Before democracy paved the way for autonomous agencies to further the scientific pursuits, science was entirely at the disposal of the rulers, the elite and the kingmakers or influential noblemen in various royal courts of the world. It is owing to that very reason why medieval Europe was vehemently against science. Every major scientific discovery or accomplishment was going against the teachings of the church. Since then, science has been associated with religion, although there is nothing as science of Christians or Islamic science.
It is noted that the ancient Indian and Egyptian civilizations dating back to almost prehistoric times were hotbeds of scientific advancements. Later, when Europe witnessed a halt of scientific progress, it was the kingdoms across the Middle East and Saharan Africa that encouraged scientific advancements. Interestingly, contemporary Islamic nations often condemn science and resort to the archaic notions that had long been clarified. Through the ninth century to the sixteenth century, Islamic science made some substantial contribution to the world. Here are just five of those biggest contributions.
- One of the most notable amalgamations of science and cultures is the elephant clock. Made by al-Jazari, the elephant clock was essentially a water clock. Using a unique system of timekeeping, the clock had a bucket filled with water placed inside an elephant. The clock itself featured the elephant representing Indian culture, a dragon representing China and the water mechanism was Greek. There were wooden robots representing the Arab world and a phoenix representing Egypt.
- China was making steadfast progress in science while the northern African kingdoms were experimenting with alchemy. The scientific accomplishments of India, Egypt and Persia were already well documented and that paved the way for Ibn al-Haytham who became the most noted scientist of the tenth century. He came up with an illustrated explanation of human vision. He used a camera obscura or a pinhole camera which was invented by the Chinese to explain light traveling in straight line and used it to show how human vision worked in the presence of light and in unhindered spaces.
- One of the earliest accurate depictions of the world on paper or cloth was the world map of Al-Idrisi. It was used since the twelfth century and even had wide acceptance during the age of exploration or age of discovery through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
- Islamic science also made steadfast progress in ingenious devices. The Banu Musa brothers came up with a book that listed innumerable mechanical devices, from magic tricks to puzzles and even automata.
- Al-Zahrawi, a surgeon based in Cordoba, came up with a plethora of surgical instruments in the tenth century which are still used today or are used as the basic design for more complicated tools. Some of the better known inventions of Al Zahrawi are forceps and syringe.