The History of Islamic Science in the 23rd International Congress of History of Science

The International Union of History and Philosophy of Science organised in 28 July-2 August 2009 in Budapest, Hungary, the 23rd International Congress of History of Science and Technology. The theme of the congress was: Ideas and Instruments in Social Context. Several sessions and symposia were devoted to Arabic and Islamic sciences. In the following, we present to our readers a short report on the congress, with a special focus on the lectures centered on the scientific tradition of Islamic civilisation.

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1. Islamic science and technology in the 23rd ICHST

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Figure 1: Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu presenting his paper.

The International Union of History and Philosophy of Science, Division of History of Science and Technology (IUHPS/DHST) organised between 28 July and 2 August 2009 in Budapest, Hungary, the XXIII International Congress of History of Science and Technology (ICHST). The theme of the congress was: Ideas and Instruments in Social Context. The Congress gathers every four year in a different venue. This year it was in Budapest, Hungary. The next meeting will be organised in 2013 in Manchester, UK.

The congress was attended by a total of 1300 scholars, mainly historians of science, from all over the world. The 96 sessions and the numerous plenary sessions, keynote lectures and symposia covered all the periods of the history of science, since antiquity to today's science (see the congress Program and the official website).

The history of Islamic sciences and the scientific practices in the classical Islamic civilisation were present in the congress via different sessions and conferences, with a total of thirty nine lectures dedicated specially to this period of history of science. Four members of The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC, based in Manchester) and the Muslim Heritage Awareness Group (MHAG, a world network of experts working with FSTC) attended the congress and presented papers. On Friday, 31 July, a keynote lecture was presented by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (Past President of the IUHPS/DHST and Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) on "Islam and Modern Science". Then several special symposia and a regular session were devoted to the scientific legacy of the Arabic and Islamic world and their influences in world science.

The list of symposia dedicated totally or partially to the Islamic period of the universal history of science includes:

  • S01: Ancient and Medieval Astronomy with Special Emphasis on its Sociocultural Context
  • S06: Transmission and Transformation of Mathematics and Mathematical Instruments in their Social Contexts, East and West
  • S09: Islamic Science in Context: Texts, Instruments, Locales, and Institutions (in Memory of Professor Edward S. Kennedy)
  • S12: Ideas and Instruments in the Social Context in the Ottoman Empire and the National States
  • S17: Mathematical Discoveries and Demonstrations: East and West
  • S35: History of Numerical Tables - The Second Meeting on History of Exact Sciences along the Silk Road
  • S39: Early Modern Conversations between Science and the World's Religions
  • S40: Visual Representations in Science and Pseudo-Science in Pre-Modern and Non-Western Cultures.
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Figure 2: One of the venues of the XXIIIrd International Congress of History of Science and Technology.

Among the regular sessions of the congress, a session was about the sciences of the Arabic and Islamic World (session T03). Also, scattered presentations were inserted in other symposia and sessions, such as the lecture of Gregg De Young on "Editing Texts and Diagrams: Medieval Islamic Discussions of Archimedean Solids" (presented in S64 "Working with Pages and Texts") and that of Abdul Nasser Kaadan on "Child Health during the Medieval Ages in Islamic World" in T07 (symposium "The Middle Ages and Renaissance).

The symposium S-12 organized by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Efthymios Nicolaidis and Tuncay Zorlu (Turkey/Greece) had the general heading: "Ideas and Instruments in the Social Context in the Ottoman Empire and the national States". Several members of FSTC and MHAG presented lecture in this symposium. Dr. Salim Ayduz, Senior Researcher at FSTC, presented his paper on "The Ottoman royal cannon foundry: "Tophane-i Amire". The MHAG and British Museum member Dr. Silke Ackermann presented her paper in the session T35 "Scientific Instruments". Her lecture was titled "Canterbury Tales: Medieval Instruments in Social Context".

2. Abstract of "The Ottoman Royal Cannon Foundry" by Salim Ayduz

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Figure 3: Dr. Salim Ayduz presenting his paper.

