The Golden Age of Learning in the Arab-speaking World
Arabic-speaking researchers have made major contributions to science. In his book The House of Wisdom, physicist Jim Al-Khalili examines the extent of their influence on the Western World. Anne Allmeling sends us this review
Nowadays, when we talk about Arab countries, the conversation generally centres on issues like oil, terrorism, revolution, democracy, or human rights. “Science” doesn’t usually get a look in. It’s no wonder, really. For centuries the Arab world seemed to be disconnected from modern science. In the twentieth century, academic research, rationalism, and empiricism played a subordinate role in many Arab countries, with the result that in 2005, the University of Harvard alone released more publications than all the researchers in 17 Arab countries together.
Many Arab states – and not only the oil-rich Gulf states – are now investing much more in science and research again. However, it is likely to take a while for them to become serious competitors to the European countries in this field.
A few centuries ago, the shoe was on the other foot. Back then, researchers from the Arabic-speaking world made contributions to science that remain very important to this day. The Iraqi-born British physicist and science journalist Jim Al-Khalili has written a book about this very subject entitled The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance.