Friday, September 24, 2010

MOSTI (Museum of Science and Technology in Islam) at KAUST

September 23, 2010 was not only Saudi National Day but also the first anniversary of the Inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology-- KAUST.  In honour of that anniversary I wanted to share here one of the many aspects of the university which I hold in high regard. The Museum of Science and Technology in Islam, MOSTI, which is based at KAUST, is a science and technology museum as I like them--high on history, and the "humanities-style" sciences and technologies, like art, architecture, tiles, and textiles.

It is well organized with interesting displays, themselves reflecting the latest in technology: touch screens, moving plasma screens, multi-touch tables, flipbooks, automated scale models and interactive videos.

The website offers an excellent glimpse into the Museum, and includes a virtual tour, for those of us unable to visit--yet.

The introductory video below gives a brief and beautiful explanation of the vision and purpose of MOSTI.

The next brief video gives an overview of the Museum and its innovative and interactive exhibits, emphasizing the celebration of the Golden Age of Islam with a view to the present and future.

The Goals of the Museum--"To raise public awareness of Islamic contribution to science and technology; To educate and enrich public knowledge; To inspire new inventions and scientific achievements"--are partially fulfilled by the website itself, but of course, more so by the Museum activities, including scholarship and conferences; and by the activities of the University itself. The multiple exhibits of the Museum fit within the 3 main academic departments of KAUST: Chemical Life Sciences and Engineering; Material Sciences and Engineering; Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences.

What lovely things they have done with all of that Engineering and Computation! The Museum is organized into 9 clusters: Introductory, 7 technical and scientific ones, Exit. Some of my favourite photos and topics  within the clusters follow.

The Introductory cluster introduces visitors to the theme, storyline and take-home message of the Museum. People are able to interact with a three-dimensional fly-through of the Museum. They then can view brief biographies of the most prominent Islamic scientists and inventors.
Also, visitors can learn the twelve reasons why Islamic science and technology flourished during the Golden Age of Islam from 650-1650. An interactive map can be viewed which shows the different ages of the Islamic world. Finally, an interactive Time Line provides a comprehensive overview of the development of Islamic science and technology.

Interactive fly-through
At the entrance door, visitors can view an interactive floor plan of the Museum in the form of a three-dimensional fly-through. This display explains the lay-out of the main clusters and the iconic exhibits in the Museum.

Giant interactive Time Line
The interactive multi-touch table Time Line (situated between the ‘Learning Institutions’ and ‘Astronomy and Navigation’ theaters) provides a comprehensive overview of the development of Islamic science and technology from 650 to 1650, with some recent highlights.

The Islamic World
Flipbook combined with a large plasma screen that shows how the Islamic world developed from pre-Islamic times to the present.
The following periods in the development of the Islamic world are portrayed:
* Before Islam: the Byzantine and Assamid Empires
* Birth of Islam
* Islam expands: ca 800 CE
* Islamic territories in the 9th century but lost by the 15th century
* Islamic territories in the 9th century and still Islamic by the 15th century
* Islamic territory gained from the 9th to the 16th centuries
* Trade routes on land and sea
* Islamic expansion in Africa by 1800
* Emergence of independent Islamic states from 1922 onwards.

Al-Idrisi floor map
A replica of al-Idrisi’s famous 12th century world map, the most accurate at the time, is embedded in the floor at the entrance to the Museum.

Overview screen
A large back-projected screen shows images of the wide variety of contributions that Muslim scholars made to science and technology during the Golden Age of Islam (650-1650).

Meet the Polymaths
A display of open books tells the stories of 14 of the polymaths (scientists skilled in different fields) whose work is portrayed in the Museum. The 15th book describes Ibn al-Haitham’s contribution to the development of the scientific method.

