Islamic Spain, who pioneered the use of the flywheel in the chain pump (saqiya) and noria.
The earliest historical record of a a reservoir fountain pen dates back to the 10th century. In 953, Ma'ad al-Mu'izz, the caliph of Egypt, demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen which held ink in a reservoir and delivered it to the nib via gravity and capillary action.
Abu Rayhan al-Biruni invented an early hodometer in the 11th century. This was an early example of a fixed-wired knowledge processing machine.
Mechanical singing birds
Caliph al-Mamun had a silver and golden tree in his palace in Baghdad in 827, which had the features of an automatic machine. There were metal birds that sang automatically on the swinging branches of this tree built by Muslim engineers at the time.
The Abbasid Caliph al-Muktadir also had a golden tree in his palace in Baghdad in 915, with birds on it flapping their wings and singing.
Lynn Townsend White, Jr. wrote that Abbas Ibn Firnas was the inventor of an early metronome.
Non-wooden block printing
Printing was known as tarsh in Arabic. After woodblock printing appeared in the Islamic world, either invented independently or adopted from China, a unique variety of non-wooden block printing were invented in Islamic Egypt during the 9th-10th centuries, including print blocks made from metal, tin, stone, glass, clay, lead, and cast iron. The first printed amulets were also invented in the Islamic world, and were printed with Arabic calligraphy. Non-wooden block printing was unknown in China or Europe at the time, though it is likely that woodblock printing was transmitted to Europe from the Islamic world. Block printing later went out of use in Islamic Central Asia after movable type printing was adopted from China. Movable brass type printing also appeared in Islamic Spain by the 14th century.
The on/off switch, an important feedback control principle, was invented by Muslim engineers between the 9th and 12th centuries, and it was employed in a variety of automata and water clocks. The mechanism later had an influence on the development of the electric on/off switch which appeared in the 1950s.
The programmable humanoid robots of al-Jazari, the "father of robotics".
Programmable humanoid robot
Ibn Ismail Ibn al-Razzaz Al-Jazari (1136-1206) created the first recorded designs of a programmable humanoid robot in 1206. Al-Jazari's robot was originally a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. His mechanism had a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operate the percussion. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around.
Six-cylinder 'Monobloc' pump
In 1559, Taqi al-Din invented a six-cylinder 'Monobloc' pump. It was a hydropowered water-raising machine incorporating valves, suction and delivery pipes, piston rods with lead weights, trip levers with pin joints, and cams on the axle of a water-driven scoop-wheel.
In 1551, the Egyptian engineer Taqi al-Din described the first practical steam turbine as a prime mover for rotating a spit. In his book, Al-Turuq al-saniyya fi al-alat al-ruhaniyya (The Sublime Methods of Spiritual Machines), completed in 1551 AD (959 AH), Taqi al-Din wrote:
"Part Six: Making a spit which carries meat over fire so that it will rotate by itself without the power of an animal. This was made by people in several ways, and one of these is to have at the end of the spit a wheel with vanes, and opposite the wheel place a hollow pitcher made of copper with a closed head and full of water. Let the nozzle of the pitcher be opposite the vanes of the wheel. Kindle fire under the pitcher and steam will issue from its nozzle in a restricted form and it will turn the vane wheel. When the pitcher becomes empty of water bring close to it cold water in a basin and let the nozzle of the pitcher dip into the cold water. The heat will cause all the water in the basin to be attracted into the pitcher and the [the steam] will start rotating the vane wheel again."
Ventilators were invented in Egypt and were widely used in many houses throughout Cairo during the Middle Ages. These ventillators were later described in detail by Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi in 1200, who reported that almost every house in Cairo has a ventillator, and that they cost anywhere from 1 to 500 dinars depending on their sizes and shapes. Most ventillators in the city were oriented towards the Qibla, as was the city in general.
Other mechanical devices
Drawing of the self-trimming lamp in Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Shakir's Arabic treatise on mechanical devices.
In the 9th century, the Banu Musa brothers invented a number of automata (automatic machines) and mechanical devices, and they described a hundred such devices in their Book of Ingenious Devices. Some of these inventions include:
Automatic flute player
Self-trimming lamp(Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Shakir)
In 1206, al-Jazari, along with his inventions above, also designed and constructed a number of other automata, such as home appliances and musical automata powered by water (see one of his works at The Automata of Al-Jazari). Al-Jazari also invented water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata.
