The Exhibition “1001 Inventions” Opened at the Science Museum on 21 January 2010

Science Museum in London to host Exhibition "1001 inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in World" (21 January to 25 April 2010)

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Figure 1: Logo of the exhibition. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

The Exhibition "1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World" opened in the Science Museum in London on 21 January 2010. The days that followed the opening were marked by a vibrant rush of the media, covering the exhibition and commenting on its different parts. Our readers will find below a first comprehensive list of links to media coverage of the first days of this exciting cultural and educational event which is attracting thousands of visitors. The exhibition drew 15,000 visitors in its first week, showing thus the huge interest it raised among the public.

Initially the exhibition was expected to stay on display until 25 April 2010. But because of the great success it encountered and the rush of visitors, the duration of the 1001 Inventions Exhibition at the Science Museum was extended until the 30th of June 2010.

The landmark exhibition 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World, highlights the scientific heritage the world has inherited from Muslim civilisation. The venue has been inundated with visitors and the Science Museum's Director has described their latest attraction as a "blockbuster".

The free exhibition, which runs from the 21 January to 30 June 2010, will look at the social, scientific and technical achievements that are credited to the Muslim world, whilst celebrating the shared scientific heritage of other cultures. It features a diverse range of exhibits, interactive displays and dramatisation, all of which acknowledge the Muslim world's contribution to many modern inventions, spanning fields such as engineering, medicine and architecture, and can trace their roots back to Muslim civilisation.

The launch of the exhibition marks the beginning of a global tour that will visit the world's most respected museums and centres of learning over the next four years.

Professor Chris Rapley, Director of the Science Museum in London, commented: "The thousand year period from the 7th century onwards was a time of exceptional scientific and technological advancement in the Muslim World, spanning China, India, Persia, Africa and Arabia. This is the period in history that gave us huge advances in engineering, mathematics, chemistry and physics. With over 15,000 objects in our collection spanning many different cultures, the Science Museum provides the perfect platform for this exhibition, as a place which encourages innovation and learning amongst visitors of all ages."

The exhibition 1001 Inventions launched in London is sponsored by the Jameel Foundation. Fady Jameel, speaking on behalf of the Abdul Latif Jameel Foundation, said: "One of the most important aims of our foundation is to promote global education projects and this 1001 Inventions exhibition at one of Europe's most prestigious museums will help achieve just that through increasing understanding about a fascinating period of history and discovering how it impacts us in today's modern word".

For full coverage of 1001 Inventions please visit:

Figure 2: The main entrance of the exhibition. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

1001 Inventions: Science, Culture and History

The exhibition celebrates 1,000 years of science from the Muslim world, from about 700 to 1700. During this period, many of history's finest scientists and technologists were to be found in the Muslim world. In Europe the light of scientific inquiry had largely been extinguished with the collapse of the Roman empire. But it survived, and indeed blazed brightly, elsewhere.

From Muslim Spain across North Africa to Damascus, Baghdad, Persia, India, and all the way to China, scientists in the Muslim world were at the forefront of developments in medicine, astronomy, engineering, hydraulics, mathematics, chemistry, map-making and exploration.

For Dr Susan Mossman, project director at the Science Museum, quoted by BBC, "there is a whole area of science that is literally just lost in translation". She added: "Arabic and Muslim culture particularly is a little-known story in Britain. This is a real opportunity to show that hidden story."

Professor Salim Al-Hassani, the Chairman of FSTC and leader of the team who prepared the exhibition, qualifies the Global Educational Initiative 1001 Inventions as "edutainment" activity, namely a series of displays devoted to different aspects of science meant to be both educational and entertaining. He declared to the BBC:

"We hope to inspire the younger generation to take up a career in science and technology and to be interested in improving the quality of societies."

Figure 3a-b: Photos of the official opening of the exhibition on 21 January 2010.

