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ECON 3R03 (26)
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Jack Leach

Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth Section: CO1 Instructor: J. Leach Date: 21-01-13 Islamic Astronomy Islamic scientists created increasingly detailed measurements of the stars and their respective paths. They worked hard on the geocentric model of the universe by constructing increasingly elaborate models and acheived a a greater degree of coincidence between their observations and their model. Early astronomy was about observation, prediction and measurement whereas the goal of astronomy today is more focussed towards discovering the fun- damental structure of the universe. The heliocentric model didn’t fare any better at making predictions than the best geocentric models of the time. The Copernican Revolution marked the beginning of Western domination in science, almost all major scientific discoveries since then have been made in the West. Among them Newtonian physics, Einstein physics, periodic table, genetics, etc. Modern scientists point out that the Copernican model is very similar to the geocentric model (that is, start with the best Islamic geocentric model and you can transform it into Copernicus’ model). Copernicus may have even had access to the Islamic model but we are unsure if he actually did. Islamic Mathematics Islamic scientists had a very deep mathematical background/basis for their work which was acquired primarily from the works of Euclid and the Hindus. Trigonometry was founded by the Greeks but was taken over by Islamic scientists who discovered much of what we know about trig today (for instance sine, cosine, tangent). 1 Note: Brahmagupta was the person largely responsible for the introduction of Hindu numerals to the Islamic empire which ended up becoming the Arabic numerals we know today. Al-Khwarizmi emphasized practical problems in his study of algebra which he discussed in the dedication of his treatise. al-Haytham discovered the working of the eye as we know it today making two key observations: (1) vision occurred because of rays entering the eyes, (2) defining the physical nature of rays based on earlier ideas by geometrical optics writers. He based his ideas on those of prominent Greek scholars including Euclid, Ptolemy, Aristotle among others. Decline of Islamic Science Around the time of Copernicus the centre of scientific progress shifted from the Islamic world to the West. The reason for this depends on whose point-of-view you examine. Islamic Theory Scholars in the Islamic world today say the reason for this shift was the contraction of resources that were necessary for progress. They argue that around this time the need arose to divert resources from science to other more important endeavours as the empire was under attack. In 1492 the Spanish were celebrating that the last Islamic foothold in Spain had been eliminated which conincided with the Mediterranean Ocean becoming a Christian ocean after having previously been controlled by the Muslims. At the same time the Islamic world was being attacked from the east by the Mongols who captured the capital of the Islamic world, Baghdad in the 1200s. With the contraction of the empire, and resulting loss of trade and productivity the resource levels declined and as a result interest and progress in science declined as well. 2 Western Theory Western scholars disagree with this idea countering that the West was poorer than the Islamic world at the time of the shift so a lack of resources could not have been the answer. They also argue that despite its success in the Islamic world, science never gained a foothold because of the pervasive nature of Islam throughout the empire. The nature of Islam is such that it touches every part of one’s life. It’s most sacred principles are obedience and divine revelation. These principles are at odds with the scientific mind of constantly asking questions and being skeptical of revelation. As Islam became more conservative it became more important to be pure in your Islamic thought and the role of science diminished as a by-product. Science was relegated to tackling a few small areas of interest left open to it by religion. Role of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire precedes the birth of Mohammed. At its height the Roman empire was roughly equivalent to the Islamic empire that came after it. At its height the Roman Empire came under attack from a number of tribes who moved East & South, attacking the European boundaries of the empire. It is thought that these tribes were being pushed southward by the ambitious Huns in the north. At the same time the Romans were fighting the Persians along their
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