Why did science flourish in Islam? This large sliding plasma screen display is one of the most important exhibits in the Museum. The display describes the twelve main reasons why Islamic science and technology flourished during the period 650-1650. The screen displays different texts and illustrations to describe each point.
In this exhibit, the following 12 reasons explain why Islamic science has flourished:
* Positive influence of the Islamic faith and the Islamic way of life on the stable and sustained development of Islamic society
* First use of Arabic numerals, zero and the decimal point, and the introduction of modern arithmetic
* Translation and understanding the work of ancient scholars from China, India, Egypt and Greece
* A wide range of learning institutions that were developed during the Golden Age of Islam. These learning institutions included mosques, madrasahs, teaching hospitals and houses of wisdom to name but a few. They were also combined with the ethic of lifelong learning and passing your knowledge onto future generations
* Universal use of the Arabic language, at all levels of society, throughout the Islamic world
* The vast extent of the Islamic world at its peak, from Spain in the west to China and India in the east, southwards into Africa and northwards into eastern Europe
* Extensive travels undertaken by Muslim people, on their pilgrimages, for trade, exploration and research
* Strong support of religious and political leaders and rich patrons
* Development of advanced paper-making skills and the production of books
* Respect with which scholars were treated in Islamic society
* Strong ethos of innovation in Islamic culture
* Development and practice of the scientific method from Jabir ibn Hayyan in the 9th century onwards

The role of mathematics and art in Islamic architecture is examined through interactive exhibits and models. Famous examples of arabesque and geometric art, and architectural masterpieces, are also presented.

Models of examples of iconic Islamic architecture
Four glass cabinets contain accurate scale models of four examples of iconic Islamic architecture:
* Madrasah of al-Mustansiriyya
* Sultan Bayezid II Külliyesi in Erdine, Turkey
* The Court of the Lions at Alhambra, Granada, Spain
* The Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.

Forms and Elements in Islamic Architecture
Muslim architects developed a wide variety of new forms for use in their buildings.

Masterpieces of Islamic Architecture
Some of the many examples of Islamic architectural masterpieces are showcased in this touch screen display.

Arabesque in Islamic Art and Architecture
This display explores the way in which the picturesque arabesque has been used in Islamic architecture and art.

The Golden Ratio
This fascinating interactive touch screen display explores the use of the Golden Mean and Fibonacci numbers in Islamic Art and Architecture as well as in nature.

The way in which Muslim mathematicians lead the development of arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry and algebra is explored in exciting interactive exhibits and games. In one game, the visitor compares the efficiency of doing arithmetic using Arabic, Babylonian and Roman numerals.

Mathematics in Astronomy
This display comprises a replica of a famous book on mathematics in astronomy by al-Tusi.

Development of Arabic numerals
The development of early Hindu numerals into ancient and modern Arabic numerals is shown in this display.

Different numeral systems
This interactive touch screen display helps you to understand how much easier it is to do arithmetic (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication) using modern Arabic numerals compared to ancient Babylonian or Roman numerals.

Al-Kindi and other early Islamic scholars had a very good grasp of mathematics, logic and language, and were the first to introduce complex encryption and decryption methods into cryptography, such as the Frequency Method.
Visitors are challenged to decode a simple encoded message.

Geometric art
Examples of Islamic geometric art are shown in this display.

A stunning Chemistry Object theater production, and series of interactive exhibits, examine the ways in which pioneering Muslim scholars initiated the transition from the mystical pursuit of alchemy to the development of modern quantitative chemistry, and eventually applied chemistry.

Chemistry Object Theater
The dramatic story of Islamic contributions to the development of chemistry is told through the lives of three famous scholars – Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Kindi and al-Razi. The story is told in a reconstruction of an ancient chemistry laboratory. Two videos, light and sound effects and illuminated objects all help to bring the story to life.

The development of alchemy is discussed in this static wall display.[Alchemy has a major place in literature]

The alembic still was perfected by Jabir ibn Hayyan and other early Muslim chemists. This static display shows the components of an alembic still and retort.

Herbal Medicine
This display to explore the wide variety of leaves, stems, roots, corms and flowers that were used by early Muslim herbalists to develop herbal medications.

The First Pharmacists
Early Muslim scholars had an excellent knowledge of medicinal plants, and were the first to open dispensing pharmacies in hospitals.

This display exhibits various semi-precious stones and gemstones that were discovered or developed by Muslim scholars.

This display exhibits materials associated with the mining and working of gold, and objects made from gold.

Geological Diversity
This static display shows black tourmaline, agate, amber, amazonite and emeraldine that were commonly used by Muslim chemists.

