800 Years Later: In Memory of Al-Jazari, A Genius Mechanical Engineer
Al-Jazari's life and environment
Al-Jazari(1136-1206) was an important Arab Muslim scholar. He was an inventor and mechanical engineer who gained fame and glory with his famous book of mechanics, Al-Jami `bayn al-`ilm wa 'l-`amal al-nafi `fi sina `at al-hiyal (A Compendium on the Theory and Useful Practice of the Mechanical Arts), the most significant treatise of the Islamic tradition of mechanical engineering and a ground breaking work in the history of technology. Some 800 years after his death, modern history of science is appealed to give him credit and celebrate his work.
Al-Jazari's greatest treatise has always aroused great interest from historians of technology and historians of art. Indeed, alongside his accomplishments as an inventor and engineer, al-Jazariwas also an accomplished artist. The surviving manuscripts of his book provide detailed instructions for all of his inventions and illustrate them using miniature paintings, a medieval style of Islamic art, to make it possible for a reader to reconstruct his inventions.
To have an idea of the innovative work of al-Jazariin the history of technology, we quote this sentence from the historian Lynn White who writes: "Segmental gears first clearly appear in al-Jazari, in the West they emerge in Giovanni de Dondi's astronomical clock finished in 1364, and only with the great Sienese engineer Francesco di Giorgio (1501) did they enter the general vocabulary of European machine design ."
Donald R. Hill, the English historian who was an academic authority in the history of Islamic mechanics and engineering, wrote in Studies in Medieval Islamic Technology: "It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of al-Jazari's work in the history of engineering. Until modern times there is no other document from any cultural area that provides a comparable wealth of instructions for the design, manufacture and assembly of machines… Al-Jazaridid not only assimilate the techniques of his non-Arab and Arab predecessors, he was also creative. He added several mechanical and hydraulic devices. The impact of these inventions can be seen in the later designing of steam engines and internal combustion engines, paving the way for automatic control and other modern machinery. The impact of al-Jazari's inventions is still felt in modern contemporary mechanical engineering ."
Due to his fundamental mechanical inventions, al-Jazarihas been described as the "father of modern day engineering", and due to his invention of an early programmable humanoid robot, he has been hailed as the "father of robotics". Actually, he should be considered just as important an inventor as Leonardo da Vinci.
Al-Jazari's full name is given at the beginning of his book as "al-Shaykh Ra'is al-A`mal Badi`al-Zaman Abu al-‘Izz ibn Isma`il ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari." The title Ra'is al-A`mal indicates that he was a chief engineer, while Badi`al-Zaman and al-Shaykh are titles of honour indicating respectively that he was unique and unrivalled and a learned, dignified person. The word ‘Al-Jazari' indicates that his family came from Jazirat ibn ‘Umar in Diyar Bakr. Another hypothesis is hat he was named after the area in which he was born, al-Jazira –the traditional Arabic name for what was northern Mesopotamia and what is now northern Iraq and north-eastern Syria, between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
We do not know the date of his birth and our information about his life is obtained from his book. Like his father before him, he served as chief engineer at the Artukid court, while serving the Diyarbakir branch of the Turkish Artuqid dynasty which ruled across eastern Anatolia. Al-Jazariwas in the service of three Artuqid rulers: Nur al-Din Muhammad ibn Arslan (570-581 H/ 1174-1185), Qutb al-Din Sukman ibn Muhammad (681-697 H/ 1185-1200) and Nasir al-Din Mahmud ibn Muhammad (597-619 H/ 1200-1222).
