History of Science

Why does Ayatollah Khamenei recommend everyone to read Rousseau's "History of Science"?

You should take a look at the book "The History of Science" written by Pierre Rousseau. In this book he says, "Around four, five centuries ago, a merchant pays a visit to a professor in a European country. The merchant says, ‘I want my child to go to school. Which school should I send him to?' The professor responds, ...you should send him to Andalusia or to Islamic regions.'"

Superior knowledge in the hands of the Muslims: Rousseau in “History of science”

Acquiring knowledge from other people does not mean that we should remain their students forever. This is not what it means. What it means is that we are their students today and we will be their teachers tomorrow, as they were our students one day and are our teachers today. Westerners acquired knowledge from us. You should take a look at the book "The History of Science" written by Pierre Rousseau. In this book he says, "Around four, five centuries ago, a merchant pays a visit to a professor in a European country. The merchant says, ‘I want my child to go to school. Which school should I send him to?' The professor responds, ‘If you are satisfied with the four basic operations - addition, multiplication, subtraction and division - you can send him to any school in our country or any school in other European countries. But if you want your son to learn something beyond that, you should send him to Andalusia or to Islamic regions.'"

 

This is what Pierre Rousseau writes. This is not what I say. The Crusades helped them learn from us. The immigration of their scholars to Islamic regions helped them learn from us. The immigration of our scholars to western territories and the transfer of our books to their countries helped them learn from us. One day, they were learning from us and they were our students. Later on, they became our teachers. In the present time, we are learning from them and we are their students. But later on, we will be their teachers. Therefore, the research-oriented generation of our country should know that if westerners are superior to us in scientific areas, we can do something to make them learn from us in a not too distant future and this can be done with your diligence and determination.

 

Ayatollah Khamenei, 07/07/2004

 

Ayatollah Khamenei’s account of Rousseau’s story of two European merchants discussing best universities of the world located in Andalusia

I would like to quote something from George Sarton. When others say something, people accept it more easily than when we ourselves say it! This is why I am quoting him, otherwise I am not used to quoting sentences from westerners. George Sarton – who has written a history of science, a well-known book that has been translated and published and that all of you have probably read – says, “Iranian scholars have played the most important role in this civilization. When we remove the works of Iranian scholars from this collection, we have actually removed the most beautiful part.” Sarton is a scientific historian. There is another quotation from Pierre Rousseau who has also written a history of science. This book has been translated into Farsi many years ago and it is available to everyone. I am quoting him from memory because I saw his book many years ago and I cannot quote the exact words. I saw his book many years ago. I wanted to refer to and read it again, but I did not have the time. Despite this, I have written down the reference. I remember that I have written down the reference somewhere so that I know where exactly he has said it. 

 

In this book, he quotes the conversation between a European – Italian or French – merchant and a scientific expert in those days. This has happened in the Middle Ages. The merchant wants to consult with the expert and says to him, “I want my child to study and become a scholar. Which country and university should I send him to?” The expert answers, “If you are satisfied with the four basic mathematic operations, you can send him to whichever European universities that you like. It makes no difference, but if you want something beyond that, you should send him to Andalusia.” At that time, Andalusia was in Muslims’ hands. This is the history of knowledge in Islam. The former is related to Iran and the latter is related to Islam.

We have such a history. We have such a legacy, whether in the Islamic or in the Iranian environment. Of course, I should add that – I hope that this will not be interpreted as tribalism and nationalism – Iran is the peak of thought and knowledge production among Islamic countries. We know no other country that has such great personalities. For example, there are numerous philosophers in Iran who are like al-Kindi – and al-Kindi is only one among many philosophers – and other such personalities. So, even if we speak about the history of Islamic knowledge, Iran will still be number one. This is our legacy. This is our past. This is our history. 

November 11, 2015

Rousseau categorizing Islamic Science into eras of Iranian Muslim scientists

From the beginning, we were introduced in out text books to ancient Greek scientists such as Thales of Miletus or other western scientists in the fields of geometry, chemistry, etc.; so was true about other western scientists up to our time. However, we did not know about our own scientists as much as, let’s say, historians like George Sarton or Pierre Rousseau—whose books I read about 30 or 40 years ago; Pierre Rousseau’s book is on history of science— knew about them and they even categorized different eras of Islamic science into eras of Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, etc.!

2006-08-14

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  • islamic science
  • Islamic Society
  • Science

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