Engineering & Technology


Winder notes that in the:

‘Standard, original’ The Legacy of Islam (edited by T. Arnold and A. Guillaume), a work of some four hundred pages that is still less than half a century old, the entire pre-modern legacy of Islamic technology, mechanics, and engineering is summarized in twelve lines.’[1]

Winder is not alone in noting this neglect, which affects all aspects of Islamic Engineering and technology. In civil engineering, for instance, Smith states:

‘Historians of civil engineering have almost totally ignored the Moslem period, and in particular historians of dam building, such as there have been, either make no reference to Moslem work at all or, even worse, claim that during Umayyad and Abbasid times dam building, irrigation and other engineering activities suffered sharp decline and eventual extinction. Such view is both unjust and untrue.’[2]

Similarly, Pacey notes that it is often said that hydraulic engineering ‘made little progress under the Muslims,’ and that the latter’s achievements hardly evolved beyond the Greek or Roman’s; whilst in truth, the Muslim contribution in mechanical and hydraulic technology is enormous.[3]

On mechanical technology, Hill observes:

‘Of all the fields in which the Arabs have made significant contributions to the progress of civilization, that of mechanical technology has been the least studied. As a result, historians studying the technologies of Europe and the Far East have been seriously handicapped by an inability to make comparisons with scholarly material on the Middle East.’[4]


This neglect is found in the overwhelming majority of works on the history of engineering and technology. Seeking, seemingly, to address this deficiency, Cardwell’s Fontana history of technology opens on the first page of the preface with:

‘In order to rectify this situation (of inadequate presentation of the history of science) that the Fontana History of Science has been set up. Each of these wide ranging volumes examines the history, from its sources to the present of a particular field of science.’[5]

One obviously delights in this observation, yet, reading through the work, of a few hundreds pages, all Cardwell has to say about China  or Islam are a couple of words; and that the Muslims merely passed on inventions made by others to Europe.[6] Contradicting what was stated in the preface, Cardwell admits that he can ‘hardly do more than briefly mention the achievements of the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic civilisations.’[7] But to his credit, Cardwell raises the crucial point:

‘It is regrettable that there is still no study of Arab science and technology comparable to Dr Needham’s monumental work (on China ). This is the more surprising in view of the great wealth of certain Arab nations.’[8]

In agreement with Cardwell, until it is done, the same misrepresentations as those noted above by Smith, Pacey, Hill and others will persist.


When Muslim technology and engineering is addressed in some works, or as here by some web-sites, it still betrays serious deficiencies as found at the site by Paul J. Gans at (As seen in the years 1999-2000.)

This site considers some Islamic contributions such as the manufacturing of paper and soap, the construction of windmills, the invention of spectacles, etc, which is an  improvement in comparison to most works of any sort that deal with this science. The site, however, betrays the deficiencies found in most works on the subject, namely:

a) A lack of reference to original Islamic sources notably those of the Banu Musa and Al-Jazari, which is not understandable as there have been translations by Hill of such works.

b) A lack of reference to good secondary sources in German by Wiedemann, in particular,[9] and those in Spanish.

c) An excessive reliance, instead, on modern historians who are the least inclined towards Islamic science. Hence excessive reliance is placed upon Gimpel,[10] Clagett,[11] and above all on Lynn White Jr,[12] whose writings have tended to narrow technological achievements to Western Christendom alone. This particular role of Lynn White in distorting the history of the science is examined herein. 




