The Age of Islam: 800 - 1200

This was the age when Islam, after the death of Mohammed, came to dominance and served as a means of preserving the classical learning, and advancing it in various ways. There was much religious turmoil, part of the Dark Ages in Europe. Towards the end of this age the thoughts of Islamic scholars such as Ghazali turned to theology, while some European travellers, like Gerard and Fibonacci brought Islamic learning to Europe.

Colour coding: red = mathematics, astronomy, physics orange = materials, chemistry, geology, engineering, architecture yellow = biology, medicine, exploration, anthropology, psychology green = visual art, printing blue = literature, poetry, music mauve = history, philosophy, metaphysics, theology grey = wars, politics, events (indented)


800: First use of bow and arrow in Mississippi valley.

c.801 - 873 Abu Yusef Yaqoub ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi polymath who helped translate Greek texts such as those of Aristotle, Archimedes, and Ptolemy and wrote extensive commentary on them, wrote extensively on astrology, believing in the physical action of stars and planets on Earth, maintained that space and time must be finite, since infinity leads to paradoxes. M @ W @

al-Mamun 7th caliph (ruled 813-833) organised a House of Wisdom in Baghdad that included a library and observatory, with another at Tadmor in Syria, measured obliquity of ecliptic and precession of the equinoxes. @

826 - 901 Thabit ibn Qurra Translated works od Apollonius, Archimedes, Euclid and Ptolemy. Made an accurate determination of the sidereal year, to within 2 seconds. W

840 China: paper money invented.


848 - 899 Alfred "The Great". King of Wessex, and considered the first King of England. Translated: Cura Pastoralis by Gregory the Great a manual of instruction for clergy. Historia Adversus Pagonos by Paulus Orosius, a textbook of universal history. A version of De Consolatione Philosophiae by Boethius, and of the Soliloquiae by Augustine of Hippo. He also supported the translation of a shortened version of Bede's Historia and may have helped plan the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles which bagan during his reign. @

d.c.910 Asser a Welsh monk, friend, teacher adn advisor of King Alfred from 887. Wrote De Rebus Gestis Aelfredi Magni, a biography of Alfred up to 887.

853 - 929 al-Battani aka Albategnius, astronomer who calculated accurate values for the length of the year, precession of equinoxes, and inclination of Earth's axis, his work is cited by Copernicus. W

868 Wang Jie, publisher of the Diamond Sutra, earliest dated printed book (actually a scroll, printed in 7 parts from carved wooden blocks). W

c.870 - c.950 al Farabi musician and philosopher. W

880 - 946 Abu-Bakr Muhammad ben Yahya as-Suli shatranj (chess) expert, gave solutions to the knight's tour problem. W @


900: Decline of Maya civilisation: Toltecs control most of Central America.

906 - 960 China: Five dynasties.

910 - 1171: Fatimid dynasty, conquer Egypt 969.

918: Koryo dynasty in Korea (to 1392)

c.935 - c.1010 Aelfric known as Grammaticus, studied with the Benedictine order at Winchester. Taught at Cerne Abbey. Translated Bede's de Temporibus. Wrote a Grammar, Glossary and Colloquy for teaching Latin. The latter consists of dialogues between teacher and pupils, who adopt the characters of working people and describe their lives, thus giving a picture of everyday life. Became Abbot of Eynsham.

c.940 - c.1000 Ibn Sahl First to publish the accurate law of refraction of light in On Burning Mirrors and Lenses 984, which he used to derive lens shapes to avoid distortion. W


c.950 - 1009 Ibn Yunus astronomer, published al-Zij al-Hakimi al-Kabir(Astronomical Handbook) and Kitab ghayat al-intifa' (Book of Useful Tables). @ @

962 - 1186: Ghaznevid dynasty (??)

965 - 1040 Ibn Al-Haytham aka Alhazen, physicist who studied light and vision in Kitab-al-Manadhir (Book of Optics). W M @ @

980 - 1037 Ibn Sina aka Avicenna, physician and philosopher. @

c.995 - c.1033 Guido d'Arezzo Italy 1030, Micrologos, pioneered improved music notation, including "sol-fa" naming the notes of the scale with syllables from plainchant, and use of a parallel lines forming a "stave".


1000 Sei Shonagon, lady in waiting to Emperor Sadako of Japan, starts to compile her Pillow Book diary with observations of contemporary life.

1,000: Leif Eriksson reaches North America
1,000: Easter Island statues start to be made. New Zealand settled by Polynesians.

1005: A second House of Wisdom was established in Cairo which lasted ubtil 1171. @

1022: Japan: Lady Murasaki writes novel The Tale of Genji.

