1001 inventions works with academic teams from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds. These include scientists, historians, engineers, architects and physicians from Muslim and non-Muslim cultures.
Since its birth, 1001 inventions was backed by scholars from diverse cultures, backgrounds and countries, who kindly reviewed the written material in their respective fields of specialisation.
Whilst the policy of the 1001 inventions (and its academic partner FSTC) has been to thoroughly check the historical evidence and written sources for all the inventions and innovations, and reject unproven claims, failings do happen. We welcome any contribution that improves our work.
Also, as with most historic works, interpretations of historical events differ, especially in cases where the weight of the evidence is modest or to events that are many centuries old. All historical events and claims face this reality, and in some countries there are even different alternatives to single events of history, and people choose the one they like.
Of course the aim of all of us is to seek for truth. One truth that is essential is in giving non-Western cultures their true place in the rise of modern science and civilisation. Their role has, indeed, been at best neglected, if not entirely ignored, or distorted. The role of Muslim civilisation in particular has been the most neglected of all. This claim is not ours alone, it is a claim made by numerous Western scholars and leading figures in all walks of life.
The 1001 inventions project was born to precisely fill the lacuna, a lacuna that has lasted for centuries, and establish the true value of the scientific and technological advances made by these cultures (as much as possible, for we do not have the expertise to cover all cultures,) but definitely those accomplishments within Muslim Civilisation.
In doing this, we do acknowledge some failings, including in style and form, and errors and mistakes (regarding historical events in particular,) language, claims even. Some of our claims of Muslim Civilisation authorship of inventions are also opposed by some of our colleagues. This is all in the nature of academic work. We acknowledge constructive criticism, and are immensely grateful to our colleagues who raise our attention to our failings.
Our vision aims for the long term, and we also aim for excellence. We are now, as an instance, making a thorough review and editing of 1001 Inventions books. We have indeed noted, and are correcting errors and deficiencies of every sort.
1001inventions and FSTC also understand that doing what we do, reviving a whole heritage, that has been ignored for centuries, putting in place the world leading internet site for the purpose, erecting the world largest exhibitions also on the subject, as well as making publications in diverse languages in the space of one decade or so, all of which has been hailed and praised throughout the world, does entail some failings, in form or substance, expressions used in places, or errors made. This is in the nature of things. We cannot, however, be complacent, and we are now reviewing all output in light of comments, criticism, and help of many of our friends and colleagues.
Some of the claims regarding the birth and rise of learning institutions, including Bayt al Hikmah, or the life of Ibn al Haytham, the contribution of Fatima Al Fihriye, the story of flight, the life story of Western figures such as Pope Silvester II and Daniel of Morley, and one or two other subjects, do indeed, demand improvements and amendments.
The 1001 Inventions project team has decided to give our readers the chance to consult our catalogue of references of most of the material used and which are available online and in any good library. For those who cannot access libraries,MuslimHeritage.com can be an easily accessible alternative.
Please email your notices and contributions to:
Announcement: On New Historiography
1st July 2015
The 1001 Inventions exhibition and accompanying literature and film have met with success and have been very popular. The academic partner of 1001 Inventions is the Foundation for Science, Technology, and Civilisation (FSTC). FSTC seek to improve its historiographical approach, use of primary and secondary sources and tighten the focus on science.
2. Historiographical approach
FSTC has, in some of its publication, followed a traditional approach to the history of science, engineering and medicine in which knowledge was seen as progressing in a linear manner through continuous and cumulative advances that lead up to today’s situation. Modern historians view the exchange of ideas between different civilisations as more of multifaceted process of cross-pollination that cannot be restricted to such linear progression.
FSTC and its subsidiaries are implementing an historiographical approach that is informed more consistently by modern scholarship. The approach seeks to understand past societies on their own terms, and not view them through the lens of modern concerns. It will approach the history of science, technology and medicine as an epistemic system that is socially construed. It will consider this system on its own terms, and highlight innovations, developments, debates that are interesting and intriguing in their own right, rather than from just a modern perspective. It will also pay greater attention to the historical context in which these debates and developments unfold. It is in this sense that FSTC will highlight the achievements of the Arabo-Islamic civilisation and point out significant innovations. More attention will also be given to the contribution of other non-European cultures such as Chinese and Indian.
3. Use of Primary and Secondary Sources
Primary sources—critically established and philologically interpreted—will underpin all content; in other words, philology and historical criticism will consistently provide the interpretative framework in which to analyse the primary sources. This applies to both texts and visual representations.
The expert opinions of modern professional historians of science, technology and medicine will be fundamental to the generation of FSTC content, before passing to media producers and science public writers. The emphasis will be to rely on publications in excellent peer-reviewed journals, or by academic and commercial presses that have a track record for high-quality peer review. FSTC will also favour relatively recent work, thus moving to the cutting edge of scholarship.
4. Shared Heritage
FSTC intends to further explore the scientific cultural interactions between the Muslim world, India and China, and bring to the public domain informative stories following the similar outreach initiatives to those about interactions with Greek civilization.
The Arabo-Islamic medical, scientific, and philosophical tradition was an integral part of what some call the Western or European civilisation. They are generically linked in that scientists, philosophers and physicians writing in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, or Syriac all partook in the same discourse that transcended country and creed. They often referred to the same authorities, be it Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Ptolemy, Hippocrates or Galen; or Avicenna in the later tradition. Alain de Libera poignantly spoke about a ‘forgotten heritage’ when referring to the Arabo-Islamic contribution to the history of philosophy in the West, and one could equally speak of a forgotten heritage regarding science, technology and medicine. The multifaceted exchange of ideas between the different shores of the Mediterranean is a potent testament to the dynamism and the thirst for knowledge in the East and in the West. It is for this reason that Roger Bacon advocated the study not only of Latin and Greek, but also Hebrew and Arabic in thirteenth-century England, as many of the texts on philosophy, science and medicine were written in these languages.
The Foundation aims to bring the best scholarship to a much wider audience, and thus to achieve two main goals:
- To show that the scientific tradition of non-European cultures is both interesting in its own right and innovative in numerous ways.
- To demonstrate that this heritage is very much part of the medieval legacy of ‘Western’ science as it developed in the universities of Europe during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period.
The new approach highlights instances where the medieval Islamic tradition – although drawing on Greek ideas – went new ways by recognizing new phenomena, developing new applications, and progressing methodologically and epistemologically. Importantly, however, the yardstick by which we measure innovations will not just be whether or not modern science recognises its usefulness or effectiveness, but they will also be judged on their own merits in the context of their time.