Lynn White Jr and his Role

Lynn White (JR) is considered the main ‘authority’ on the history of technology, followed and referred to by nearly all historians of technology and sciences. Lynn White’s views are reiterated in many forms but bear the same substance as seen in the following extracts.[13] He states:

‘The earlier record of technology around the globe is scattered and often lacking in continuity; it recounts a generally slow accumulation of isolated specific inventions, their spread and elaboration. But in the Middle Ages, in Europe alone, invention became a total and coherent project. From the later Middle Ages onward, world technology was increasingly European technology….’[14]

‘By the early fourteenth century, then, Europe showed not only an unmatched dynamism in technology, it also arrived at a technological attitude towards problem solving which was to become of inestimable importance for the human condition. The profound contrast between this aspect of the Occident and the relative passivity toward technology in the Near East is the more significant… The fact that in the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas labour saving machinery was little developed in the Near East and concern for invention was minimal, whereas in the West a new sort of engineering was being pursued with an enthusiasm amounting to passion, helps us to understand why the Occidental third of the Middle Ages generated what we call the modern world.’[15] 


‘In the medieval East, whether Byzantine or Islamic, technological innovation was not considered important.’[16]

And finally:

‘In the twentieth century, new technology is composed so largely of engineering applications of scientific discoveries that we tend to assume a similar relation in the past. In fact, however, until a little more than a century ago there was small connection between science, which was a theoretical effort to understand nature, and technology, which was an empirical attempt to use nature. For nearly five hundred years the world’s greatest scientists wrote in Arabic, yet a flourishing science contributed nothing to the slow advance of technology in Islam. By the late thirteenth century the scientific movement in the West, which had begun in the eleventh century with a wave of translations from Greek and Arabic, had seized the global primacy that it still holds.’[17]

Thus, primarily, according to Lynn White, technology is a Western concept, explaining today’s Western superiority. Which is hardly a uniquely held idea, but is shared by most Western historians, Parry, for instance, concludes his long introductory note on the ‘Age of Reconnaissance’ with the following:

A technological attitude to knowledge, an extreme readiness to apply science in immediately practical ways, eventually became one of the principal characteristics which distinguish Western civilisation, the civilisation originally of Europe, from other great civilised societies. The unprecedented power which it produced eventually led Europe from Reconnaissance to world wide conquest, and so created the world of yesterday, much of which was governed by Europeans, and the world of today, almost all of which has accepted European technology and European techniques of government, even if only to escape from actual European rule.’[18]


Lynn White, more than all other historians, supplies this theory of Western technological supremacy with its intellectual foundations. Lynn White’s theory, however, is flawed in many respects. These flaws are enumerated here.


First and foremost, on a wider level, Lynn White’s views, even if certainly he did not intend them, go in the same direction in reinforcing the views that no entity other than the Western is capable of anything of worth. This view is certainly expressed by many other scholars in formal, academic veneer, and relies on the academic nitty gritty of referencing etc, but, whether intended or not, it is the very academic foundation of, and it feeds, more extreme strands in society. This pursuit by apologists under diverse guises that the West is the mother of all that is good on earth is woefully misguided. This author believes that passionately defending one’s culture is very different from condemning the others as useless or inadequate. The latter attitude creates a sense of superiority to others, which can have grave repercussions.


The theory of Western superiority has serious flaws. A major flaw common to nearly all Western historians of science, and specifically those of technology, is their claim to be dealing with the subject on a universal basis, and yet, they only focus on one specific culture (the Western.) Any look at history from a truly universal basis finds that all groups and entities contributed in large measure to our modern civilisation. Technological breakthroughs from China , for instance, as dealt with by Needham, a rare work of the sort, show the crucial Chinese contribution to nearly all of our modern technology.[19]


The second problem has to do with referencing, whereby Western historians assert their views by referencing to, and citing, similarly minded historians. White, Gimpel, Bradford Blaine, and so on, refer to each other endlessly and build the history of technology from their own shared perspective. This is incomplete history. Especially when such authors also deliberately suppress references to other sources (i.e Wiedemann),[20] which have a different understanding of the subject. Lynn White, in particular, also repeatedly backs his views by referring to Technology  and Culture, a review he himself established, and he also refers to himself to back certain facts.[21] If this latter tactic was done within a large book that also explores opposite views, it would be acceptable; but done in a short space, i.e an article, and if repeated, it distorts the picture considerably.