Figure 3a: From left to right: Professor Chris Rapley, Director, Science Museum, London; Lord Waldergrave, Chairman, National Museum of Science and Technology, Professor Salim T. S Al-Hassani, Chairman, 1001 Inventions and FSTC. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

Figure 3b: From left to right: Professor Chris Rapley, Director, Science Museum, London, Professor Salim T. S Al-Hassani, Chairman, 1001 Inventions and FSTC; Lord Waldergrave, Chairman, National Museum of Science and Technology. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

A Movie with Sir Ben Kingsley

One main highlight and most popular parts of the exhibition features a short film with Sir Ben Kingsley: 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets.

Oscar-winning actor and screen legend Sir Ben Kingsley has taken the starring role in this short feature film about the scientific heritage of Muslim civilisation. The mini-movie, entitled 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets, accompanies the global touring exhibition that is currently open to the public at the Science Museum in London.

In the movie, Sir Ben takes on the role of a mysterious and cantankerous librarian who takes a group of school children on an enlightening journey to meet pioneering scientists and engineers from the history of Muslim civilization. The librarian is then revealed to be 12th-century genius engineer Badi' al-Zaman Al-Jazari.

The movie can also be watched online: click here. Images from the film are here.

Figure 4: Professor Salim Al-Hassani interviewed by the media after the official opening of the exhibition. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

The Elephant Clock, A Mix of Cultures

Visitors to the exhibition will be greeted by a 20 ft high replica of a spectacular clock designed in 1206 by the inventor Al-Jazari. It incorporates elements from many cultures, representing the different cultural and scientific traditions which combined and flowed through the Muslim world.

The clock's base is an elephant, representing India; inside the elephant the water-driven works of the clock derive from ancient Greece. A Chinese dragon swings down from the top of the clock to mark the hours. At the top is a phoenix, representing ancient Egypt. Sitting astride the elephant and inside the framework of the clock are automata, or puppets, wearing Arab turbans.

Figure 5: Photo taken during the visit of HRH Prince Hasan bin Talal of Jordan to the exhibition on 27 January 2010, with Dr Okasha El-Daly, Honorary Fellow of FSTC (left) and Dr Rim Turkmani, Astrophysicist at Imperial College in London and Fellow of FSTC (right). (Source). © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

Variety of Displays

Elsewhere in the exhibition are displays devoted to water power, the spread of education (one of the world's first universities was founded by a Muslim woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Fez, Morocco), Muslim architecture and its influence on the modern world and Muslim explorers and geographers.

The displays comprise also replicas and representations of 10th-century surgery instruments, a lifesize model of a man called Abbas ibn Firnas, the first person to have flown with wings, and a model of the vast 100 yard-long junk commanded by the Muslim Chinese navigator, Zheng He, from the 15th century.

Figure 6: Screenshot from the short educational film 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets with Oscar-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley. Watch the movie online (here). (Source). © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

Science Museum Exhibits

The exhibition presents also objects drawn from the Science Museum's own collection. Those are presented outside the main exhibition hall is a small display of exhibits. They include a 13th-century alembic for distilling liquids, an astrolable for determining geographical position and the direction of Mecca – an important obligation for Muslims when they perform prayers, this religious duty having been the object of an intense scientific efforts, mobilising astronomers and mathematicians to refine the calculations and the instruments.

Also on display is an algebra textbook published in England in 1702, whose preface traces the development of algebra from its beginnings in India, through Persia, the Arab world and to Europe. Algebra was invented in Baghdad by Al-Khwarizmi in the first third of the 9th century.

Figure 7: Partial view of the Elephant clock, one of the hallmarks diplayed in the exhibition symbolizing the mix of cultures and scientific traditions which combined and flowed through the ancient Muslim world. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

An Educating and Amusing Show

In The Guardian, Robin McKie wrote on 24 January 2010 to characterize the importance of 1001 Inventions, the Science Museum's homage to Muslim science:

"They gave us our number system; built the first university; left us with the names for many of the stars we see at night; formalised the use of zero in mathematics; and provided us with a huge array of words, from giraffe to crimson and from traffic to cheque. For a millennium they chronicled the work of the ancient Greeks, Indians and Chinese while developing their own expertise in surgery, water and wind power, optics, agriculture and other subjects. While Europe shivered in the dark ages, the Arab world kept scholarship alive."