Al-Jazari described over fifty mechanical devices in six different categories, most of which he invented himself, along with construction drawings. Along with his inventions above, some of the other mechanival devices he first described includes:
Hand washing device
Accurate calibration of orifices
Lamination of timber to reduce warping
Static balancing of wheels
Use of paper models to establish a design
Casting of metals in closed mould boxes with green sand
Trick drinking vessels
Water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata
Constructions of pots and pans for wine making
Construction of ewers and bowls for use as cups
Swimming pools and fountains
Devices able to elevate water from shallow wells or flowing rivers
Several musical instruments
Other machines working by water
Other sundry mechanisms
A number of other surviving manuscripts on mechanics and automatic machine construction are available in manuscript libraries in Istanbul, though many have not yet been read.
Artificial gemstone produced from high quality coloured glass, by Geber (d. 815).
Stained glass, by Muslim architects in Southwest Asia.
Silica glass and Quartz glass, and the production of glass from stone and sand, by Abbas Ibn Firnas in the 9th century.
Clear, colourless, high-purity glass, by Muslims in the 9th century.Refracting parabolic mirror, by Ibn Sahl in the 10th century.
Muslim physicians pioneered a number of medical treatments, including:
Plaster by Abu al-Qasim (Abucasis) in 1000.
Tracheotomy by Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) in the 12th century.
The medical procedure of inoculation in the medieval Muslim world, later followed by the first smallpox vaccine in the form of cowpox, invented in Turkey in the early 18th century.
At least 2,000 medicinal substances.
Other medical treatments developed by Muslim physicians include:
Modern oral and inhalant anesthesia by Muslim anesthesiologists.
Surgeries under inhalant anesthesia with the use of narcotic-soaked sponges which were placed over the face, by Abu al-Qasim and Ibn Zuhr in Islamic Spain.
Medical and anesthetic use of Opium by Avicenna.
Application of purified alcohol to wounds as an antiseptic agent by Muslim physicians and surgeons in the 10th century.
Utilization of special methods for maintaining antisepsis prior to and during surgery by surgeons in Islamic Spain.
Specific protocols for maintaining hygiene during the post-operative period, in Córdoba, Spain.
Drug therapy and medicinal drugs for the treatment of specific symptoms and diseases, and the use of practical experience and careful observation, by Avicenna, al-Kindi, Ibn Rushd, Abu al-Qasim, Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Baytar, Ibn al-Jazzar, Ibn Juljul, Ibn al-Quff, Ibn al-Nafis, Al-Biruni, Ibn Sahl.
Chemotherapeutical drugs in the Muslim world.
Specific substances to destroy microbes, and the application of sulfur topically specifically to kill the scabies mite.
Medicinal-grade alcohol through distillation, and the first distillation devices for use in chemistry manufactured on a large scale, in the 10th century.
Alcohol as a solvent and antiseptic.
Medical university and public hospital
The Islamic hospital-universities were the first free public hospitals, the first medical schools, and the first universities to issue diplomas. The first of these institutions was opened in Baghdad during the time of Harun al-Rashid. They then appeared in Egypt from 872 and then in Islamic Spain, Persia and the Maghreb thereafter. Physicians and surgeons at Islamic hospital-universities gave lectures to medical students and a diploma would be issued to any student who completed his/her education and was qualified to be a doctor of Medicine.
Surgical instrumentsAbu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis), the "father of modern surgery", performed surgeries under inhalant anesthesia, and invented the plaster and many other surgical instruments.
A wide variety of surgical instruments and techniques were invented in the Muslim world, as well as the refinement of earlier instruments and techniques. The following instruments are known to have been invented by Muslim surgeons:
Hollow hypodermic needle and injection syringe by Ammar ibn Ali al-Mawsili (c. 1000).
Over 200 surgical instruments were listed by Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis) in the Al-Tasrif (1000), many of which were never used before by any previous surgeons. Hamidan, for example, listed at least twenty six innovative surgical instruments that Abulcasis introduced.
Bone saw by Abulcasis.
Use of catgut for internal stitching, by Abulcasis.
Cautery, a special medical instrument used for the cauterization of arteries, by Abulcasis.