Worse, is when Lynn White backs his theories with weak evidence as when he says:

‘About 1235 Villard of Honnecourt, and in 1269 Peter of Maricourt, independently inform us that many men are arguing and labouring to the point of exhaustion to produce perpetua mobilia.’

Through this quotation, Lynn White seeks to prove that technicians in large numbers ‘began to consider systematically all the imaginable ways of solving a problem.’[22]

This is weak evidence, though. Honnecourt and Maricourt informing us is hardly strong evidence to support the picture of a generalised striving for technology as White asserts. It hardly matches evidence provided by something quantifiable, or a change of the sort of new regulations, laws, or rise in the status of artisans in society, etc.

White also uses the technique of picking one isolated statement by a contemporary Muslim to generalise it into a negative image of Muslim society, as here with regard to Al-Jazari saying, ‘That the notion of mills driven by the wind is nonsense, the wind is too fickle to power such a machine.’[23]

This hardly constitutes proof of Muslim hostility to wind power as White implies. Al-Jazari’s reported opinion conflicts with the abundance of facts proving the very opposite, as windmills, as will be explored further on, were widely used throughout the Islamic world.

Lynn White cites Peter of Maricourt recurrently in his role in the development of a magnetic instrument, but that distorts reality, once more, because Lynn White omits crucial facts. He fails to reveal that Peter of Maricourt (Petrus Peregrinus) stayed in the Islamic East during the crusades, which is absolutely central to trace some of his influences. Peter of Maricourt, indeed, as Erbstosser notes, brought knowledge of magnetism and the compass back to France from the Orient, and in 1269 wrote a treatise about magnetism in which an illustration of a compass appears for the first time.[24] By removing this crucial fact, Lynn White distorts the picture thoroughly.


The third major weakness of White, and most modern Western historians of science, relates to the sudden appearance of hundreds of changes in Western Christendom in the 12th-13th centuries. If one takes at random the changes that suddenly took place in this short period, by just focusing on one of Lynn White’s articles (Cultural Climates and Technological Advance in the Middle Ages),[25] in just one page (173), one finds countless examples of them: the rise of technicians; the solving of the problem of arrow wounds; the introduction of the compass; the discussion of weight driven clocks; the invention of the sand glass; Bacon pondering transportation and confidently predicting the advent of the automobile, submarines, etc. Then, another two pages, (pp. 174-5), and another crowd of sudden technological breakthroughs, including: the invention of eye glasses, a new technological attitude; labour saving methods; the birth and rise of windmills, etc. The question one would surely ask is: why did not Lynn White ask himself: what happened in such crucial short period for all such things to appear suddenly? How is it that Western Europe, formerly locked in darkness for centuries, incapable of inventing anything, suddenly, out of nowhere, burst with such genial spirit of inventiveness out of nothing? And if Lynn White had looked at other subjects, architecture, trade, pharmacy, poetry, universities, hospitals, etc, he would have found exactly the same sudden outburst of genius, there, too, and in the same period precisely. Surely there is an oddity here. One or two sudden changes make sense; or many changes over a long stretch of time, based on long- established, gradual transformations, also make sense. Sudden changes, out of nowhere, or more precisely out of barbarism, in their hundreds, complete, thorough, near perfected, in their forms and functions, make no sense at all. It is as if a Muslim country today suddenly discovers lasers, cures all forms of cancer, builds advanced weaponry, sends spaceship galore into the sky, all without the preceding trials and failures, and claims it made no borrowing from the West, the Chinese or the Russians. This would make no sense to any reasonable person. The same is true with all these miraculous, hundreds of changes, that suddenly took place in the West out of no precedent in the 12th–13th centuries. Some would answer that such miraculous developments in Western Christendom in this period were due to the recovery of Ancient Classical heritage that had been lost before then for centuries. This, however, can be easily checked by just comparing these changes with their Ancient antecedents and it is found that they neither resemble nor relate to each other. Moreover, there is no Greek antecedent in paper making, castle defences, steel making, etc. Thus, all such changes came from elsewhere, and it is important to discover where is this ‘elsewhere,’ that in the 12th-13th century came into contact with the Christian West. And that elsewhere, precisely, is the Islamic world, brought into firm contact with the West in the 12th-13th century, through the crusades (1095-1291) and the conquest of Spain by the Christians (late 11th-13th century).[26]


