HOWARD R. TURNER, Science in Medieval Islam: An Illustrated Introduction (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997). Pp. 262. Academic Article uri icon


  • Scholars have been reluctant to undertake a comprehensive history of science in Islamic civilization when a great deal of original material still lies unedited, unpublished, unexplored, or partially investigated in spite of prolific research. Even extensive collaborative attempts at a synthesis (see the Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, 3 vols. [1996]) reflect the level of research to date in specific areas rather than present a definitive survey within a cultural perspective. One therefore admires the courage of Howard Turner, who is not a historian of Arabic science, in taking on this ambitious publication, which extends beyond the limits suggested by its title. In fact, Medieval could be omitted from his title, as it does justice neither to the content of his book nor to the historical reality. The term refers, as we know, to some interim period of shifting chronological boundaries between the so-called Dark Ages and the Renaissance in European civilization. The comparable time period in Islamic civilization, however, encompasses the rise, a series of peaks, and the seeds of decline in the sciences. It is not a transitional phase between “dark ages” (the J―ahiliyya) and a “rebirth.” The content of Turner's book is best conveyed simply as “An Illustrated Introduction to Science in Islam or in Islamic Civilization.”

author list (cited authors)

  • Russell, G. A.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • November 2000