Islamic Science & the Making of the European Renaissance


1 May 2011

History of Science, Cosmology

George Saliba

In this clip from a lecture at SOAS, University of London on 29 May 2007, George Saliba discusses the various forms of transmission of knowledge, and in particular the complex ways in which ancient Greek sciences and mathematics were studied and augmented in the Islamicate world, as well as completely new ideas added, and then the whole was utilized by European scientists who thrived during the Renaissance.  The presentation is wide ranging, including medicine, optics, and numbering systems in addition to the core ideas about the development of orbits of the planets used today.

The material is based on work in his book by the same name, which may be found here.

Topics discussed:  “Greek science”, nature of evidence, astronomy, cosmology and the structure of the universe (geocentric, heliocentric), Muslim non-defense of heliocentrism, mathematics, algebra, algorithm, optics, numbering systems (sexagesimal, decimal), Copernicus and Ibn al-Shatir’s model, Mercury’s orbit, Vatican library’s holdings, medicine, blood circulation

People discussed:  Nicolaus Copernicus (d. 1543), Muḥammad ibn Mūsà al-Khwārizmī (d. ca. 850 CE), Alhazen (Abu ʿAlī  al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham, d. 1040 CE), Iacobo Golio, Abu Bakr ibn Zakariyā al-Rāzī (d. 925 CE), Ptolemy (d. ca. 170 CE), Ibn al-Shāṭir (d. 1375 CE), Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288 CE).

Please excuse the poor quality of the video.  There are no better versions available.


The material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.

The presentations of the history of science correspond to what a consensus of scholars understand today.

About George Saliba

George Saliba received a Bachelors of Science in mathematics in 1963 and a Masters of Arts in 1965 from the American University of Beirut. He went on to pursue a Masters of Science degree and a doctorate in Islamic Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1978, Saliba started his teaching career at Columbia University in New York as a professor of Arabic and Islamic Sciences. He has received many awards, most notably the History of Science Prize in 1993 and the History of Astronomy Prize in 1996. Saliba was a Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress (2005-2006) and at the Carnegie Scholars Program (2009-2010).

Saliba’s studies are described on his website as “the development of scientific ideas from late antiquity till early modern times, with a special focus on the various planetary theories that were developed within the Islamic civilization and the impact of such theories on early European astronomy.” His website provides a link to his most recent research in addition to a listing of his publications. A portion of his public lectures may also be found online at the 1001 Inventions website.

George Saliba does not appear to operate any social media pages as of 2015.  He served as an advisor for the Science and Islam Video Portal project.

Selected Bibliography:

George Saliba.” MESAAS. Columbia, n.d. Accessed 21 May 2015.

George Saliba.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Accessed 21 May 2015.

Professor George Saliba Lectures | 1001 Inventions.” Professor George Saliba Lectures | 1001 Inventions. 1001 Inventions, n.d. Accessed 21 May 2015.

Saliba, George. “Saliba’s Page.” Saliba’s Page. Columbia, n.d. Accessed 21 May 2015.