Fourth, Lynn White’s views are wrong because historically they include serious factual flaws. To take some instances, he says:

‘Since arrow wounds were then a medical problem, about 1267 Theodoric, successively bishop of Bitonto and Cervia, in his treatise on surgery noted that for the extraction of arrows ‘quotidie enim instrumentum novum, et modus novus, solertia et ingenio medici invenitur.’[27]

Contrary to what Lynn White asserts here, there is nothing new in either Theodoric’s instruments or methods. Two centuries before Theodoric, Al-Zahrawi (940-1013), a surgeon of Muslim Spain wrote al-Tasrif, known in Latin  as liber servitoris, which includes many surgical instruments, which Al-Zahrawi devised and constructed, and a number of surgical procedures.[28] He explains with the aid of drawings the use of such instruments, and surgical operations in great detail. A whole chapter (46) includes descriptions and illustrations of instruments for incising and perforating. Al-Zahrawi devotes to the particular matter of extraction of arrows an extensive amount of attention. Al-Zahrawi also describes the wounds from arrows; how to deal with each wound according to its location in the body; under what conditions the wounded should person not be operated upon; he narrates his own experiences of arrows he had himself extracted from patients, and so on and so forth.[29] There was thus nothing new in either methodology or instruments in the hands or head of Theodoric, and had Lynn White enquired a little, he would have come across two crucial facts, the first that the surgical part of Al-Zahrawi’s Al-tasrif was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century, and the second, that it was not uncommon for 13th century, and subsequent Western Europeans to borrow from it. For instance, William of Saliceto (1201-77), Italian surgeon, commonly known as Saliceto or Salicet, and as Placentinus,[30]  was a source for the Frenchman Lanfrank. Guy de Chauliac (1300-68) notes how Lanfrank  ‘wrote a book containing little else than what he got from William but changed the order;' Saliceto’s work itself primarily is based on Al-Zahrawi.[31]

A second instance of historical fallacy by White is when he tells us:

‘Despite assertions to the contrary regarding Jativa in Valencia  in the middle of the twelfth century,[32] there is no proof that the production of pulp for paper was ever mechanised in Islam. In startling contrast, the first paper factory known to us in the West-it was already in operation by 1276 near Fabriano[33] was a mill, using water power for pulping. So, likewise was the second, in 1280 at Jativa,[34] now under Aragonese rule.’[35]

Setting aside the evidence of use of water powered mills, and the use of water power to beat the pulp in the Islamic world, which will be looked at further on under the appropriate heading, focus here is on the incorrect conclusion reached by White, that in Jativa, under the Muslims there was no technology, but in the same place, under Aragon Christian rule, technological knowledge was developed. White could not ignore the latter point because there is evidence for it, which he himself refers to. What he omits, though, is a very crucial point, which is: if the technical skills in Aragon belonged to the Christians rather than to the Muslims why is it we find in official documentation of the crown of Aragon constant emphasis on keeping Muslim artisans. Muslim masters of skills were allowed to retain their functions and serve the new crown, and amongst them were paper makers.[36] Christian rulers made concerted efforts to keep Muslim owned industries going, particularly those crafts deemed to be Islamic specialities.[37] Jaime of Aragon encouraged the continuity of the paper industry in Jativa and supported it by forbidding the making of paper by Muslims elsewhere in the kingdom of Valencia .[38] Thus, there is plenty of evidence to show that, contrary to the fallacious writing of Lynn White, skills and technology belonged to the Muslims, and it was they who passed it on to their Christian successors.