Firearms came into use at the beginning of the fourteenth century but became more effectual weaponry towards the later period of the century. They were used first by Andalusian Muslim armies then by Christian European armies, started to be used by The Ottomans towards to end of the fourteenth century. They became more widespread in there domains after the first quarter of the fifteenth century to the extent that they were exported from their own weapon manufacturing plants. During Mehmed the Conqueror's period (1451-81) cannon casting technology and their use were much active. Novel cannons were designed and made including large size barrels, split type barrels as well as mortars. In this paper Mehmed II's reign's firearms technology will be examined from the point of history and engineering. Mehmed II gave much attention to the production of firearms after the conquest; he constructed a casting centre called "Tophane-i Amire" (The Royal Cannon Foundry), the biggest casting centre of the day, which included both the indigenous and foreign gunners. Even though there is not much specific knowledge about the arsenal of cannon during the reign of Mehmed II, it is known that large calibres of cannon were cast. Indeed some parts of the cannon still exist today. It is known that the Ottomans produced many types and quantities of cannon during the time of Mehmed II.

At the beginning of the 16th century Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent demolished old foundries which had been built by the Sultan Mehmed II, and at the same place he built a new complex for cannon founding. Apart from Istanbul they also established foundries in varies cities such as Buda, Cairo, Smederevo and Basra. These centres of foundry were managed by the topcibashi's appointed by the Sultan himself.

Many skilled people were employed in the Tophane-i Amire. Topcubashi was primarily responsible for all the artillery corps and foundry, than would come the nazir, the emin and the katip. In addition to official people there were also artisans such as moulders, blacksmiths and the carpenters. At times some temporary labourers were employed for varies auxiliary purposes.

Tophane-i Amire complex contained foundry (dökümhane), barracks, magazines, carpentry and a training centre (talimhane) was a big centre of military industry. Those necessary raw materials for founding a cannon such as copper, iron were delivered from the various Ottoman regions whereas tin and steel were imported from abroad. Since the Ottomans organised very good foundry institutions, they were able to develop an advanced technology in moulding systems.

The chemical analyses of the some cannons which were moulded from the middle of 15th century onwards by the Ottomans indicate that these cannons were moulded from the ideal bronze alloys. During the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent the Ottoman cannonry technology of founding were at its highest level. At that time the ordnances which were founded were used for centuries and they even survived until this time. In the Tophane-i Amire, not only cannons were moulded but also gunpowder, balls and gun carriages were produced.

The Ottomans have even tried to produce cannons from copper, lead and iron. Having realised that the best cannon can be produce from bronze, they started produced bronze cannons. They did not hesitate to use the same names that were common in Europe in the beginning but later on they gave them some Turkish names.

In this paper, I will analyze the Ottoman firearm technology and The Royal Cannon Foundry as an institution which was the biggest military factory in the Middle Age.

3. Abstract of "Canterbury Tales: Medieval Instruments in Social Context" by Dr. Silke Ackermann

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Figure 4: Dr. Silke Ackermann during her lecture.

Early scientific instruments are normally handed down from generation to generation, or preserved in a collection, or sometimes found in an attic - they are hardly ever discovered in the ground. The recent excavation of a medieval astrolabe-quadrant – a sophisticated type of astronomical instrument of which fewer than ten are known to have survived - in Canterbury was thus a huge surprise.

Even more exciting was the realization that this was not one of the exquisite pieces we have come to associate with early instruments. Rather, it is of relatively modest appearance and even shows some faults in the construction. Its undisturbed find-context leads us to believe that it probably belonged to an itinerant scholar, maybe on a pilgrimage to the famous Becket shrine in Canterbury – as so colorfully described by Chaucer in his ‘Canterbury Tales'.

Figure 5: Dr. Silke Ackermann presenting her paper.

The discovery of this amazing instrument and its subsequent acquisition by the British Museum has prompted us to reconsider our knowledge of medieval instruments. Who made them? Who owned them? And, most importantly, what was their role in medieval society?

