The Caravel and Celestial Navigation. Unblocking the Power of Coal and Iron. Steam Engines and Pin Making.
Canals and Railroads. Food Preservation. Water and Sewer Systems. Batteries and Electric Generators. Cameras, Telephones, and Phonographs. Electric Light and Power. Department Stores and Modern Retailing.
Inventions That Changed the World
Surgery and the Operating Room. Steel, Glass, and Plastics. Radio and Television. Household Appliances. Electronics and the Chip.
Satellites and Cell Phones. Here are a few design ideas that might have seemed outlandish at first, but led to discoveries that changed the way we live today. The art of writing and deciphering hidden messages, known as cryptography, was practiced by pharaohs in ancient Egypt. In the 8th century, Omani grammarian Al-Khalil al-Farahidi wrote the first book on cryptography.
In the 9th century, the first man to fly - at least for a few moments whilst wearing a bird costume - was Abbas Ibn Firnas. He was of Berber origin and born in Andalusia, Spain. At the age of 70, a machine of silk and eagle feathers held him aloft for 10 minutes after he leaped from a cliff. Baghdad airport is named after him.
It was Islamic ritual to bath and wash during times in Europe when bathing was considered bad for your health. Arabs originated the general recipe for soap we still use today: vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatic oils such as orange or thyme. England saw its first shampoo thanks to a Muslim.
He invented many of the basic procedures and equipment still in use today — distillation, evaporation, crystallization, purification, filtration and oxidization. He discovered sulphuric and nitric acid. He invented the alembic still, for the creation of perfumes and alcoholic spirits. Ibn Hayyan was the founder of modern chemistry and a forerunner of the scientific method. The crank-shaft , one of the most critical mechanical inventions of all time, central to the automobile engine, was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari. His device could elevate water for irrigation around the year His Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices documents his inventive uses for valves and pistons, mechanical clocks and the first-ever combination lock.
He is called the father of robotics. The process of quilting was introduced to Europe after Crusaders saw Muslim warriors wearing dual-layer shirts with layers of straw in between. The quilted shirts were an effective form of protection in battle as well as a form of insulation. It helped the Crusaders avoid the chafing resulting from their metal armour.
Quilting became a cottage industry in the colder climates such as Britain and Holland. The pointed arch of European Gothic cathedral fame was borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was superior to the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, and allowed for much grander buildings.
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Other inventions by Muslims included ribbed vaulting, dome-building techniques and rose windows. The square towers and keeps of Europe proved to be inferior to the more easily defended round ones. The 10th century Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi designed many of our modern surgical instruments still in use today: scalpels, bone saws, forceps, and fine scissors for eye surgery. He established by accident that catgut used for internal stitches dissolves away naturally his monkey ate his lute strings!
We have Muslim doctors also to thank for inventing anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and hollow needles to extract from the eye cataracts, which is a technique still in use today.
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Each year, when the Arabian desert dried up, the only way for the people to survive was to perform the backbreaking tasks of drawing water and grinding grain by hand. In , a clever Muslim inventor built the first windmill , which tapped on the only source of energy the desert could offer — a wind which blew steadily for months at a time. The first windmills had six or twelve sails covered in fabric or palm leaves.
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