Based on Jonathan Lyons' book The House of Wisdom, how did the Arab world transform Western civilization?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Jonathan Lyons argues in The House of Wisdom that the West is particularly indebted to the Arab world for its world-changing contributions in scholarship, particularly with respect to math and sciences. More specifically, Lyons particularly reports in detail about many influential Muslim scholars, as well as names European scholars who were attracted to Muslim scholarship. One of the most important Muslim scholars Lyons names is al-Khwarizmi who worked with a royal library in Baghdad called Bay al-Hikma, otherwise known as the House of Wisdom. The library housed many texts in Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit and even provided financial assistance to help scholars study and translate the texts. Al-Khwarizmi is particularly known for writing a book translated as The Book of Restoring and Balancing from which the West learned Arabic numbers based off of a Latin translation of his book. In The Book of Restoring and Balancing, al-Khwarizmi's writings also introduced and developed the foundations of algebra, leading the Arabs to study algebra further, which then made its way to the West, as al-Khwarizmi's work showed the West how algebra can be used to simplify calculations, like calculating land measurements. Author Lyons particularly states the following concerning the influence of al-Khwarizmi's book on mathematics:

Over the centuries, the pervasive influence of The Book of Restoring and Balancing can be seen in repeated, verbatim use of several of al-Khwarizmi's most famous examples of quadratic equations. In his typical fashion, al-Khwarizmi managed to combine Hindu and early Babylonian influence in solving such equations by the means of algebra with the Greek tradition of geometric proofs to validate the results. (p. 74)

In addition to writing the The Book of Restoring and Balancing, al-Khwarizmi developed star tables to track planetary and stellar motions. Finally, the Arabs are also known for refining the astrolabe, an apparatus invented by the Greeks that was essential for the West making advances in making calendars and in the sciences of astronomy and cartography.

Hence, as we can see, Lyons argues that the Arabs were responsible for developments in our number system, algebra, calendar-making, and even astronomy and cartography.


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