Ligature, by Abulcasis in the Al-Tasrif, for the blood control of arteries in lieu of cauterization.
Use of cotton (itself derived from the Arabic word qutn) as a dressing for controlling hemorrhage.
Forceps by Abulcasis in the Al-Tasrif (1000), for extracting a dead fetus.
Plaster and adhesive bandage, by Abulcasis.
Scalpel, curette, retractor, surgical spoon, sound, surgical hook, surgical rod, and specula, by Abulcasis in his Al-Tasrif (1000).
Surgical needle by Abulcasis in his Al-Tasrif.
After the spread of early gunpowder from China to the Muslim world, Muslim chemists and engineers developed compositions for explosive gunpowder (naft in Arabic) and their own weapons for use in gunpowder warfare.
Purified potassium nitrate
Muslim chemists were the first to purify potassium nitrate (saltpetre; natrun or barud in Arabic) to the weapons-grade purity for use in gunpowder, as potassium nitrate needs to be purified to be used effectively. This purification process was first described by Ibn Bakhtawayh in his al-Muqaddimat in 1029. The first complete purification process for potassium nitrate is described in 1270 by the Arab chemist and engineer Hasan al-Rammah of Syria in his book al-Furusiyya wa al-Manasib al-Harbiyya (The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices, a.k.a. the Treatise on Horsemanship and Stratagems of War). He first described the use of potassium carbonate (in the form of wood ashes) to remove calcium and magnesium salts from the potassium nitrate.Bert S. Hall,however, disputes the efficacy of al-Rammah's formula for the purification of potassium nitrate.
The ideal composition for explosive gunpowder used in modern times is 75% potassium nitrate (saltpetre), 10% sulphur, and 15% carbon. Several almost identical compositions were first described by the Arab engineer Hasan al-Rammah as a recipe for the rockets (tayyar) he described in The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices in 1270. Several examples include a tayyar "rocket" (75% saltpetre, 8% sulfur, 15% carbon) and the tayyar buruq "lightning rocket" (74% saltpetre, 10% sulfur, 15% carbon). He also states recipes for fireworks and firecrackers made from these explosive gunpowder compositions. He states in his book that many of these recipes were known to his father and grandfather, hence dating back to at least the late 12th century. Compositions for an explosive gunpowder effect were not known in China or Europe until the 14th century.
Medieval French reports suggest that Muslim armies also used explosives against the Sixth Crusade army led by Ludwig IV, Landgrave of Thuringia in the 13th century.
Hand cannon, handgun, portable firearm
The first portable hand cannons (midfa) loaded with explosive gunpowder, the first example of a handgun and portable firearm, were used by the Egyptians to repel the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, and again in 1304. The gunpowder compositions used for the cannons at these battles were later described in several manuscripts in the early 14th century. According to Shams al-Din Muhammad (d. 1327), the cannons had an explosive gunpowder composition (74% saltpetre, 11% sulfur, 15% carbon) again almost identical to the ideal compositions for explosive gunpowder used in modern times.
According to research by Reinuad and Fave, the first firearms may have been developed even earlier by Muslims. In the 12th century, a primitive gun that shoots bullets, and later the Anatolian Turkish Beyliks using guns firing bullets using springs and which are audible, show that guns may have been used even earlier by Muslims in a more primitive form.
Later, the Nesri Tarihi in the 15th century states that the Ottoman army were regularly using guns and cannons from at least 1421-1422. The famous Janissary corps of the Ottoman army were using matchlock muskets as early as the 1440s.
Fireproof clothing and dissolved talc
Egyptian soldiers at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 were the first to wear fireproof clothing and the first to smear dissolved talc on their hands, as forms of fire protection from gunpowder.
Gunpowder cartridges were first employed by the Egyptians, for use in their fire lances and hand cannons against the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.
The use of cannons as siege machines dates back to Abu Yaqub Yusuf who employed them at the siege of Sijilmasa in 1274 according to Ibn Khaldun.
