Moody notes how:

‘Until the present century, historians of science have taken it for granted that Galileo did not have any predecessors of importance, and that the Aristotelian dynamics had been uncritically accepted throughout the entire medieval period. This is now a mistaken notion.’[1]

Palter goes in the same direction stating that:

‘The picture of the middle ages as one long period of intellectual darkness unmarked by any significant scientific advances can no longer be seriously maintained. Especially in physics and cosmology will the often acute medieval discussions and controversies come as a surprise to students brought up to believe that modern physics was born in the fertile brain of Galileo.’[2]


To Moody’s and Palter’s observations can be added others, which once more denounce this generalised notion, that in ten centuries or more, from the 5th century to the so called Renaissance (16th-17th century), there was only scientific darkness. This generalised depiction of history does not just ignore ten centuries, calling them the Dark Ages, it also erases every trace of the Islamic role in the subject. This is compounded by the fact, that, of all sciences, there is not one single book on Islamic physics. Not that facts cannot be gleaned, for they exist in original, primary sources, and are also scattered in old secondary sources, most particularly. The state of Islamic physics today is precisely the same as that of Islamic technology and Islamic agriculture until recently, when, at last, Hill brought Islamic technology out of its slumber, and Watson did the same for agriculture. Islamic physics awaits similar attention.


This work, however, is not going to remedy the problem. Such a task demands the application of an expert mind in physics, lending his or her attention to dusting off old sources, translating passages from Arabic sources, studying, and putting together all the scattered material into some sort of comprehensive treatise, to be the first to illuminate on this science.

What will be attempted here is a general overview of the subject, seeking to first look at issues (by no means all) that relate to physics (excluding optics), and then give some attention to optics on its own.

[1] E.A. Moody: Laws of motion in medieval physics, in Toward Modern Science, edited by R.M. Palter (The Noonday Press, New York, 1961).

[2] A. Palter: Toward Modern Science; op cit; preface, p. ix.




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