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The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices written by Badi’ al-Zaman Abu-‘l-‘Izz Ibn Isma’il Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari (1136-1206) Islamic scholar, inventor, mechanical engineer, and artist. The book includes drawings of fifty mechanical devices which are divided into six categories:
  • Ten water clocks and candle clocks
  • Ten vessels and figures for drinking parties
  • Ten pitchers and basins
  • Ten fountains that change their shape and perpetual flutes
  • Five machines for raising water
  • Five dissimilar devices such as the palace door in Diyarbakir, a measuring device, and a combination lock.

Each device is accompanied by explanations and beautiful drawings.

Dr. Donald R. Hill, who translated and annotated the book wrote:

” It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of al-Jazari’s work in the history of engineering. Until modern times there is no other document from any cultural area that provides a comparable wealth of instructions for the design, manufacture, and assembly of machines… Al-Jazari did not only assimilate the techniques of his non-Arab and Arab predecessors, he was also creative. He added several mechanical and hydraulic devices. The impact of these inventions can be seen in the later designing of steam engines and internal combustion engines, paving the way for automatic control and other modern machinery. The impact of al-Jazari’s inventions is still felt in modern contemporary mechanical engineering.”

When my friend Dr. Oved Kedem was retiring, I looked for a suitable parting gift to a person who likes science, history of science and sees science as a fundamental part of our culture and society. I found the book of al-Jazari and fell under its spell. There is almost no material about al Jazari, and his book, in Hebrew and this blog hopes to publish regularly one of the machines of al-Jazari with simple explanations of the way it works and, if possible, its place in the development of technology. I am especially interested in what we can learn from the book about al-Jazari as a person and the society in the twelfth century in Diyarbakir.

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