Pathfinders, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science, Jim al-Khalili celebrates the forgotten pioneers who helped shape our understanding of the world.

For over 700 years the international language of science was Arabic.

Surveying the golden age of Arabic science, Jim Al-Khalili reintroduces such figures as the Iraqi physicist Ibn al-Haytham, who practised the modern scientific method over half a century before Bacon; al-Khwarizmi, the greatest mathematician of the medieval world; and Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, a Persian polymath to rival Leonardo da Vinci. 'Jim Al-Khalili has a passion for bringing to a wider audience not just the facts of science but its history ...Just as the legacy of Copernicus and Darwin belongs to all of us, so does that of Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Haytham' Independent 'He has brought a great story out of the shadows' Literary Review 'His command of Arabic and mathematical physics invests his story with sympathy as well as authority' Guardian 'A fascinating and user-friendly guide' Sunday Telegraph 'This captivating book is a timely reminder of the debt owed by the West to the intellectual achievements of Arab, Persian and Muslim scholars' The Times Jim Al-Khalili OBE is Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds the first Surrey chair in the public engagement in science. He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication in 2007, elected Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and has also received the Institute of Physic's Public Awareness of Physics Award.

Born in Baghdad, Jim was educated in Iraq until the age of 16 and it was there, being taught by Arabic teachers in Arabic that he first heard and learnt about the great Arab scientists and philosophers.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of science
  • ISBN: 9780141038360

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Very interesting material, but the author protests too much. He spends at least as much time arguing about the relative values of western and arabic discoveries as he does telling us about the discoveries themselves.

Review by

An interesting book which rests on the authors special position an english trained physics professor who went to school in Iraq. Al-Khalili states the case for arabic science in the 8th-14th centuries (CE) by biographical sketches of the scholars involved. The term arabic rather than islamic is used since many of the leading scholars were not muslims, but wrote in arabic. The book relies mostly on secondary sources and is aimed at a popular rather than academic market.The main problem I have with this book is that it tends to become a list of scholars, indeed by the end this is exactly what it becomes -with an alphabetical appendix of short biographies. Also the biographies tend to become a list of 'ologies as the interests of the scholars are listed, astronomy, astrology, geography, mathematics etc. There is not enough details about what they actually did.However, the book is welcome for bringing to greater notice the great figures of arabic science. It also reads very well. It certainly will encourage me to find out more about these great scholars of the past.

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