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4. Appendices

4.1. Appendix 1: List of 39 lectures related to Islamic sciences, medicine and technology in the 23rd ICHST

  • Julio Samso, Ibn al-Raqqam's al-Zij al-Mustawfi
  • José Bellver, Ptolemaism in al-Andalus: Jabir b. Aflah and the Evolution of the Term Hay'a
  • Montse Díaz-Fajardo, Tasyir in the Islamic West: Ibn Abi-l-rijal and Alfonso X
  • S.M. Razaullah Ansari, The Indian Scholar Khayrullah Muhandis and His Persian Translation of Al-Tusi's Recension of Almagest
  • Sonja Brentjes, Patronage of Astronomy and Astrology in Post-classical Islamic Societies
  • Farid Ghassemlou, Fariba Sabet, A Survey of Persian Zijes in Extant in Iran with Special Stress on their Use in Medieval Iranian Society
  • Emilia Calvo, Trigonometric Instruments in Medieval Islam. New Perspectives and Possibilities
  • Josep Casulleras, Medieval Arabic Astronomical Instruments with Astrological Functions
  • Ingrid Hehmeyer, Exposing the Forgery of an Astronomical Instrument: An Alleged Moroccan Astrolabe Dated 1845
  • Roser Puig, The Simple Version of the Sarrajiyya Instrument (14th Century): Textual and Technical Remarks
  • Benno van Dalen, Mathematical Astrology in Astronomical Handbooks
  • Ahmed Ragab, Bimaristan al-Man?uri: State and Medical Practice in Mamluk Egypt (1285-1304)
  • Glen R. Van Brummelen, The Boundaries of Trigonometry: Al-Samaw'al and the 480-Degree Circle
  • Petra G. Schmidl, The Sultan and the Stars: The Kitab al-tabsira fi ilm al-nujum of al-Ashraf Umar
  • Irina Lyuter, Several Remarks on the Ashkal al-Ta'sis by al-Samarqandi and Commentaries on it by al-Rumi
  • Constantin Canavas: "Stealing the Water" and Commenting on the Void: Philosophical and Technological Aspects of the Greek and Arabic Perceptions of the Clepsydra
  • Miquel Forcada, A Hidden School: The Scientists-Philosophers of the 12th Century in al-Andalus
  • Robert G. Morrison, Astrology in Early Kalam and Tafsir
  • Mónica Herrera-Casais, Mohsen Zakeri, Ibn Fadlallah on the Nautical Winds
  • M. Mercè Comes, al-Mursî's Nautical Chart in the Mediterranean Context
  • Monica Rius, The Qibla: From the Sky to the Sea
  • Semra Saracoglu, Bulent Karakas, Locks and Keys: Their Story From Past to Present
  • Gregg De Young, Editing Texts and Diagrams: Medieval Islamic Discussions of Archimedean Solids
  • Seyyed Mohammad Muzaffari, Georg H. Zotti, Ghazan Khan's Innovations of the Astronomical Instruments
  • Harald Gropp, Muslim Ideas and Instruments in the Mathematics and Astronomy of Austria-Hungary
  • Maryam Farahmand, A Comparison between the Optical Doctrines of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) by Kamal al-Din al-Farisi
  • Younes Karamati, Traces of Mathematical Historiography in Islamic Mathematical Works
  • Maravillas Aguiar Aguilar, Texts, Instruments and Learning in the 14th Century Maghrib: The Sine Quadrant as a Didactical Resource.
  • Hosein Roohoullahi, Prediction via Numbers and Letters
  • Kaveh F. Niazi, A Comparative Study of Qutb al-din Shirazi's Models on the Configuration of the Outer Planets
  • Amir Mohammad Gamini, Planetary Model of Qutb al-Din Shirazi for Superior Planets
  • Tarek Adnan Ahmed, The Integration of Philosophy, Logic, and Exact Observation in Laboudy's Medical Investigations
  • Sajjad Nikfahm Khybravan, Linear Astrolabe according to Its Inventor
  • Fateme Savadi, A History of Precise Calculations in Exact Sciences: Ancient and Medieval Times
  • Farhad Rahimi, Stairway to Heaven or Sullam-al-Sama of Kashi
  • Abdul Nasser Kaadan, Child Health during the Medieval Ages in Islamic World
  • Mohamadreza Pak, Paradigm of Transference of Sciences for Example Andalusia in Final of Medieval (sic)
  • Seref Etker, Ottoman Decadence Reflected in Dr. Essad's Ophthalmoscope
  • M. Alper Yalcinkaya, History of Science and Nation-building: Identifying the "Turkish Contributions to Science" (1870-1950).