As Lynn White’s and his followers’ argument rests on shaky ground, their reaction to anything or anyone countering their views had to be hostile. This is well evidenced in Lynn White’s and his followers’ violent onslaught on Singer, when he, Singer, assisted by Hall and Holmyard, completed the edition of the large ‘History of Technology ,’ in five volumes. Looking at the technological contrasts between East and West, Singer, Hall and Holmyard demonstrated how in skill and inventiveness the East was much superior to the West for centuries (9th-15th), and that it was from the East that most technological ideas came to the West.[39] Their view is more precisely expressed in this lengthy extract:

‘It must be further remembered that there are certain great technological movements, within the period under review, which cannot be brought out either in time-charts or even in the narrative that makes up this volume. Discussion of the development of certain such movements must necessarily be spread over two or more of these volumes. This matter needs some further treatment, because conventional history has distorted the picture that this work seeks to convey.

Ever since the fifteenth-century revival of learning, the debt of the Western world to Greece and Rome has been stressed in our whole educational system…. This foreshortened history laid an undue stress on the Greco-Roman heritage of our own civilization and necessarily ignored our even deeper debt to the great civilizations of the Near East on which those of Greece and Rome were themselves built… The spirit of this outdated tradition has delayed the development of a philosophical and integrated view of the course of our civilization in general and of our technology in particular.

The present volume does not attempt to rewrite the history of two thousand years, but with reference to technology the reader must be reminded of certain necessary major adjustments of conventional historical perspectives. For remains of the old time-scale still linger, well enough concealed, in elementary history books and, moreover, still form a large part of the educational background in the so-called humane studies…..

We are accustomed to think of post-Roman history as centred on Europe and especially on north-west Europe, now for centuries its technologically most developed part. Europe, however, is but a small peninsula extending from the great land mass of Afrasia. This is indeed its geographical status and this, until at least the 13th century A.D., was generally also its technological status. In skill and inventiveness, during most of the period treated in this volume, the Near East was superior to the West, and the Far East perhaps superior to both.  During most of the period discussed in this volume the cultures and civilizations of several peoples of the Far and Middle East were at their highest. Many technological ideas came thence to Western Europe. Some of them came direct through the open barbarian frontier of Eastern Europe. Most came either through the Byzantine Empire, which for a thousand years was the wealthiest and most civilized Christian state, or through Islam which, from the 9th century till the 14th, was technologically far superior to Western Europe.

During the millennium roughly extending from 500 to 1500, the relations of East and West were very different from those with which we are today familiar. Thoughtful men who have been nurtured in any of the great and ancient civilizations of the East-Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Islamic, or other-whatever they may think of us and of our ways of life, however anxious they may be for freedom from Western control, nevertheless accord to the Western industrial system and especially to the technology on which it is based, the sincerest form of flattery. Though they often forget the intimate relation of that technology to the social evolution and political history which are its roots, yet they are not far wrong in supposing that industrial techniques-especially those of mass-production-form the foundations of Western superiority.

During most of the period under discussion here, the boot was- on the other foot. For nearly all branches of technology the best products available to the West were those of the Near East, at first those from the Byzantine Empire and later also from the Islamic Caliphate or from Persia . However much the hold of Saracens on the Holy Places might be resented by the West, the booty won from them by the crusaders or bought from them in trade was thought fit to adorn the most revered shrines in Western Christendom. Thus fine fabrics of Islamic origin sometimes even bearing invocations to Allah and the Prophet-were used to enwrap the bones-of Christian saints. Byzantine mosaics, silks, and ivories, Persian ceramics and textiles, Egyptian and Syrian glass and metal-work, as well as many of the products of Mesopotamia and Moorish Spain, were highly prized as being manifestly superior to anything that could be made in western Europe. It was largely by imitation and, in the end, sometimes by improvement of the techniques and models that had come from or through the Near East, that the products of the West ultimately rose to excellence….

