Recommended Reading for Understanding the Impact of Muslim Science on the West

by Salah Zaimeche Published on: 10th April 2003

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Amongst the English writing authors who can enlighten the reader further on the Islamic impact are Eugene Myers, Metletzki, Turner and Menocal. Here's a list of selected books for further reading on the Impact of Muslim Science on the West.


Summarised extracts from a full article:
Aspects of the Islamic Influence on Science and Learning in the Christian West (12th-13th century) by Salah Zaimeche

There are many excellent works that can serve future researchers interested in this subject. Sarton’s ‘Introduction to the History of Science’(1) can be a beginning for anyone interested to sift through the thousands of pages of his voluminous work, looking not just under the term ‘Islamic’ but also `European/Latin Christendom’ to understand how Christians of the Middle Ages acquired their sciences via Islamic sources. Rashed’s ‘Encyclopaedia’ has also a volume, on the Islamic impact on European science and learning, which is very useful.(2)

Other works include those cited above, most particularly those by Ribera,(3) Leclerc,(4) Amari,(5) and Prutz(6) to understand the role of the Islamic impact on the field of university learning, medicine, the Sicilian impact and that of the Crusaders. To gather how the Muslims influenced Western trade, and how the Islamic economic power was broken by both European pirates and papal policies, there is nothing better than Heyd’s ‘Levant Trade’.(7)

To comprehend the Islamic role in mechanics and physics, the best sources are German, especially Widemann’s,(8) although Hill, until his death, in 1994, has somehow rehabilitated the subject in English.

Suter has given excellent indications of the Islamic role in astronomy and mathematics.(9) Sezgin is by far one of those who have done so much these days to revive the interest in Islamic science and its impact, and again, the most unfortunate fact is that, like all excellent works, his is only available in German.(10)

Amongst the English writing authors who can enlighten the reader further on the Islamic impact are Eugene Myers,(11) D. Metletzki,(12) Turner(13) and Menocal.(14)

In French Aldo Mieli’s work on the role of Islamic science in the awakening of modern science, as the title suggests is a ‘must’.(15)

In Spanish, there are excellent works by Vernet(16) and Millas Vallicrosa,(17) and of course Castro.(18)

Then, of course, there are the many works and articles, which either this author has not cited, or failed to access, or even are difficult to access with thousands of them, many gathering dust in the depths of libraries for decades- or over a century- and containing by far the best information of all on the subject. Modern works filling the shelves of libraries, and the readily available volumes on the history of science, in their overwhelming majority have very little to offer since the history of science and civilisation continues to be classically and Euro centrically driven.


1 G. Sarton: Introduction to the History of Science; In 3 vols; The Carnegie Institution of Washington; Baltimore, 1927-1947.
2 Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science 3 Vols. Edited by R Rashed; Routledge, London and New York: 1996.
3 J. Ribera: Disertaciones Y Opusculos, 2 vols. Madrid 1928, 1, pp. 227-359.
4 N.L. Leclerc: Histoire de la medecine Arabe; 2 vols; Paris; 1876.
5 A. Amari: La Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia, 3 vols, Revised 2nd edition by C.A. Nallino, Roma. (1933-9).
6 H. Prutz: Kulturgeschichte der kreuzzuge; Berlin, 1883.
7 W. Heyd: Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter 1, 1879 p. 104 ff. Fr edt: W.Heyd: Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen Age; Leipzig; 1885-6; reedit;Amsterdam 1967.
8 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.

9 H. Suter: Die mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke; APA, Oriental Press, Amsterdam, 1982.
10 F.Sezgin: Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums; Leiden; 1967-84.
11 E.Myers: Arabic thought and the Western World in the Golden Age of Islam. New York: Ungar, 1964.
12 D. Metlitzki: The Matter of Araby in Medieval England, Yale University press, 1977.
13 H.R.Turner: Science in Medieval Islam, Austin Texas, 1997.
14 Maria Rosa Menocal: The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1987.
15 A.Mieli : la Science Arabe et son role dans l’evolution scientifique mondiale, Leiden, E.J Brill; 1938.
16 J.Vernet: Ce que la culture doit aux Arabes d’Espagne, translation by Gabriel Martinez Gros, 1985, Paris; German translation, die spanisch arabische Kultur in Orient und Okzident, 1984, Zurich/Munich.
17 Jose M. Millas Vallicrosa: Estudios sobre historia de la ciencia espanola, Barcelona, 1949.
Jose M. Millas Vallicrosa: Nuevos estudios sobre historia de la ciencia espanola, Barcelona, 1960.

18 A. Castro: Espaiia en su historia. Cristianos, moros y judlos. Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948, 709 pp. See The Structure of Spanish History, English translation with revisions and modifications by Edmund L. King. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954, 689 pp.
A.Castro: La Realidad historica de Espana. 2ed. Edited by Paulino Garagorri with additions and corrections from Castro’s papers. Madrid: Alianza-Alfaguara, 1974.

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