The Technology cluster showcases many of the amazing technological advances made by Muslim scholars and engineers. Working replicas of the giant Elephant Water Clock and Castle Clock of the famous Muslim engineer, al- Jazari, are displayed in this cluster. The exhibit has examples of innovative water-raising machines and ingenious mechanical devices.
Animated scale models of an ancient Wind Mill and Wind Tower demonstrate pioneering methods of harnessing the power of nature. A range of interactive exhibits and displays on trade, trade routes, commodities, currencies and economics trace the origins of industry in the Islamic world.

Elephant Water Clock
The Elephant Water Clock is an iconic example of one of al-Jazari’s pieces of fine technology. In addition to telling the time, it celebrates the universality of Islam by incorporating elements from Spain, Phoenicia, Egypt, Iraq, India and China.

Pinhole Camera
Ibn al-Haitham is widely regarded as the Father of Optics. Based on his study of the human eye, he created the first Pinhole Camera, which demonstrated that light travels in straight lines.

Robotic Man
One of the many robots or automatons that al-Jazari made for the Kings of Diyarbakr was the ‘Robotic Man’. This robot, which is modeled on a 12-year old boy, provides water, a towel and a comb for the King during his ablutions.

Water-raising devices
This dynamic scale model display depicts five famous water-raising devices made by Muslim engineers. These devices include al-Jazari’s Reciprocating Pump, One-Scoop Pump, Chain-of-Pots and Four-Scoop Pump, and Taqi al-Din’s Six-Cylinder Reciprocating Pump.

Combination Lock and Four-Bolt Lock
In addition to his iconic water clocks, al-Jazari made many, small useful devices for the Kings of Diyarbakr. This display shows his Combination Lock and Four-Bolt Door Lock.

Taqi al-Din's Steam Turbine
Taqi al-Din’s Steam Turbine is an advanced version of a turbine first made by Hero of Alexandria.

Wind Tower display
This large scale model shows how natural forces (the wind and cool water) were used to cool a building before modern air conditioners were invented.

Castle Clock
The Castle Clock is another example of one of al-Jazari’s famous Water Clocks. In this Clock, a ball drops from the falcons’ beaks into the vases, small doors open and close, a moon moves across the face of the Clock, and the musicians play their instruments every hour. The mechanism can be seen on the back of the Clock.

Early Aviators
This video showcases some of the important contributions to the development of aviation made by early Muslim aviators.

The many contributions made by Muslim scholars to astronomy and navigation are reviewed in this cluster. Also, highlighted are the practical uses of astronomy - to determine the dates of the holy months, the time of prayer and the direction of the "qibla".

Explorer’s Map
This interactive world map allows you to compare the routes traveled by the famous Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta, with those of other famous travelers.

The Astrolabe was the equivalent of a medieval calculator. They were used for a wide variety of observations and calculations in astronomy and navigation. 

Terrestrial Globe of al-Idrisi
The flat map of the known world produced by al-Idrisi in 1154 is shown here on a spherical globe. The outlines of the continents that we know today are also shown on the globe.

Armillary Sphere
A tabletop Armillary Sphere is a basic model of the solar system. Large Armillary Spheres were used for observation.

Celestial Globe
Celestial globes recorded the distribution of celestial bodies (planets, moons, stars) in the night sky.

The Great Explorers
This video reviews the journeys made by four great Muslim travelers, navigators and cartographers, including Ibn Battuta, Ibn Majid, Piri Re’is and Zheng He.

Piri Re’is map
A replica of Piri Re’is famous map, the first to show the Antarctic Peninsula and the east coasts of South and North America, is displayed.

Living Earth
The remarkably accurate calculations made by Muslim astronomers and navigators of the circumference, radius and diameter of the Earth, as well as their discoveries in relation to the phases of the moon and the way in which the Earth revolves around its axis, are shown in this display. Some of the features on the Earth’s moon that are named after Muslim scholars are also on display

Diagram of the Universe
This drawer displays an early Islamic diagram of the universe.

Muslim zoologists, botanists and geologists made important pioneering contributions to their fields of study. Visitors meet them through the medium of interactive exhibits and hands-on displays. Also, presented are the early contributions to ecology, conservation biology, geology, geomorphology, meteorology and horticulture, as well as the medical sciences.