Technologically, the West had little to bring to the East. The technological movement was in the other direction. Not seldom, and specially under stress of persecution and war, there were emigrations of Eastern craftsmen to the West. These taught their methods to European pupils and apprentices, and so added the technical traditions of their own lands to those already being practised in Latin  Christendom.’[40]

To this, Lynn White’s response was vitriolic. White used first Speculum,[41] and, above all Technology  and Culture,[42] a quarterly he set up soon after Singer’s book, and with him (White) taking one of the leading positions in the said journal to lead the attack on Singer et al. In a particular instance, Lynn White says:

‘The five plum volumes of a history of technology edited under the direction of C. Singer give the layman a quite false impression of knowledge. These volumes are ‘a codification of error.'[43]

White, it must be said, is not alone in adopting an aggressive stand towards those deviating from the Eurocentric interpretation of history. This is common, a sort of Eurocentrist inquisition permeating all subjects. Any book or journal, including the famed ISIS (founded by George Sarton,) deviating from the usual Eurocentric perception of the history of science and technology suffers the same onslaught. Many instances confirm this.   Menocal, for instance, suffered for daring to see the Islamic source of Spanish/Provencal poetry;[44] Castro faced the ire of many when he raised Islamic influences on Spanish culture;[45] G. Gheverdese Joseph complained of the harsh treatment he was subjected to for demonstrating the non Western origins of modern mathematics.[46] The list goes on, and this author expects the same.


In view of Lynn White and his colleagues’ ferocious guard of Western motherhood to all that is good and sublime, the best treatment of Islamic technology could only, come from outside the organised fraternity of modern Western academia, in the person of Donald Hill. Decades after Wiedemann, Hill, a well qualified engineer, working in the East, began rebuilding the place of Islamic technology, first with the translation into English of the works of the principal Muslim engineers, al-Jazari[47] and the Banu Musa brothers.[48] Then, in collaboration with Al-Hassan,[49] and also single handed,[50] Hill enlightened scholarship on the merits of Muslim engineering and technology, adding to the earlier, but limited, contributions by de Vaux,[51] Mieli[52] and Singer,[53] and a few others.


Hence, with great reliance upon Hill, primarily, but also upon Pacey, Smith (Norman), Munro, and Winder, the following outline will consider diverse aspects of Islamic engineering and technology, including civil engineering, water and wind generated power, water raising machines, and fine technology, and in the course of that summing up, showing how the generally held notion that technology has little to do with the Islamic world is as fallacious as it is ridiculous. Before that, this outline will also raise the crucial issue relating to the foundation of Islamic engineering and technology. First, though, for the sake of convenience, a brief outline on the main Muslim engineers is necessary.

[1] R.B. Winder: Al-Jazari, in The Genius of Arab Civilisation; Source of Renaissance; ed J.R. Hayes (Phaidon; 1976), p. 188.

[2] N. Smith: A History of Dams  (The Chaucer Press, London, 1971).

[3] A. Pacey: Technology  in World Civilization, a Thousand Year History (The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990), at p.8.

[4] D.R. Hill: Mechanical Technology , in The Genius; op cit; pp 175-87 at p. 175.

[5] D. Cardwell: The Fontana History of Technology  (Fontana Press; London; 1994).

[6] Ibid; p.30.

[7] Ibid; p. 11.

[8] Note 6; p.515.

[9] E. Wiedemann:

-Beitrage zur Geschichte der Natur-wissenschaften. X. Zur Technik bei den Arabern. Erlangen, 1906.

-’Zur mechanik und technik bei der Arabern' in Sitzungsherichte der physikalisch-medizinischen Sorietat in Erlangen (38), (1906).

[10] Jean Gimpel: The Medieval Machine (Pimlico, London, 1976).

[11] M. Clagett: The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison University of Wisconssin Press; 1959).

[12] Lynn White Jr: Medieval Technology  and Social Change (Oxford, 1964).

