Automation & Muslim Scientists!

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Professor, Consultant Pathologist, American Board Certified Pathologist, Fellow College of American Pathologists. Areas of interest Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology, Cytology, Cancer, Ethics, Islam, Humanity

Automation & Muslim Scientists!

Compiled by Anwar Ul Haque
Department of Pathology
AJK Medical College, AJK University, Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir

Automation fascinates everyone! It’s now almost ubiquitous; sparing no area of life; watches & clocks, toys, kitchen & household gadgets, com-munication equipments, transport services and hospitals and laboratory equipments all have plenty of automation! With power of electricity and computers automation has seen logarithmic growth explosion! But when did real and sub-stantial automation begin? Many will say that it perhaps began in the last century or at the most a century prior; without electricity no question of automation; nothing could be farthest from truth!
Greek scientists had done some initial work. The work was primitive and rather insignificant! Then with Islam came greatest enthusiasm ever for ed-ucation and research. We see astonishing substan-tial accomplishment in 9th century on automation! To achieve this of course great grand work began as soon as Muslims established peaceful huge governments with very rich treasury! Muslims organized everything from Arabic numbers to algebra! Now V was not 5 and X 10! They estab-lished “House of Wisdom” hosting galaxy of nu-merous teachers and scientists! Monumental translation services were started preserving al-most total knowledge data base available at that time in Greek, India and China. Then careful and meticulous scrutiny took place. Unsubstantiated, junk and myths were rejected paving the path to solid and healthy growth in all spheres of life in-cluding modern sciences. Muslim rulers were ex-tremely generous in funding research projects, sponsoring scientists & researchers and translating all the material available to date! With utmost de-votion, tranquility, peace and prosperity, big ban of sciences occurred spanning 10 most glorious and glittering centuries when Europe was in dark ages! Unfortunately religious hatred and intolerance led Western media and scholars to hide those 10 magnificent centuries and prevented people of the world from seeing great embry-ogenesis of sciences! A false impression was cre-ated as if Islam hinders education and research. Even today through psychological warfare based on fabrications and puppet characters; this wrong impression is repeatedly strengthened and con-solidated! They not only did not give due credit to Muslim scientists but went on to distort the names of great researchers and scientists without whom, Europe may still be lingering in dark ages. This constitutes highest degree of hypocrisy and ungratefulness in sharp contrast to the Islamic values of morality and ethics. In Islamic era of growth there was comprehensive integrated growth of soul, mind and body on one hand and self, family and society on the other hand! Mus-lims did not discriminate based on faith, color and place etc.
In Islamic society several individual and groups of scientists devoted their life toward mechanical engineering and automation. We will briefly men-tion two of them here; first an unusual constella-tion of great scientists in one family known as “Banu Moosa” comprised of 3 sons and their fa-ther Moosa bin Shakir. They did outstanding re-markable work on mechanical engineering and automation in 9th Century! The second individual is al-Jazari in 12th-13th century. Both these created sophisticated machines containing valves, gears, pumps, pipes using propelling powers of gravity, water and air. The automatic robotic movements can be seen in the form of clocks of various types containing humanoid, peacock, elephants robots and also in various water raising machines.
Banu Moosa: Moosa bin Shakir and his 3 sons; their names, in order of seniority, were Muham-mad, Ahmad, and al-Hasan. Muhammad was mainly a specialist in geometry and astronomy, while Ahmad worked mainly on mechanics and al-Hasan excelled mainly in geometry.
The “Banu Moosa” were fully patronized by great Muslim ruler al-Ma’moon Rashid, who generously paid them celebrity salaries and appointed tal-ented teachers for the grooming of the three sons. Ma’moon himself had been enthusiastic aficionado of the sciences. He got this spark from teachings of Quran and life of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as he was one of the most respectful students of Imam Malik who used to teach at Masjid Nabawi in Madina. Tender support, genuine care in highly spirited and most human atmosphere created a magnificent research atmosphere that led to Muslims scientists to found all modern sciences including mechanical engineering.
Besides their proper scientific work, Banū Mūsā were also patrons of translation of Greek scientific works! They funded and supported the work of scientists, such as Thābit ibn Qurra (d. 901). They spent a large amount of their wealth in advancing the intense scientific and intellectual activity in Baghdad. Their book Kitāb al-hiyal (The Book of Ingenious Devices) is an outstanding contribution in the field of mechanical sciences. This treatise, in the form of a catalogue of machines, is a large il-lustrated work on mechanical devices including automata. The book described a total of 100 de-vices and how to use them. Some of these inven-tions included: valves, float valves, feedback con-troller, automatic flute player, a programmable machine, trick devices, self-trimming lamp. The work was first partly translated and interpreted into German by Eilhard Wiedemann and Franz Hauser. It was translated