'Human Health' touch wall
Muslim scientists made important contributions to the study of human anatomy, physiology and epidemiology. Some of these contributions are reviewed in this touch screen display.

Surgical Instruments
Al-Zahrawi and other Muslim surgeons invented many new surgical instruments and procedures, as shown in this display.

Vital Life Signs
Long before holistic medicine became the latest fashion, Muslim medical doctors emphasized that a balanced life style is vital for long-term health and well-being.

Herbs and Spices
This display provides examples of some of the herbs and spices discovered or studied by Muslim herbalists and medical researchers.

Animal Biodiversity
This display provides examples of the wide variety of freshwater and marine animals studied by Muslim zoologists.

Botany and Pharmacology
Examples of early books by Muslim scholars on botany and pharmacy are displayed.

Natural sciences
Muslim scholars made important contributions to the natural sciences, especially in the fields of geology, geomorphology, meteorology, zoology and botany. Explore these contributions in this interactive display.

The strong ethic of teaching and learning in Islamic culture is highlighted in this cluster.

Learning Institutions Theater
A spectacular video in the theater reviews the development of teaching and learning in mosques, madrasahs, schools, hospitals, observatories and universities in the Islamic world. The ethic of learning and of passing knowledge on to the next generation is also discussed.

Meeting the Polymaths
Meet the most famous Islamic scholars (male and female) in this entertaining touch screen display.

Book display
A replica of a famous book by Erzincan on medicine, physics and philosophy is displayed.

Paper making
Illustrations, materials and tools related to early paper making are displayed.

Examples of Islamic Calligraphy
Examples of different styles of Islamic calligraphy are displayed.

The Calligrapher’s tools and materials
Different tools and materials used by traditional calligraphers are displayed.

Virtual Books
This touch screen display presents an example of a famous book ‘Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices’ published by Muslim scholar, al-Jazari.

Examples of different items and materials used as currency during the Golden Age of Islam are displayed.

In the Exit Cluster, visitors are challenged to test their new found knowledge of Islamic science and technology in an interactive quiz. Other interactive exhibits summarize the contributions of Muslim scientists, engineers and mathematicians and present an overview of Islamic science.

Sculptures in Hall A
The three sculptures in Hall A symbolize the main fields of teaching and research at the University, including:
* ‘Spiral of Life’, representing the Chemical Life Sciences and Engineering
* ‘Mathematical Spaces’, representing Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences
* ‘Colorful Pyramids’, representing the Material Sciences and Engineering

Interactive Quiz
Visitors are invited to test their new found knowledge on the history of Islamic science and technology on this easy to use multiple choice interactive quiz. Quiz scores can be compared with those of previous visitors of the same age and gender.

Revival of Islamic Science
This display comprises a video on the revival and future of Islamic science at KAUST. Links are made between the ancient and modern houses of wisdom.

2D figures of famous Islamic scholars
On the way out of the museum there are five 2D figures of famous Islamic scholars including:
* Al-Jazari
* Ibn al-Haitham
* ljiya al-Astrulabi
* Al-Khwarizmi
* lbn Sina

What are your impressions of MOSTI?
Which cluster, or topic within one interests you the most?
A favourite picture or anecdote?
How would you answer the opening and closing questions:
Why was Islamic science great? 
How can it be revived?
What contemporary Muslim scientists are making a mark in their field?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
September 23--Saudi National Day/ Inauguration of KAUST
September 23--Saudi National Day/ Inauguration of KAUST: Update
Saudi Arabia's National Day 2010--80th Anniversary!


Rob said...

An excellent overview of the museum

Chiara said...

Rob-Welcome to my blog, and thank you for your comment. I am glad you liked the post. Please comment on older and newer posts of interest to you. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hello Chiara,
I'm a 23 years old Saudi lady and I would like to thank you for your enriched information..

We're lucky to have this passion for our culture from the west.

I've got excited to visit the museum in my next visit to Jeddah.

Chiara said...

Hello Anonymous, Welcome to the blog and thank you for your comment and very kind words. I hope you enjoy your visit to MOSTI! I also hope you will comment on older and newer posts of interest to you! Thank you again!

livingengine said...

Thank you.


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