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of the eye and the anatomy and physiology of vision. Although not aphysician, the great Islamic physicist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen, 965–1040) worked in Egypt and wrote on eye diseases. His Opticsis onlythe best known and most inﬂuential of a series of Islamic scientificworks—many with an experimental approach—concerned with vision,refraction, the camera obscura, burning mirrors, lenses, the rainbow,and other optical phenomena.Physicians enjoyed high public regard, and many Muslims who madescientific and philosophic contributions earned their living as courtphysicians or court-appointed administrators and legal officials. Forexample, Averroës (Ibn Rushd, 1126–98), known as “The Commen-tator” on Aristotle, worked as a court physician and religious jurist inSpain. The Islamic polymath Avicenna (Ibn S¯ın¯a), renowned as the“Galen of Islam,” accepted patronage as a physician in various courtsin order to pursue philosophy and science. The noted Jewish philoso-pher and savant Moses Maimonides (Musa ibn Maymun, 1135–1204)acted as physician to the sultan at Cairo. In a word, court patronageprovided institutionalized positions where physician-scientists couldmaster and extend the secular sciences, and court positions afforded adegree of insulation from the dominant religious institutions and thesupremacy of religious law in Islamic society at large.Closely associated with courts and the patronage of rulers, a highlydeveloped tradition of Islamic alchemy involved many scientists. Al-chemy ranked among the sciences, being derived from Aristotle’s mat-ter theory. In the search for elixirs of immortality, Islamic alchemy alsoseems to have been inﬂuenced by Chinese alchemy, and it likewise sub-sumed work on mineralogy, which showed Indian and Iranian inﬂu-ences. Alchemy was a secret art, and adepts attributed some 3,000alchemical texts to the founder of Islamic alchemy, the ninth-centuryfigure J¯abir ibn Hayy¯an, known as “Geber” in the Latin West. On onelevel, no doubt the one most appreciated by patrons, the transforma-tion of base metals into gold and the creation of life-giving elixirs rep-resented the goals of alchemy. To many practitioners, however, Islamicalchemy became a highly intellectual endeavor that primarily involvedthe spiritual refinement of the individual alchemist. In pursuing theirscience, Islamic alchemists invented new equipment and perfected newtechniques, including distillation. Residues of Islamic alchemy remainin Arabic-derived terms, such as the word alchemyitself,alcohol, alkali,andalembic.Indeed, in such terms as algebra, azimuth, algorithm,anda host of others, the language of science to this day maintains the lin-guistic imprint of Arabic and the history of Islamic science.The sheer institutional density of Islamic science accounts for someTHINKING AND DOING112
of its achievements and characteristics. Scholars and scientists staffedschools, libraries, mosques, hospitals, and especially observatories withtheir teams of astronomers and mathematicians. The opportunities and