The islamic golden age
Let's first get an overview of the era:
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western Europe dropped into an age of darkness. Yet, the intellectual tradition of Greece and Rome survived in the Middle East, during the Islamic Golden Age, starting in the 8th century.
The masterminds behind this golden age were the caliphs Harun al-Rashid and his son Al-Mamun, who both had a great love for knowledge, especially knowledge from ancient Greece.
Their most important contribution was the creation of the House of Wisdom (see the image on the left), which became an international center for learning, attracting Muslim, Jewish, Christian and pagan scholars
algebra and machines
Al-Khwarizmi became the first to turn algebra into a mature subject. In fact, the word algebra comes from the arabian word al-jabr.
Al-Jarazi built complicated machines with many moving parts. The image on the right depicts his water pump, which used double piston to suck and push water upwards.
Al-Haytham's book on optics is regarded to be the first proper science textbook in history, as it proved its claims by experimental demonstration. He wrote:
"The seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and puts his trust in them, but rather the one who questions what he gathers from them and the one who submits to argument and demonstration."
When Europe discovered these works in the Middle Ages, they were so in awe of the Islamic civilization, that they often used Arabic pseudonyms to give their own writing more authority.
Meet ibn sina
Now let's see this period through the eyes of an individual:
The great polymath Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna), wrote one of the first autobiographies in world history, suggesting his confidence in his own talents and importance. He proudly wrote:
"[The caliph] gave me permission [to enter his libary]; in each room there were chests of books piled one on top of the other. [Each room had books on] a single science. I saw books whose names had not reached very many people and which I had not seen before that time, nor have I seen since. I read these books and mastered what was useful in them, so when I had reached the age of eighteen I was finished with all of these sciences."