1027 - 1087 William of Normandy, 'the Conqueror', leads Norman invasion of England 1066, Domesday Book compiled 1086.

1,028: Canute extends rule from Denmark and England to Norway.

1033 - 1109 Anselm theologian known for ontological proof of god. @ W

1041 China: Bi Sheng Printing with moveable clay type. W

c.1048 - c.1122 [1141 ?] Omar Khayyam Persian mathematician, astronomer said to have made calendar reforms, and poet, The Rubaiyat. M W @


1054 Chinese and American Indian astronomers observe the Crab supernova explosion which formed the Crab nebula. W @

1054: The East-West Schism: Formal division of Christianity into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches. These later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. W

1055 - 1200: North Africa dominated by Almoravids then Almohads (??)

1058 - 1111 al Ghazali theologian, Deliverance from Error, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, blamed by some for the decline in philosophy in Islam in favour of theology. @ F W @

1066: Norman invasion of England, Battle of Hastings, William Duke of Normandy defeats King Harold.

b.1071 Guillaume Count of Poitiers, the first troubadour whose songs survive.

1075 - 1160 Adelard of Bath traveller and scholar, translated a work of al Khwarismi, and an edition of Euclid, into Latin. F M

1079 - 1142 Peter Abelard philosopher, Historia Calamitatum autobiography, Logica and Dialectica @ @ W @ F @

1120 An observatory was begun at the House of Wisdom in Cairo but ordered destroyed by the caliph in 1125, [K. Krisciunus 1999] (and its builder executed, for "communicating with Saturn", according to the second source here). @


1190: Mongol conquests begin.

1090 - 1153 Bernard of Clairvaux founder of Cistercian order, prosecuted Abelard for heresy, preached the second crusade. W @

1093 - 1167 Abraham ibn Ezra Hebrew writer on grammar, astrology and biblical criticism. W

1095 - 1291: Crusades. The first Crusade captured Jerusalem 1,099.

1098 - 1179 Hildegard of Bingen poet and composer.


1101 - 1162 Heloise Letter to Abelard. W F

c.1114 - 1185 Bhaskara II, Indian mathematician, introduced preliminary concepts of calculus.

c.1114 - 1187 Gerard of Cremona. Translated 87 works from Arabic to Latin, including editions of Euclid's Elements, Ptolemy's Almagest and Al Khwarizmi's Algebra. W

1126 - 1198 Ibn Rushd, aka Averroes. Physician and philosopher, The Incoherence of 'the Incoherence' is a rationalist response to Ghazali's mysticism. W

c.1135-1201 Léonin. Notre Dame, Paris, beginnings of polyphonic music.

1138 - 1193 Salah al Din, aka Saladin. W


c.1160 - 1205 Pérotin. Paris, continues polyphonic music.

1160 - 1216 Lotario de Conti aka Innocent III, became Pope 1198, Papal Letters authorised the fourth crusade 1198 and fifth crusade 1215, and the Albigensian crusade against the Cathar heresy (1209-1255). @ W @ @ F F F F W @

1162 - 1227 Genghis Khan Founder and first ruler of the Mongol empire, covering central Asia and China. W

1162: Thomas Becket Chancellor, becomes Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered by knights of Henry II in 1170.

1167 - 1216 King John forced to sign Magna Carta 1215. @ @ W

c.1170 - 1221 Dominic de Guzman. Founder of the Dominican order, fourth Lateran council 1215, associated with the inquisition. @ @ @

1170 - 1250 Leonardo of Pisa aka Fibonacci. Liber Abbaci 1202 and 1228 introduced Hindu decimal numerals, for use in conjunction with the Abacus, in place of the Roman numerals then in use in Europe. The important series now known by his name appears in a problem about breeding rabbits. Practica Geometriae 1220, Liber Quadratorum and Flos 1225, solved some quadratic and cubic equations. M @

1175 - 1253 Robert Grosseteste. W

1181 - 1226 Francis of Assisi aka Giovanni Bernadone founder of the Franciscan order, Canticle of Brother Sun @ W @ F

1192: Blondel troubadour, friend of King Richard the Lionheart, rescued him from imprisonment in Austria.

1194 - 1250 Frederick Hohenstaufen. King of Sicily 1198, Emperor Frederick II 1220, led crusade 1228-9, wrote on falconry, patron of science and arts. W

In the late 1st millennium and early 2nd millennium, the Arabs dominated the trade routes in the Indian Ocean, East Asia, and the Sahara; Arabs and Jews dominated trade in the Mediterranean. ??