Ancient Islamic astronomy ideas yet to be revealed


A comet landing this week delayed this posting! The compelling live stream of this historic event was preceded by an equally persuasive, eye-opening event in Adelaide, South Australia, last week.

However, allow us to now introduce you to Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla.

Dr Abdalla’s address was mind-blowing.

When you stop and think about the rapid growth in astronomical knowledge in the last 10-15 years, it’s due to exponential leaps in technological improvements. For thousands of years before this century, astronomers who spoke languages like Latin, Greek, English, German and so on, truly ruled on the astronomy discoveries front.

That’s because these languages could be readily translated and communicated across national borders of the day. International exchanges, however, were limited.

In the speech delivered by Dr Abdalla, in the Physics Building, University of Adelaide, hosted by the Astronomical Society of South Australia, Dr Abdalla said that contemporary astronomical knowledge could very well be missing a wealth of knowledge that could be attributed to ancient Arabic astronomers.

The astounding revelation is that translations of ancient Arabic  research indicates some Islamic astronomers may have progressed famous scientific concepts in periods that pre-date the accepted Western dates of these discoveries!

Dr Abdalla discussed the interconnectedness of Islam and Western astronomical knowledge. Could it be that the Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, was influenced in his theories by early Islamic astronomical theories?

The slow understanding of non-Western ancient civilisations’ contributions to astronomical knowledge is due to a lack of human skills – skills necessary to translate ancient writings eg from Islamic astronomers.

Dr Abdalla proposed that such translation services may be a distant dream as the ability to combine the perfect skills needed, that is, a deep understanding and knowledge of astronomy, mathematics and languages, would be hard enough to identify. However, if these skills could be identified, then one in possession of such perfectly aligned skills would need to be youngish and prepared to devote a lifetime to the task, as there is so much Islamic material to be translated!

The name of Dr Abdalla’s address was “Islamic Astronomy and the Copernican Revolution”. The prospect of interconnectedness of ancient Islamic knowledge with ancient Polish knowledge gives rise to the suggestion that Copernicus may indeed have been guided by Islamic astronomical knowledge when he bravely put forward his model of the universe that put the Sun, and not Earth, at the centre of the world. Use your favourite search engine to gain a simple explanation of the term “Copernican Revolution”.

Given the weight of intellect that was in opposition to Copernicus’ theories, it’s no wonder he waited until he was on his death bed before releasing his epic research and thoughts on the “heliocentric model”.

Thank you ASSA for bringing the speaker, Dr Abdalla, to Adelaide, and thank you Dr Abdalla for opening our eyes and treading boldly into a topic that is yet to be fully explored and understood!