What the Ancients Did for Us: The Islamic World (2005)
BBC, with Adam Hart-Davis
What the Ancients Did for Us is a 2005 BBC documentary series presented by Adam Hart-Davis that examines the impact of ancient civilizations on modern society. The series was produced in conjunction with the Open University and is a departure from the previous series not only in that each episode is an hour long rather than half an hour (though heavily edited half-hour versions have also been shown), but also in that it does not concentrate on a single period of history but rather one ancient civilization per episode including the Chinese, the Indians and the Greeks.
Episode one: The Islamic World
The Arab and Muslim world has had a profound and lasting influence on our life today, the list is long and full of surprises, but perhaps the most important thing that the Islamic Empire did for us is preserve, refine and improve all the knowledge left by the scholars of the ancients, and without that work by the Muslim scholars all of that knowledge might have been lost and our lives much the poorer.
This episode features reports from Zain in Egypt, Spain and France elaborated by demonstrations from Adam Hart Davis, Marty Jopson and expert guests that examine the ideas and inventions that emerged from the Islamic Golden Age.
* The Astrolabe, demonstrated to Hart-Davis, was used by Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi to develop Islamic astronomy and Islamic geography.
* Optical science was developed using a camera obscura, demonstrated by Hart-Davis, created by Ibn al-Haytham, an Iraqi physicist, while under house arrest.
* The windmill, demonstrated by Jopsom, originated in Afghanistan and was brought back to the West by the Crusaders.
* The House of Wisdom founded by al-Ma'mun translated and preserved the science and philosophy of the ancient Greeks.
* The grab, demonstrated by Jopsom, was designed by the Banu Musa brothers to pick things up from the seabed.
* The Alhambra, visited by Zain, features magnificent gravity-driven fountains in the finest example of early Islamic architecture.
* Etiquette, fashion and fine-dining were introduced in Andalusia, visited by Zain, by a freed slave Ziryab.
* Lusterware, demonstrated to Hart-Davis, was developed by early Muslim alchemists to create beautiful porcelain.
* Distillation, demonstrated by Jopsom, was developed by ibn Hayyan using the alembic to make perfume, petrol and alcohol.
* Soap making, demonstrated by Hart-Davis, introduced hard soap to the bathhouses of the Islamic World.
* The reciprocating piston suction pump, incorporating a crankshaft-connecting rod mechanism, invented by Al-Jazari, is demonstrated.
* The torpedo by the Syrian inventor Hasan al-Rammah is demonstrated.