Erdogan helps open "1.001 inventions" exhibit in Istanbul
In Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated an exhibit called 1,001 Inventions, featuring inventions made by Muslim scientists from the golden era of Islamic civilization between the seventh and 17th centuries. After drawing record numbers of visitors in London, the exhibit is now in Istanbul as part of a world tour which will later take it to New York. Erdogan saw the exhibit during a London visit and asked it to be brought to Istanbul. Speaking at the opening, Erdogan said the long historic period between the seventh and 17th centuries, which saw a flowering of Islamic civilization in many areas, including science and technology, has long been ignored by Western civilization. "There were deliberate efforts to promote an understanding of the history of science which goes straight from ancient Greece to Renaissance Europe, excluding that era of Islamic civilization," Erdogan said. Stating that although Islamic civilization showed great respect to the civilizations that preceded it, such as the Assyrian, Babylonian, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Persian and Roman civilizations, internalizing their contributions to humanity, Erdogan said, "Islamic civilization faced a different attitude. However, over the course of time, this attitude started to be questioned by many, including members of Western civilization." Citing inventions by Muslim scientists on display at the exhibit in such areas as medicine, astronomy, mathematics, geometry and chemistry, Erdogan added, "Inventions by the scholar al-Jazira, known as the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Muslim world, such as robots, clocks, vessels for collecting blood, water- raising machines, combination locks, vacuum bottles and automatic toys for children, evoke admiration even today." Abu al-'Iz Ibn Isma'il ibn al-Razaz al-Jazari (1136-1206) was a prominent Muslim polymath: a scholar, inventor, mechanical engineer, craftsman, artist, mathematician and astronomer from Al-Jazira, Mesopotamia (now northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria), who lived during the Islamic Golden Age. He is best known for writing the Kitab fi ma'rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya (Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices) in 1206, where he described 50 mechanical devices along with instructions on how to construct them. Also speaking at the opening, Professor Salim al-Hassani, the head of the London-based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization (FSTC), the architect of the exhibit, said, "Western historians say there was a dark age in the millennium between the seventh and 17th centuries. But this was a golden era for Islamic civilization." He also said exhibit-goers in London couldn't hide their astonishment when they saw Muslim scientists' inventions at the exhibit.