Arabic science began to flourish about A.D. 800, nearly a century after the great conquests of Islam. Baghdad, the recently founded capital of the empire, became the cultural and intellectual centre of the world and attracted many scholars with different backgrounds. In the process of translation and transmission of older scientific texts, the Arabic language became the vehicle par excellence for scientific and philosophical thought. Thus began what is called the Arabic scientific tradition,1 i.e. the activity of scholars of different nationalities, who came from various parts of the Muslim world (Persia, Arabia, Syria, etc.), who had different religions (mainly Muslim, but also Christian, Jewish, and others) and who mainly wrote in Arabic. Arabic science flourished with interruptions till ca. 1450. The transmission of Arabic texts or Arabic translations of Greek texts to (Western) Europe was a decisive factor in the development of Latin science and philosophy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which in turn paved the way for the Renaissance in Europe. However, Arabic science remained for the most part unknown in the West.


Conic Section Thirteenth Century Arabic Language German Translation Muslim World 


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  1. 1.
    A valuable introduction to Arabic science is still A. Mieli, La Science Arabe. S. H. Nasr, Islamic Science is to be recommended (only) for its splendid photographs.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The best survey is in A. P. Juschkewitsch, Mathematik im Mittelalter (1964). There is a French translation of the chapter on Islamic mathematics: A. P. Youschkevitch, Les Mathématiques Arabes, Paris 1976.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The best account of the ancient theory of conics is still Zeuthen, Kegelschnitte (1886).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Ibn al-Nadim, Fihrist (tr. Dodge II,637) who summarizes the account of the Bann Müsa in their preface to the Arabic translation of the Conics (a facsimile of the Arabic text of the Bann Mnsa is available in Terzioglu, Vorwort; Terzioglu’s German translation is unreliable).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Juschkewitsch, Mathematik im Mittelalter, 256-269, 288-295 for examples.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Terzioglu’s German translation of Ibn al-Haytham’s preface contains many errors, but Mr. Kevin Meskill (Providence) informs me that the Turkish translation is more accurate. Abdukabirov’s paper, entitled Some problems in the effectuation by Ibn al-Haytham of the reconstruction of the eighth Book of the Conics of Apollonius (in Russian), appeared in S. Kh. Sirazhdinov (ed.), Mathematics and astronomy in the work of Ibn Sina, his contemporaries and successors (in Russian), Tashkent 1981, pp. 80-94. Abdukabirov’s description of Ibn al-Haytham’s Completion is based on the facsimile publication of the manuscript Manisa, Genel 1706, lb-25a by N. Terzioglu. Abdukabirov gives an introduction (pp. 80-81), a list of problems in the Completion (pp. 81-82), summaries of Ibn al-Haytham’s solutions of P5(14-15), P6(18-19) and P11(28-29) (pp. 82-92) and a conclusion, containing a short discussion of the reconstruction of Conics VIII by E. Halley (pp. 92-94).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. P. Hogendijk
    • 1
  1. 1.History of Mathematics DepartmentBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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