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European science. The institutional aspects of Islamic science are onlybeginning to be studied with scholarly rigor, and nothing like a full his-torical survey exists for the Islamic case.Furthermore, the field divides into two divergent interpretativeschools. One school argues for a “marginality” thesis, holding that thesecular, rational sciences inherited from Greek civilization—known inIslam as the “foreign” (aw’il) sciences—never became integrated intoIslamic culture, remaining only on the cultural margins, tolerated atbest, but never a fundamental part of Islamic society. The “assimila-tionist” school, on the other hand, contends that the foreign sciencesbecame woven into the fabric of Islamic life. Neither interpretationquite fits the facts, but the presentation favored here leans toward theTHE ENDURING EAST105Map6.2.Islam. Follow-ing the birth of Moham-medanism in the seventhcentury the Islamic con-quest stretched from theAtlantic Ocean almost tothe borders of China. Incapturing Egypt and theresources of the Nile, theforces of Islam dealt asevere blow to Byzantinecivilization.(opposite)
assimilationists, especially in tracing the institutional basis of Islamicscience and in recognizing a similarity between the social function ofscience in Islam and in other Eastern civilizations.Islamic scientific culture originated through the effort to master thelearning of more established civilizations, and that first required thetranslation of documents into Arabic. Given the early conquest of Jun-dishapur, Persian and Indian inﬂuences, rather than Greek, were moreinﬂuential in the early stages of Islamic civilization. Already in the 760s,for example, an Indian mission reached Baghdad to teach Indian sci-ence and philosophy and to aid in translations of Indian astronomicaland mathematical texts from Sanskrit into Arabic. Later, Muslim menof science traveled to India to study with Indian masters.In the following century, however, the translation movement cameto focus on Greek scientific works. The governing caliph in Baghdad,Al-Ma’mun, founded the House of Wisdom (the Bayt al-Hikma) in 832cespecifically as a center of translation and mastery of the secular for-eign sciences. Al-Ma’mun sent emissaries to collect Greek scientificmanuscripts from Byzantine sources for the House of Wisdom wherefamilies of scholar-translators, notably Ish¯aq ibn Hunayn and hisrelatives, undertook the Herculean task of rendering into Arabic theGreek philosophical and scientific tradition. As a result, virtually theentire corpus of Greek natural science, mathematics, and medicine wasbrought over into Arabic, and Arabic became the international lan-guage of civilization and science. Ptolemy’sAlmagest,for example—the very title, al-Mageste,is Arabic for “the greatest”—appeared in sev-eral translations in Baghdad early in the ninth century, as well asEuclid’sElements,several works of Archimedes, and many of Aristo-tle, beginning with his logical treatises. Aristotle became the intellec-