It was in response to the request of Nasir al-Din Mahmud that al-Jazariwrote his book. He says in his introduction that he started his service at the Artuqid court in the year 570 H/1174, and that when he started writing the book he had already spent twenty five years in the service of Nur al-Din Muhammad, the father, and Qutb al-Din Sukman, the brother. From this information we conclude that probably al-Jazaristarted writing his book in the year 595/1198, two years before Nasir al-Din became king. From the Oxford manuscript copy of al-Jazari's treatise we learn that al-Jazari finished writing his book on 4 Jumada the Second, 602 H/ 16 January 1206. The oldest extant copy (preserved in Topkapi Sarayi Libray, Ahmet III collection, MS 3472) was completed by Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Uthman al-Haskafiat the end of Sha'ban 602 H/ 10 April 1206. From al-Haskafi's colophon we learn that al-Jazariwas not living at this date. From these indications and other data, it may be concluded that he died in the year 602 H/1206, just few months after he had completed his work.
amid, now known as Diyar Bakr, where al-Jazaridid most of his engineering research, is situated on the left bank of the Tigris. Travellers who visited the city during the 11th century admired its prosperity and enjoyed a period of peace and stability. Thus al-Jazarilived in the court of the Artuqid kings under conditions favorable for the invention and construction of his machines and for writing .
Al-Jazari's Magnum Opus book
The title of the oldest manuscript of al-Jazari's book is: al-Jami `bayn al-`ilm wa 'l-`amal al-nafi` fi sina`at al-hiyal (A Compendium on the Theory and Useful Practice of the Mechanical Arts). The Arabic edition published by Ahmad Y. al-Hassan in 1979 carries this title. The English translation published by Donald R. Hill in 1974 carries the title Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices. This translation was based mainly on MS Graves 27 of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where the Arabic title is Kitab fima`rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya. Between 1915 and 1921, two German scholars Wiedemann and Hauser published in German a series of seven articles in which they covered the six categories using the Bodleian copy .
The book describes in detail fifty devices (ashkal), which are grouped into six categories (anwa`):
1) ten water and candle clocks;
2) ten vessels and figures suited for drinking sessions;
3) ten pitchers and basins for phlebotomy and washing before prayers;
4) ten fountains that change their shape alternately, and machines for the perpetual flute;
5) five water raising machines;
6) five miscellaneous devices.
by: Professor Salim T S Al-Hassani by: Professor Salim Al-Hassani
Water Management and Hydraulic Technology by: FSTC Limited
Water management in all its intricacies, from Andalusia to Afghanistan, was the basis of agriculture, and source of all life. Muslims did much to develop hydraulic technology and deploy water management equipment including hydro-power dams.
A Review of Early Muslim Control Engineering by: Professor Mohamed Mansour
The Machines of Al-Jazari and Taqi Al-Din by: FSTC Limited
Prof. Salim T S Al-Hassani
In this pioneering survey of some of the machines of Al-Jazari and Taqi Al-Din, Professor Salim Al-Hassani uses in-depth analysis with the tools of modern technology to make them live again. Relying on the original manuscripts and applying modern engineering technology and graphic modelling with computers, we can see these machines designed and described many centuries ago come to life.
Pioneers of Automatic Control Systems by: FSTC Limited
Although the feedback concept, which is lying in the foundation of dynamic systems, has been perceived relative recently, the idea was understood and applied correctly by the Muslim scientists.
When Ridhwan al-Sa’ati Anteceded Big Ben by More than Six Centuries by: Abdel Aziz al-Jaraki
The following article by Abdel Aziz al-Jaraki, a scholar from Damascus, describes the context of the investigation carried on since several decades on a famous clock built by Fakhr al-Din Ridhwan al-Sa'ati at the beginning of the 6th centuty of Hijra (1202 CE) in his work `Amal al-Sa'at wa 'l-`Amal biha (The Operation of clocks and working with them). The author surveys also his ongoing endeavours to reconstruct this instrument and make it live again.
Automation and Robotics in Muslim Heritage: The Cultural Roots of al-Jazari's Mechanical Systems by: FSTC Limited
This short paper introduces a longer essay by Prof. Gunalan Nadarajan, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University. The essay draws on the work of al-Jazari, the famous 13th century Islamic scholar, engineer and scientist.
The Mechanics of Banu Musa in the Light of Modern System and Control Engineering by: FSTC Limited
This article is a review of the book published recently by Professor Attila Bir (Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Istanbul) on Banu Musa's book of mechanics studied in the framework of modern system and control engineering.