Among the goodies that curators have moved from the vaults to help illustrate the exhibition, there are: a beautifully ornate astrolabe, used to measure the position of stars and planets; an 11th-century alembic used to distil chemicals; and a plate with rows of numbers all adding up to the value of 194.

A special mention is made in the media of some spectacular exhibits, which are aimed at family audiences. For example, the marvellous reconstruction of the great clock designed by al-Jazari. Powered by water, the 16 feet high machine marks each half hour with rattling drums and moving serpents.

Even more spectacular is the exhibition's astronomy display. In a darkened room, stars shine on a huge screen. Simply by moving a hand, a visitor can then select one of several constellations and move each across the screen until it fits over the correct part of the sky. It sounds easier than it is, but is utterly absorbing fun.

With these objects and interactive diplays, the exhibition is quite wonderful and filled with surprises. It is easy on the eye but is still dense with information. Over 100 pages of information are deftly secreted around the displays.

Figure 8a-d: Visitors looking at the exhibits diplayed and reading the pannels. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

Media Coverage:

1. Video, TV Show and Audio

– The movie 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets with Sir Ben Kingsley: click here to view the film online and here to see images from the film. (Broadcast: Sun 24 Jan 2010 07:10 on BBC Radio 4

Figure 9: One of the many pannels of the exhibition presenting a wealth of information. The exhibition is composed of seven zones covering the various aspects of Islamic science, technology culture and history, and the contribution of Muslim civilisation to modern day civilisation. © 1001 inventions Ltd & FSTC, 2010.

2. Newspapers and Websites Articles

– The Times
Elephant clock trumpets golden age of ancient Islamic science

– Telegraph
Elephant Clock is centrepiece of Science Museum's Islamic exhibition

– BBC News
Science Museum exhibition of Muslim heritage

– The Guardian
1001 Inventions: This small but important show educates and amuses in equal measure

– Eye of Dubai
Muslim Heritage Exhibition launched at Science Museum in London

– Wall Street Journal
Inventions: Photos

– IslamOnline
London Shows Islam Science Contributions

– The Peninsular
London museum shows firsts in science from Muslim world

– The International News
West's ‘debt' to Muslims showcased

– Daily Star
Britons discover Muslim heritage in 'the West'

– Time Out London
1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World

Science Museum in London to Host Exhibition "1001 Inventions

1001 Inventions Exhibition in London Science Museum

3. Various and Recirculated stories

– Flikr: 1001 Inventions

Podcasts - Material World: Recent episodes (1) Muslim World's 1001 Inventions.

BBC Podcast series: BBC World Service - News - Exhibition highlights 1, 000 years of science from the Muslim world; 1001 inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World"; Museum explores 'hidden history' of Muslim science.

1001 Muslim Inventions: Event feature

News - UK - 'Hidden history' of Muslim science explored

Manchester - Science and Nature - 1001 Muslim Inventions

Astronomy Magazines: Exhibition highlights 1000 years of science from the Muslim world

Hidden history' of Muslim science explored

Anyone for a field trip to the Science Museum in London?

4. Further resources

– Official pictures for media use are here

– Visit the website of "1001 Inventions" Global Initiative: click here

1001 Inventions on Face Book– Press release in PDF

– Read the Science Museum announcement here

– Inspired by the exhibition, the Science Museum's Dana Centre is running a programme of free adults-only evening events.

5. Visiting 1001 Inventions

The free exhibition runs from 21 January to 30 June with a break between 25 February and 12 March.

Address: Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD, London

Tel. : 0870 870 4868
Map: Location map
Opening Times: Daily 10am-6pm
Price: FREE
Age groups

  • Under 5s
  • Age 5-7
  • Age 8-11
  • Age 12-16
  • Adults


  • Art
  • Science and Technology
  • Culture
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Medicine and Biology
  • Space
  • Transport


– Underground Stations
South Kensington Tube (6 minutes)
Gloucester Road Tube (8 minutes)

– Railway Stations
West Brompton Railway Station (25 minutes)
Paddington Railway Station (32 minutes)

– Car Parks
Union Car Parks (6 minutes)
Q-Park Kingston House (9 minutes)

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