Briefly describe the major contributions of the Islamic world to the fields of mathematics and natural science.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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In the spirit of the advice of the prophet Muhammad to always be seeking knowledge, the early Arab world made a formidable number of important contributions to modern civilization in many areas, including science and math.  Muslim scholars are credited with borrowing from and extending the mathematical knowledge of the Greeks, Egyptians, Indians, and Babylonians.  A number system borrowed from India, and another one from Babylon were blended over the years to create the system of Arabic numbers we use today.  Additionally, the "fathers" of algebra and trigonometry were scholars of the Arab world. 

In the natural world, Muslim scholars studied and pioneered ideas in astronomy, which were necessary to their religious practices; they needed to keep track of the months to celebrate Ramadan, the hours, to pray at the appropriate times, and the direction one must face toward Mecca.  The first observatories and the astrolabe are credited to these scholars.  The world of Islam can also claim credit for major advances in agriculture, such as the use of grafting and fertilizing to increase crop production.  

It is interesting to note that these are but a few of the contributions of this incredibly rich civilization, although they are largely ignored in many American history textbooks, who tend to focus on the world of western civilization, particularly as it relates to the Greeks and Romans.  The late author and mythology expert Joseph Campbell commented on this phenomenon when he once observed that "it is remarkable how little is admitted of the Muslim contribution to our culture" by the Western canon. 

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