Lynn White Jr: ‘Technology  in the Middle Ages,’ in Technology in Western Civilisation, Vol 1, edited by M. Kranzberg and C.W. Pursell Jr (Oxford University Press, 1967), pp 66-79.

L White Jr: Cultural Climates and Technological Advance in the Middle Ages; Viator; 2; pp 171-201.

Lynn White Jr: The Act of invention; Technology  and Culture, Vol 3; pp 486-500.

[13] Derived from Lynn White Jr: Cultural Climates; op cit; pp. 172 ff.

[14] Ibid; pp. 172-3.

[15] Ibid; pp. 173-4.

[16] Ibid; pp. 177.

[17] Ibid; pp. 179.

[18] J.H. Parry: The Age of Reconnaissance (Weidenfeld and Nicholson; London; 1966), p.16.

[19] J. Needham: Science and Civilization in China ; op cit.

[20] Or only cite them when they give support, intended or not, to their point of view as can be found in note 23; p. 76 in Lynn White Jr: Cultural climates; op cit.

[21] i.e note 10. p. 173; note 42; p. 179 in Lynn White Jr: Cultural; op cit.

[22] Note 7 p. 173; L. White: Cultural; op cit.

[23] Note 23; p. 176; in L. White: Cultural; op cit.

[24] M. Erbstosser: The Crusades; op cit; p. 188.

[25] L White Jr: Cultural Climates; op cit;.

[26] See, for instance,

-C.H. Haskins: Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science (Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. New York. 1967 ed).

J. Harvey: The Development of Architecture , in The Flowering of the Middle Ages; ed J. Evans (Thames and Hudson; 1985), pp. 85-106.

-H. Prutz: Kulturgeschichte der kreuzzuge (Berlin, 1883).

[27] Chirurgia 1.22, appended to Guy de Chaulliac, ars chrurgica (Venice 1546) fol 143 in L. White: Cultural; op cit; p. 173.

[28] M.S. Spink and G.L. Lewis: Abulcasis on Surgery  and Instruments  (The Wellcome Institute, London, 1973).

[29] Ibid.

[30] D. Campbell: Arabian Medicine, op cit;  p.133.

[31] Ibid.

[32] C. Singer et al: A History of Technology ;5 Vols (Oxford at The Clarendon Press, 1956); vol 3; p.412.

[33] A. Zonghi: Le antiche carte fabrianesi; in Monumenta chartae papyracea historiam illustrantia; ed. J. Labarre; 3 Hilversum; (1960); p. 114.

[34] A. Blanchet: Essai sur l’histoire du papier et de sa fabrication (Paris; 1900), pp. 52-3.

[35] L. White: Cultural; op cit; p. 179.

[36] N. Smith: A History of Dams  (The Chaucer Press, London,1971), p .103.

[37] T.F. Glick: Islamic and Christian Spain; op cit p. 223.

[38] Ibid.

[39] C. Singer et al edition: A History of Technology ; Vol II; op cit.

[40] Ibid; pp. 754-6.

[41] Speculum: vol 33, 1958, pp 130-5.

[42] Technology  and culture:  Vol 1 (1958), at pp 340-1.

[43] Lynn White Jr: The Act of Invention; in Technology  and Culture; Vol 3; pp 486-500; at p. 486.

[44] M.R. Menocal: The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History (a Forgotten Heritage) (University of Pennsylvania Press; Philadelphia; 1987), p. xiii.

[45] A. Castro: Espana en su historia. Cristianos, moros y judios (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948), 709 pp;

Castro was savaged by Albornoz amongst others. See: S. C. Albornoz: L'Espagne Musulmane, French translation of earlier Spanish version (Paris, 1985).

[46] See To the Editor: ISIS, Vol 85; pp. 668-70.

[47] Al-Jazari: The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices,  tr.  D. Hill, (Dordrecht, Boston, 1974).

[48] Banu Musa: The Book of Ingenious Devices, tr and annoted by D. R. Hill (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979), Arabic text, ed. Ahmad Y. al-Hassan; Aleppo : Institute for the History of Arabic Science, (1981).