Ballistic war machine
In the 12th century, the Seljuqs had facilities in Sivas for manufacturing war machines. Ballistic weapons were manufactured in the Muslim world since the time of Kublai Khan in the 13th century. According to Chinese sources, two Muslim engineers, Alaaddin and Ismail (d. 1330), built machines of a ballistic-weapons nature before the besieged city of Hang-show between 1271-1273. Alaaddin's weapons also played a major role in the conquest of several other Chinese cities. His son Ma-ho-scha also developed ballistic weapons. Ismail (transliterated as I-ssu-ma-yin) was present in the Mongol siege of Hsiang-yiang, where he built a war machine with the characteristics of a ballistic weapon. Chinese sources mention that when this war machines were fired, the earth and skies shook, the cannons were buried seven feet into the ground and destroyed everything. His son Yakub also developed ballistic war machines.
Ala'eddin is honoured in the official history of China's Yuan Dynasty, for having constructed the counterweight trebuchet used with gunpowder for Kublai Khan.
After the spread of rocket technology from China, this was followed by the invention of torpedoes in the Muslim world, and were driven by a rocket system. The works of Hasan al-Rammah in Syria in 1275 shows illustrations of a torpedo running with a rocket system filled with explosive materials and having three firing points.
Multi-barrel machine gun
Fathullah Shirazi (c. 1582), a Persian-Indian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar the Great in the Mughal Empire, invented the earliest multi-barrel machine gun. As opposed to the repeating crossbows earlier used in China, Shirazi's multi-barrel machine gun had multiple gun barrels that fired hand cannons loaded with gunpowder.
Iron rocket artillery
Tipu Sultan invented the first iron rocket artillery in Mysore, India.
The first iron rocket artillery were developed by Tipu Sultan, a Muslim ruler of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore. He successfully used these iron rockets against the larger forces of the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. The Mysore rockets of this period were much more advanced than what the British had seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missile (up to 2 km range). After Tipu's eventual defeat in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and the capture of the Mysore iron rockets, they were influential in British rocket development and were soon put into use in the Napoleonic Wars.
Jean Mathes wrote that Muslim rulers had stockpiles of grenades, rifles, crude cannons, incendiary devices, sulfur bombs and pistols decades before such devices were used in Europe.
A 1356 copy of Alaaddin Tayboga al-Omari al-Saki al-Meliki al-Nasir's Kitab al-hiyal fi'l-hurub ve fath almada'in hifz al-durub contains descriptions on rockets, bombs, and burning fire arrows.
Further information: Muslim Agricultural Revolution - Age of discovery
The baculus, used for nautical astronomy, originates from Islamic Spain and was later used by Portuguese navigators for long-distance travel.
The 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.
Cartographic grids in 10th century Baghdad.
Cartographic Qibla instruments, which were brass instruments with Mecca-centred world maps and cartographic grids engraved on them in the 17th century.
Cartographic Qibla instrument with a sundial and compass attached to it,by Muhammad Husayn in the 17th century.
The Arabs invented the 32-point compass rose during the Middle Ages.
Muslim navigators invented a rudimentary sextant known as a kamal, used for celestial navigation and for measuring the altitudes and latitudes of the stars.
Muslim sailors were responsible for introducing the lateen sails to the Mediterranean Sea.
Three-masted merchant vessel
Muslim sailors were responsible for introducing the large three-masted merchant vessels to the Mediterranean Sea.
Fielding H. Garrison wrote in the History of Medicine:
"The Saracens themselves were the originators not only of algebra, chemistry, and geology, but of many of the so-called improvements or refinements of civilization, such as street lamps, window-panes, firework, stringed instruments, cultivated fruits, perfumes, spices, etc..."
Other inventions from the Islamic world include:
Frequency analysis, cryptanalysis, three-course meal, the Persian carpet, the modern cheque.
An early system of air mail utilizing homing pigeons (by Fatimid Caliph Aziz), advances in the field of optics, musical theory, and certain irrigation techniques.
Graph paper and orthogonal grids
The first known use of graph paper dates back to the medieval Islamic world, where weavers often carefully drew and encoded their patterns onto graph paper prior to weaving. Islamic quadrants used for various astronomical and timekeeping purposes from the 10th century also introduced markings and orthogonal or regular grids that are still identical to modern graph paper.
A number of important scientific institutions previously unknown in the ancient world have their origins in the medieval Islamic world, with the most notable examples being:
The public hospital (which replaced healing temples and sleep temples)
The psychiatric hospital
The public library and lending library
The academic degree-granting university
The astronomical observatory as a research institute (as opposed to an observation post as was the case in ancient times)
The trust institution