and annotated in English by Donald R. Hill, and its Arabic original text was edited by Ahmad Y. al-Hassan. A total of 100 devices are taken up and explained in great detail in the book. 73 of these are related to trick vessels and the others consist of 15 automatic control sys-tems, 7 water jets, 3 oil lamps, one bellow and one lifting mechanism system. Their application is generally based on aerostatic and hydrostatic pressure principles. The systems are more ad-vanced than earlier ancient ones in that they can even satisfy contemporary technologic require-ments. The book provides the first examples of various mechanic elements, technical drawings, logic and command systems and especially au-tomatically controlled systems. About eighty of the devices are trick vessels; the remainder in-cludes lamps, alternating fountains, and a clam-shell grab, identical in design to its modern coun-terpart. The trick vessels display a bewildering variety of effects: for example, a pitcher into which liquids of three different colours are poured in succession -when the tap is opened they discharge in the order in which they were poured; or a basin that is replenished when small amounts of liquid are extracted from it, but is not replenished if a larger amount is taken. These effects, and many others, are obtained by switching mechanisms operated by small variations in aerostatic and hydraulic pressures, and by the use of automatically activated conical valves. The pur-pose of these devices was partly didactic and partly to amuse. They appear trivial to us, but the Banū Mūsā’s mastery of delicate controls was un-surpassed until fairly recent times.
In his study of Kitāb al-hiyal, Atilla Bir examines Banu Musa’s inventions and devices, analyzing each one as a system incorporating various mech-anisms. Then, basing his analysis on various logical relationships and linear and non-linear blocks, he obtains the corresponding block diagrams. This method of establishing the workings of the systems and explaining their behavior is very much in accordance with the principles of modern systems analysis and as such will be fully un-derstood only by those who are familiar with modern control engineering. While this may seem to be an anachronistic approach, the only inter-pretative method fully explains how all these de-vices worked. Also, it does justice to the extraor-dinary ingenuity and inventiveness of the Banū Mūsā. In his appreciation of Professor Bir’s book, the late Donald R. Hill, specialist of Muslim ech-nology, stated that this modern mechanical anal-ysis of Kitāb al-hiyal by Banū Mūsā should appeal to historians of technology to become aware of the present work, and “appreciate the implications of Dr. Bir’s methodology”
Abu Iz ibn Razaz al-Jazari: He was born at Jazira a small town in northern Iraq in the year 1136 CE. Al-Jazari excelled in education and made several new inventions, and after the retirement of his father he became chief engineer of the palace. He lived all his life at Diyar-Bakir, Turky and died in the year 1206 CE. Al-Jazari was a rare genius who mastered the science of mechanical engineering at an early age. He was also a scholar, artist, inven-tor, astronomer and craftsman. He is considered one of the fathers of modern day mechanical en-gineering because of his fundamental inventions in this field. He is also hailed as the father of robotics because he was first to design an early pro-grammable humanoid robot. Al-Jazari was an ac-complished writer and artist. His treatise The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical De-vices is considered the most outstanding book in mechanical engineering. Gorge Sarton, the histo-rian of science and technology says, “This treatise is the most elaborate of its kind and may be con-sidered the climax of the Muslim achievements in science and technology.” In this book he has given the details of his inventions and has illustrated them with drawings and paintings. This book in-cludes six main categories of machines and devic-es. Several of the machines, mechanisms and techniques that first appear in his treatise later entered in the vocabulary of European mechanical engineering books. This includes double acting pumps with suction pipes and the use of a crank shaft in a machine, accurate calibration of orifices, lamination of timber to reduce warping, static balancing of wheels, the use of paper models to establish a design, and casting of metals in closed mould boxes with green sand etc. He also describes methods of construction and assembly in great detail of about fifty machines, so that the future craftsmen could reconstruct them. Al-Jazari was the first engineer to invent the crank-shaft and connecting rod system, which is consid-ered the single most important invention after the wheel. This system is used to transform linear motion into rotatory motion, and vice versa, and is central to the modern machinery such as steam engines and internal combustion engines used in cars today.
Al-Jazari invented five machines for raising water from a river or well. It was in these machines where he introduced his most important ideas and concepts. The first two devices used animal power and an open channel with a scoop. The third machine manipulated the water power and a series of gears to lift pots filled with water. In the fourth machine he used a brand new concept of using the crankshaft and connecting rod system to lift the water. The fifth machine was very complex, it utilized a cog wheel, piston and a suction pipe. Creating vacuum for suction and application of the double-acting principle were advanced technological achievements eight centuries ago. The modern reciprocating water pumps are not very different from what al-Jazari invented centuries ago.


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