Groundbreaking Exhibition Explains Why the Dark Ages Weren’t Really Dark
After blockbuster runs in London and Istanbul, 1001 Inventions, an exhibition highlighting the scientific legacy of Muslim civilization in our modern age, will make its United States premiere at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) on December 4, 2010. The exhibition reveals the forgotten history of men and women from a variety of faiths and backgrounds whose contributions to the advancement of scholarship and technology during the Middle Ages helped pave the way for the European Renaissance. This period of history from the seventh through 17th centuries is commonly — though, often erroneously — referred to as the “Dark Ages.”
The exhibition is introduced by a short film, The Library of Secrets, which stars Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley as the Turkish engineer, Al-Jazari. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 20-foot replica of Al-Jazari’s “elephant clock,” which dates to the 13th century. Other signature elements include a model of a ninth century flying machine and a scale model of a Chinese junk ship built in the 15th century. Divided into seven zones, 1001 Inventions includes more than 60 interactive exhibits that delve into discoveries that shaped the home, school, market, hospital, town, world and universe. Visitors will learn when scientists first discovered how we see, how ancient approaches to health influence modern medicine, why East and West share so much architectural heritage, and the origins of everyday items like coffee, toothbrushes, soap, and much more.
“Science is a universal language that has a unique power to pull people together. This exhibition reveals fascinating bits of history and a shared scientific inheritance,” said Dr. Margaret Honey, President and CEO of NYSCI. “1001 Inventions is about scholarship, inspiration and discovery among men and women from many cultures, making NYSCI an ideal venue for the U.S. debut — a hands-on science and technology center in the most diverse city in the country.”
Professor Salim Al-Hassani, Chairman of 1001 Inventions, said, “The New York Hall of Science is the first U.S. venue to host this global exhibition. We’re privileged to be working with such an accomplished and respected educational institution. The 1001 Inventions exhibition has had phenomenal success in London and Istanbul, with audiences of more than 400,000 people visiting the exhibition in each city. We look forward with great anticipation to the U.S. segment of our global tour.”
During the Middle Ages, Muslim civilization stretched from southern Spain, across the Middle East, as far as China. 1001 Inventions highlights how science has always been a truly global endeavour, by introducing visitors to European, African, Jewish, Arab, Persian, Indian, Chinese and Turkish pioneers who furthered scientific and technological understanding of our world during this thousand-year time frame. Their work is a legacy that has influenced future generations, right up to today. Among them are:
- Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham), the Arab polymath who invented the camera obscura during the 10th century. He was the first to provide a scientific explanation for the process of vision. Recognised as the “Father of Optics,” he pioneered the scientific method still used by scientists and academics today.
- Maimonides (Musa ibn Maymun), the 12th century Jewish physician and philosopher from Cordoba, Spain, who was an acknowledged expert in the subjects of medicine and logic.
- Zheng He (Cheng Ho), the Chinese general of the 14th and 15th centuries who built wooden ships bigger than football fields and voyaged to new worlds — including, some suggest, the Americas.
- Al-Jazari, the Turkish Master Engineer whose 12th century inventions include the crank mechanisms used in every plane, train and automobile.
- Piri Reis, the Turkish Admiral and cartographer, who created one of the oldest surviving map of the Americas in the 16th century.
- Abbas ibn Firnas, the first man to fly, who launched his flying machine over the Spanish city of Cordoba more than 1,000 years before the Wright brothers took to the sky.
- Fatima Al-Fihri, the North African heiress who, in 859 CE, founded the world’s first modern university, which is still in operation today.
- Al-Jahiz, the eighth century African biologist who first developed the theories of evolution and introduced the world to concepts like natural selection, the food chain and animal psychology a thousand years before Darwin was born.
- Al-Khwarizmi, the ninth century Persian mathematician who invented algebra.
The academics behind the 1001 Inventions initiative include an international network of historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Following its run at NYSCI, which ends in April 2011, 1001 Inventions will move to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and then to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
“The 1001 Inventions exhibition’s international tour is sponsored by ALJ Community Initiatives (ALJCI), which is a philanthropic organization renowned for supporting poverty-alleviation programs, artistic and educational projects, and technology innovation grants, including a long history of scholarships for MIT students at MIT. Fady Jameel of ALJCI commented, “We have a long history of supporting educational and artistic endeavors in the U.S. and Europe. Through our sponsorship of 1001 Inventions we aim to provide the role models that will inspire generations of young people, of many diverse backgrounds, to explore the possibility of becoming science and technology entrepreneurs.”
Admission to 1001 Inventions is free with regular NYSCI admission ($11 adults, $8 children and seniors.) Purchase advance tickets and learn about special group tours at www.nysci.org/1001.
Media previews will be scheduled for the week of November 29. To arrange a tour of the exhibit or schedule an interview with Dr. Honey or Professor Al-Hassani, contact:
Daisy Okas, Widmeyer Communications
Dan Wempa, New York Hall of Science
718-699-0005 ext. 351
Ibrahim Badawood, Director, ALJ Community Initiatives
About 1001 Inventions
1001 Inventions is a global educational initiative that promotes awareness of scientific and cultural achievements from the ‘Golden Age’ of Muslim civilization and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world.
The purpose of the 1001 Inventions initiative is to engage with the public through diverse educational media in order to highlight the shared cultural and technological inheritance of humanity. The 1001 Inventions global touring exhibition and educational products that accompany it all highlight the scientific and technological achievements made by men and women, of different faiths and cultures, who lived in or are connected with the Muslim civilization.
Originally funded by the British government and launched in the United Kingdom in 2006, 1001 Inventions was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC). FSTC is a British based non-profit, international network of the world’s leading academics with expertise in the history of science and technology. Both 1001 Inventions and FSTC are non-religious, apolitical organizations and have received support from various arms of the British government, the Wellcome Trust, the British Science Association and ALJ Community Initiatives, which is the global sponsor of the touring exhibition.
About New York Hall of Science
NYSCI is New York’s center for hands-on fun and learning with more than 450 exhibits, science demonstrations, and programs for families, students and teachers. NYSCI conveys the excitement and understanding of science and technology by galvanizing curiosity and offering creative, participatory ways to learn.
Founded at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, NYSCI has developed into a leading content provider and presenter of exhibitions and programs that demystify our world and encourage curiosity, creativity, critical thinking and discovery.
About ALJ Community Initiatives
ALJCI is the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the ALJ Group, which is a Toyota automobiles distributor in 13 different countries. ALJCI plans and operates numerous global programs, such as poverty-alleviation initiatives, artistic and educational projects and technology innovation grants, including a long history of scholarships for students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.