4.2. Appendix 2: Program of S12 Ideas and Instruments in the Social Context in the Ottoman Empire and the National States

Organised by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Efthymios Nicolaidis and Tuncay Zorlu

Session 1: Friday, 31 July, 15.00 – 17.00 - Chair: Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

Atilla Bir, Mustafa Kaçar: Evolution, Functioning and Capacity of the Mediterranean Windmills

Salim Ayduz: The Ottoman Royal Cannon Foundry (Tophane-I Amire)

Sevtap Kadioglu: Shemseddin Sami's Treatise of Astronomy 'Gok' (Sky): An Effort in the Way of Formation of Turkish Scientific Language

Tofigh Heidarzadeh: An Analysis of Qushji's Astronomical Textbooks

Session 2: Friday, 31 July, 17.30 – 19.30 - Chair: Tuncay Zorlu

Cuneyd Okay, Tuncay Zorlu: Engineering Periodicals in the Ottoman Turkish

Tuncay Zorlu: Ottoman Nautical Terminology as Attested in the 18th Century Sources

Semra Saracoglu, Bulent Karakas: Locks and Keys: Their Story From Past to Present

Cemil Ozan Ceyhan: Books on Darwin and Darwinism in the Ottoman Empire

Session 3: Saturday, 1 August, 09.00 – 11.00 - Chair: Constantine Skordoulis

Nihal Ozdemir: The Point and Importance of Works of the Nasiruddin Tusi in the Ottoman World

Emre Dolen: Ottoman Phd Dissertations of Chemistry Completed in European Universities

Panagiotis G. Lazos: First instruments of the National Observatory of Athens. When, From Where, Why and How

Constantine D. Skordoulis, Kyriakos Kyriakou: The Reception of Ernst Haeckel's Ideas in Greece

Session 4: Saturday, 1 August, 11.30 – 13.30 - Chair: Mustafa Kaçar

Maria Terdimou: The Interaction Between Mathematics and Greek Trade During the Period of the Ottoman

Christophe Benoist: The Foundation and Early Phase of the Imperial Observatory of Constantinople

Fotini Assimacopoulou, Konstantinos Chatzis: Le Rôle Social et Politique des Ingénieurs du Corps du Génie dans le Jeune État Grec: Entre l'Europe et les Structures Traditionnelles

4.3. Appendix 3: Program of S09 Islamic Science in Context: Texts, Instruments, Locales, and Institutions (in Memory of Professor Edward S. Kennedy)

Organised by Jamil Ragep and Mercè Comes Maymó

Session I. Tuesday, 28 July, 11.30 – 13.30: Practical Astronomy and Instrumentation: Use and Wider Significance

Emilia Calvo: Trigonometric Instruments in Medieval Islam. New Perspectives and Possibilities

Josep Casulleras: Medieval Arabic Astronomical Instruments with Astrological Functions

Ingrid Hehmeyer: Exposing the Forgery of an Astronomical Instrument: An Alleged Moroccan Astrolabe Dated 1845

Roser Puig: The Simple Version of the Sarrajiyya Instrument (14th Century): Textual and Technical Remarks

Benno van Dalen: Mathematical Astrology in Astronomical Handbooks

Session II. Tuesday, 28 July, 15.00 – 17.00: The Multifarious Contexts of Islamic Science

