1001 Inventions

Courtesy Muslim Heritage

We recently took in a fascinating exhibit called 1001 Inventions at the California Science Center (on view through March 11th). The exhibit chronicled scientific contributions of the Muslim world during the Middle Ages, including the first University, founded by a Muslim woman, and the first man to fly.

The interactive exhibit captured the children’s attention. Cooper spent time exploring lunar formations named for Muslim astronomers. He also identified constellations  in a mock night sky. We learned why we write our numbers the way we do through an interactive game. (Essentially, the number 1 has one angle; 2 has two angles and so on.)

I’m not sure where the exhibit will travel to next, but there are plenty of resources available on the Web site for those who would like to explore its content. For children ages 11 – 16 there is a teacher kit available online, complete with experiments.

The exhibit highlights several learned Muslims from the Middle Ages. Here are a couple that captivated us.:

Fatima al-Fihri: This well-to-do Muslim woman founded the first university in 841 BCE. When her father died, she used her inheritance to build Al-Qarawiyin in Fez, Morocco, her hometown. Students there studied religion, politics and natural sciences. The University still operates today.

In the 9th Century, Abbas ibn Firnas made the first-ever human flight in an early hang glider. He jumped from a tower in Cordoba, Spain, flew successfully and landed with only minor injuries.

The exhibit makes the case that Muslim advancements during the “Dark Ages” led to the Renaissance in Europe. It was certainly a fascinating history lesson.

 

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