In 9th century Spain, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas designed a flying machine -- hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own.
- Bridge Mill: The bridge mill was a unique type of watermill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Córdoba, Spain in the 12th century.
- Vertical-Axle windmill: A small wind wheel operating an organ is described as early as the 1st century AD by Hero of Alexandria. The first vertical-axle windmills were eventually built in Sistan, Persia as described by Muslim geographers. These windmills had long verticaldriveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. They may have been constructed as early as the time of the second Rashidun caliph Umar (634-644 AD), though some argue that this account may have been a 10th-century amendment. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries. Horizontal axle windmills of the type generally used today, however, were developed in Northwestern Europe in the 1180s.
Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.
Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.
Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.
Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon. Perhaps the most useful invention of all time, wouldn't you say?
With scorching temperatures and a plethora of desert creepy crawlies, it’s no wonder that the Arabs devised the first vaccinations. Muslim Indians brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.
Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.
Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.
As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.