Science and Technology

What was the Islamic Empire and where was it located?

The Islamic Empire was one of the largest empires of the world during its time. The Islamic Empire refers to the lands and territory controlled by the caliphates established after the death of Muhammad, which spread under the rule of the caliphs until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the medieval era.

The Islamic Empire mostly covered the Middle East, Eastern Europe and parts of North Africa.The Islamic Empire was divided into multiple territories, which were ruled over by a single caliphate.

The word caliphate refers to both an Islamic region and the government which controls it. Each caliphate had its own capital cities – and usually, these changed every couple of hundred years. These capital cities were often the hubs of major scientific and technological development.

What was the Golden Age of Islam?

The Golden Age of Islam was a time of huge development for the early Islamic world. There were a great number of scientific, technological and cultural advances in this period (790 – 1258 A.D.), and Arabic art and architecture reached heights which had never been seen before.

The Golden Age of Islam was like the renaissance of Europe, a time of great progress for society which saw huge steps forward in nearly every sector.

Due to the Islamic merchants who travelled across the world to sell their wares, the ideas of the Golden Age of Islam spread far and wide, and formed the basis for many scientific systems that are still in place today. The fields affected by this include mathematics, medicine, philosophy, and architecture.

How did mathematics develop in the Islamic Empire?

Many important mathematical concepts were invented or further developed in the Islamic Empire, including algebra, calculus, and trigonometry. Calculus and trigonometry, in particular, have deeply Islamic roots.

Trigonometry is a system of mathematics which revolves around triangles, and is used commonly in architecture, art, engineering, and design. Calculus is used in complex equations, and is important to sectors such as the field of mathematics, finance, and various sciences.

Geometric patterns

Using the work of Greek mathematicians, Islamic scholars also made great progress in having algebra recognized as a school of mathematics. In fact, the name “algebra” comes from the Islamic word “al-jabr” which means “the reunion of broken parts.”

How did medicine develop in the Islamic Empire?

The world’s first major medical encyclopedia, the Canon of Medicine, was published originally in the Islamic Empire, and its use as a medical textbook later spread across Europe and Asia. The author of the Canon of Medicine was named Ibn Sina.

The Canon of Medicine, printed in Venice 1595

The Islamic Empire also popularized the idea of public healthcare. Doctors of the Islamic Empire had to attend medical school before being allowed to treat patients, and most major Islamic cities had hospitals to treat the sick and wounded.

One of the most important cities of the ancient world was Cairo, which was famed for a both its religious importance and the advanced healthcare facilities found there. The idea of highly specialized doctors and easily available public healthcare was pioneered in the Islamic Empire.

How did the field of architecture develop in the Islamic Empire?

Certain styles of architecture can be traced almost exclusively to the Islamic Empire. Because the religion of Islam forbids the worship and the depiction of any idols, geometric and arabesque art saw great development in the ancient Islamic world.

Arabesque artwork uses images of interconnected leaves and other plants to create a beautiful, patterned image.

Arabesque artwork was used primarily in the decoration of mosques and other holy spaces, but ceramics and carpets with arabesque patterns were heavily traded items in countries outside of the Islamic Empire as well.

Architecture developed in the Islamic Empire through the construction of its mosques, a kind of structure which spread through the world like wildfire as the number of Muslims in the world swelled.

Many of the world’s most beautiful architectural works originate from Islam, just as buildings like the Notre Dame originated from Christianity. Examples of this include the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in India.

Facts about the Science and Technology of the Islamic Empire:

  • The Golden Age of Islam was a time of huge development for the early Islamic world. There were a great number of scientific, technological and cultural advances in this period (790 – 1258 A.D.)
  • The field of mathematics developed greatly during the Golden Age of Islam.
  • Concepts like algebra, calculus, and trigonometry were either invented or developed further by Islamic mathematicians, laying the groundwork for what would become modern mathematics.
  • Public healthcare was first popularized by the Islamic Empire, and some Islamic hospitals – e.g., the hospital of Cairo – were among the most renowned in the world during the medieval era.
  • The world’s first major medical encyclopedia, the Canon of Medicine, was written in the Islamic Empire. This book had a huge impact on the science of healthcare.
  • The field of architecture also some great development during this period.
  • The design philosophy of mosques encouraged new methods of building in Europe, and taught European engineers new styles which allowed for sturdier structures and more reliable homes to be built.
  • The field of astronomy also developed greatly during the Golden Age of Islam. Important pieces of technology such as the astrolabe were first created in the Middle East, before spreading later into Europe. This astronomic technology saw great use in the medieval Age of Exploration.


  1. What was the Golden Age of Islam?

– A time of great cultural, scientific, technological development in the Islamic Empire.

  1. Name four fields which saw great development during the Golden Age of Islam.

– Medicine, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy.

  1. What was the name of the medical textbook which was first written in the Middle East, and later spread throughout Europe and Asia?

– The Canon of Medicine.

  1. The design philosophy of which type of building encouraged new methods of architecture in Europe?

– The mosque.

  1. Name one piece of technology invented in the Middle East which saw use in the Age of Exploration.

– The astrolabe.