[49] A.Y. Al-Hassan, and D. R. Hill: Islamic Technology , op cit.

[50] D.R. Hill:

-Islamic Science and Engineering (Edinburgh University Press, 1993).

-Arabic Fine technology and its influence on European Mechanical Engineering, in The Arab Influence in Medieval Europe, edition D.A. Agius and R. Hitchcock (Ithaca Press, 1994), pp 25-43.

-Engineering, in Encyclopaedia (R. Rashed), pp 751-95.

[51] C. de Vaux: Les Penseurs; op cit;  chapter vi: La Mecanique, pp 168-94.

[52] A. Mieli: La Science Arabe; op cit.

[53] C. Singer: ed: Studies in the History and Method of Science, 2 vols; Oxford; and C.J. Singer et al: History of Technology ; op cit; particularly  pp 753-777.


al-Jazari Kitab fi Ma'rifat al-Hiyal al-Handisayya


Muslim Engineers and Writers on Engineering
There is a very early treatise, Munro points out, on the making of water clocks, attributed to Archimedes, but in reality a very early Muslim work, possibly written toward the end of the 8th century, this is a further issue open for query. Less doubtful, though, is the identity of the earliest Muslim engineers known to us: the three brothers: Muhammad, Ahmed and al-Hassan, known as the Banu Musa brothers. They flourished at the Abbasid court in the 9th century, and are the authors of about twenty works, only three of which have survived. There is a good entry on them in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, even if the focus in it is on their mathematical works.

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Foundations of Islamic Technology and Engineering
The demands of a vast civilisation, which extended from Spain to China, Anawati explains, made it necessity for Muslim rulers to use to the maximum the resources they had available in their territory. Science was thus required to make an important contribution, and ‘technical arts' were developed in the construction of irrigation works, of canals, in ways of communication and in the erection of hydraulic machines. This is very obvious in the early history of Islam, and in the particular instance relating to the foundation of new cities out of the sand, such as Al Qayrawan, Samarra, and Basra.

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Civil Engineering
One of the recurrent problems encountered in the reading of the history of science goes beyond the neglect of Islamic contribution, and that is the systematic taking away of such accomplishments from the Muslims as is the case here. Smith notes, indeed, how irrigation technologies found in Spain were acknowledged to be of Islamic origins until 1864, when the French historian, Aymard, in his Irrigations du Midi et de l’Espagne, denied any such Islamic role, and was followed by others, who built on his legacy to attribute such skills to post Muslim Spain. This has become a generalised practice amongst Western historians in their treatment of almost every single Islamic accomplishment. Halpern has noted how many of the once great achievements of Muslim civilisation are taken away from the Muslims one after the other.

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Water Lifting Devices
Transferring water to a particular level or over long distances, for a diversity of purposes, such as irrigation, supplying water to private and public places, or pumping water out of flooded mines, has relied on a variety of water raising machines. These machines have constituted matters of focus for Islamic engineers. In relation to the latter cited problem, Al-Qazwini, the 13th century geographer, speaks of a mine where water was found at a depth of 20 cubits. To clear the water from the mine shaft a wheel was set on it and it served to force it up to a tank placed at a higher level. Here, the process was repeated and the water was pumped to a second tank, from which by means of another wheel it was raised to the surface.

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Water and Wind Mills
Hill, in an observation on wind and water power touches upon the usual dismissive attitude to Islamic accomplishment. He says:
‘We do now have a reasonably clear picture about the development of water based industries in medieval Europe from the 11th century onwards, but until now very little has been published on the situation in Islam. Some historians (nearly all, Hill should have said), assuming from the lack of available information that the Muslims made only limited use of water power, have constructed theories to explain this apparent lack of interest as being due to factors inherent in Muslim society. These theories are, however, based upon a faulty premise, since it can be demonstrated that the Muslims were anything but indifferent to the benefits to be obtained from the exploitation of water power.’

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