Ahmed Ragab: Bimaristan al-Man?uri: State and Medical Practice in Mamluk Egypt (1285-1304)

Glen R. Van Brummelen: The Boundaries of Trigonometry: Al-Samaw'al and the 480-Degree Circle

Lutfallah Gari: Environmental Studies about Cities in Medieval Islam

Petra G. Schmidl: The Sultan and the Stars: The Kitab al-Tabsira fi ilm al-nujum of al-Ashraf Umar

Irina Lyuter: Several Remarks on the Ashkal al-Ta'sis by al-Samarqandi and Commentaries on it by al-Rumi

Session III. Tuesday, 28 July, 17.30 – 19.30: Philosophical and Theological Contexts of Islamic Science

Constantin Canavas: "Stealing the Water" and Commenting on the Void. Philosophical and Technological Aspects of the Greek and Arabic Perceptions of the Clepsydra

Miquel Forcada: A Hidden School: The Scientists-Philosophers of the 12th Century in al-Andalus

Robert G. Morrison: Astrology in Early Kalam and Tafsir

Session IV. Wednesday, 29 July, 09.00 – 11.00: Geographical Knowledge and Nautical Application

Mónica Herrera-Casais, Mohsen Zakeri: Ibn Fadlallah on the Nautical Winds

M. Mercè Comes: Al-Mursî's Nautical Chart in the Mediterranean Context

Monica Rius: The Qibla, From the Sky to the Sea

Juan Martos Quesada: Le Géographe a l'Idrisi dans l'Historiographie Espagnole Pendant les XVIIIe et XIXe siècles

4.4. Appendix 4: Program of T03 Arabic and Islamic World

 

Session 1: Wednesday, 29 July, 09.00 – 11.00. Chair: Mohammad Bagheri

Meyssa Ben Saad: View on the Classification of Animals by Al-Jâhiz (776-868)

Mehri Mohebbi, Amir Saeed Mahmoodi: The Correlation between Local Culture & Public Spaces along the History of Islamic Cities (Case Study, Loft Port, Qeshm Island)

Lydia S.M. Wilson: Trees of Knowledge: Generic Templates for Al-Farabi's "Enumeration"

Elaheh Kheirandish: The Experimental and Instrumental Contexts of Early Arabic Optics

Session 2: Wednesday, 29 July, 11.30 – 13.30. Chair: Mohammad Bagheri

Mohammad Bagheri: Combinatorial Problems on Chessboard from 11th Century Iran

Seyyed Mohammad Muzaffari, Georg H. Zotti: Ghazan Khan's Innovations of the Astronomical Instruments

Maryam Farahmand: A Comparison between the Optical Doctrines of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) by Kamal al-Din al-Farisi

Younes Karamati: Traces of Mathematical Historiography in Islamic Mathematical Works

Session 3: Thursday, 30 July, 15.00 – 17.00. Chair: Mohammad Bagheri

Maravillas Aguiar Aguilar: Texts, Instruments and Learning in the 14th Century Maghrib. The Sine Quadrant as a Didactical Resource

Hosein Roohoullahi: Prediction via Numbers and Letters

Kaveh F. Niazi: A Comparative Study of Qutb al-din Shirazi's Models on the Configuration of the Outer Planets

Amir Mohammad Gamini: Planetary Model of Qutb al-Din Shirazi for Superior Planets

Session 4: Thursday, 30 July, 17.30 – 19.30. Chair: Mohammad Bagheri

Tarek Adnan Ahmed: The Integration of Philosophy, Logic, and Exact Observation in Laboudy's Medical Investigations

Sajjad Nikfahm Khybravan: Linear Astrolabe according to Its Inventor

Fateme Savadi: A History of Precise Calculations in Exact Sciences: Ancient and Medieval Times

Session 5. Friday, 31 July, 11.30 – 13.30. Chair: Mohammad Bagheri

Abasali A. Rustamov: Mukanna "Moon Maker": Discoverer of Mercury Telescope?

Farhad Rahimi: Stairway to Heaven or Sullam-al-Sama of Kashi

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