The Arabs and Science: From the Past to the Present


Since the dawn of history, the Arab region has always been home for prominent scientists. Brilliant scientists have been born, brought up, and studied on this land; those scientists have always been the pride of the Arab world even if the interest given to science and scientists has greatly decreased.

In the past, Arab scientists were the best and the most innovative; science was the major interest of the Arabian nation. Scientists were praised by the kings and the rulers; they were valued and awarded. Researches were conducted in all fields of knowledge.

Our Arabian history abounds with numerous polymath scientists who excelled and made major discoveries in medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, astronomy, geography, philosophy, and many other sciences. The ancient Arab researches and discoveries were the base of modern scientific innovations, and their writings served as references for scientists and students all over the world until the modern Scientific Revolution.

Among our famous polymaths, are Ibn Rushd (Averroes), the Andalusian scientist who has famous writings in logic, theology, philosophy, physics, astronomy, math, medicine, and many other sciences. There was also Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the Persian scientist, whose famous medical books include The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, both considered references for medical studies for centuries.

As for Gaber Ibn Hayan, the Iraqi scientist, he was a famous alchemist, chemist, geographer, and pharmacist. He is known as the “Father of Chemistry”; his book Kitab Al Kimyaa (The Book of Chemistry) is one of the most popular and important writings that contributed to the development of chemistry.

Time has changed though; the Arab’s interest in science and scientists has declined. Scientific research lost its value to the modern rulers; Arab countries give little or no interest in scientific research. On the other side, research has flourished in the West, which became the new destination for scientists and researchers.

As a normal outcome, Arab brains have shifted to the West; attracted by their offers, awards, and support that they lack in their homeland. Since the beginning of modern history, we have witnessed hundreds of Arabs who excelled in all fields of science.

Of our modern scientists we can cite Dr. Ahmed Zweil, famous Egyptian scientist, who received the Noble Prize in Chemistry, for his studies using femtosecond spectroscopy. He is known as the “Father of Femtochemistry”.

On the other hand, Dr. Moustafa Mosharafa, Egyptian physicist, known for his famous researches and contributions to the theory of relativity and quantum theory. He is known as the Arabian Einstein. Dr. Yehia El-Mashad and Dr. Samira Moussa are both famous Egyptian nuclear scientists who worked on the availability of the nuclear and atomic energy in the Arab region.

Moreover, Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Egyptian space scientist, worked with NASA on many projects, including the Moon exploration Apollo missions. Another Egyptian space scientist is Dr. Essam Heggy; he is famous for his works in astronomy and radar science in NASA. Egyptian youth consider him a role model.

Beyond Egypt, Dr. Shadia Habbal, Syrian astronomer, specialized in space physicist; her researches are centered on solar wind, solar eclipse, and solar magnetic fields. On the other hand, Dr. Munir Hasan Nayfeh, Palestinian physicist, is known for his works in nanotechnology. Moreover, Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, Algerian radiologist and medical researcher, was named the Director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States of America.

Their numbers are increasing day by day; a fact that offers pride and honor to the Arab world. Sadly, it shows the depressing situation of the Arab region, which forces scientists to leave for the lands of scientific opportunities. Letting go of our Arab brains has negatively affected us; our region has become one of the least collaborators to scientific research despite its abundance of brilliant young scientists.

As a result, our students lack the highly qualified scientists to supervise them; and of course, our nations miss the intellectuals needed for development.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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