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Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists Paperback – June 17, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mathematics, astronomy and medicine; those are three of the many disciplines that would not exist in their present form without the contributions of Muslim scholars and thinkers throughout the centuries. We in the West don’t often remember that."—Aaron Schachter, Anchor, BBC "The World"

About the Author

Michael Hamilton Morgan is the author of The Twilight War, and co-author with undersea explorer Robert Ballard of Collision with History: The Search for John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and Graveyards of the Pacific. A former diplomat, he created and now heads New Foundations for Peace, which promotes cross-cultural understanding and leadership among youth. He has appeared on ABC and CBS and as a Washington journalist covered foreign policy issues. From 1990 – 2000 he directed and advised the International Pegasus Prize for Literature.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; Reprint edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426202806
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426202803
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Doug on August 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is an exploration into the "Islamic Golden Age," which is when the Middle East was a wellspring of intellectual flourishing. The second half of the 8th century to the 12th century in the Near East is a keystone of the intellectual history of human civilization. Many great thinkers of this time period, such as Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Kindi are responsible for translating, preserving and adding to the wealth of knowledge created by the many great intellectuals of Classical Greece and the Roman Republic. During the Islamic Golden Age, there were countless advancements in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, optics, engineering and surgery while the Western world intellectually wallowed in the Dark Ages. Because many Muslim scholars kept the Aristotelian tradition of recognizing that the universe can be known through reason, it was possible for the Western world to eventually rediscover these values (by gaining access to the Islamic works) and to ignite the Renaissance.

Unlike many other books that touch upon this subject, this book recognizes the *individuals* who made specific intellectual achievements. Most other books typically credit the accomplishments of this era to the Muslim world in general. Needless to say, such a false attribution is as misleading as stating that 19th and 20th century Americans invented the light bulb, the telephone and the transistor.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The West and the world owe the Islamic world much: in medicine, ethics, metaphysics, mathematics, astronomy, poetry, architecture, literature and music Islam has had a profound influence. Just how deep the connections are, and how great the debt owed is the basis for Morgan's book.

After presenting a brief history of the first centuries of Islam, the richness, depth, breadth and variety of Islamic thought is presented, convincingly arguing that Muslim philosophers and scientists are inheiritors of the Greco-Roman world as much (if not more than) Europe, and that these thinkers pushed intellectual boundaries to the benefit of everyone. These details make the book, as the connections between 9th and 10th century Islam and the present are profound.

However, Morgan has a tendency to dramatize and personify history, which I though detracted from the effectiveness of his point. To write about the internal thoughts of ibn Sina would be fine for fiction, but have no place in a historical text. Similarly, in an effort to make the connections between past and present clearer, each chapter begins with a character in the present reflecting on or wrestling with the legacy of the Islamic past. Because of this, I almost gave it three stars - but the importance and impact of the Islamic past is so important and relevant that I forgave him a star.

With this historical caveat, it is a remarkable read, and one that I highly recommend.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Eclectic Reader on September 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has an articulated, worthy purpose: to bring to the general reader some understanding of the richness of Islamic civilization. The details of the work of Moslem writers, scientists and artists have been lost to general perception in Western history, yet the accomplishments of Islamic society, from the seventh century on, have flowed into and enriched the Judeo-Christian world. In fact, the three traditions -- Christian, Jewish, and Islamic -- are inextricably braided. The Islamic world gave rise to some of the earliest libraries, universities and hospitals and, at its best, has encouraged an idea of civic tolerance that permits the development of the talents of all, whatever the religious orientation.

In Lost History, Michael Morgan presents a dense and richly detailed overview of the flowering of Islamic culture. While he gives some attention to religious controversies and some to war and conquest, Morgan's primary purpose is to illuminate the achievements of the artists and intellectuals -- not all of them Moslem -- who were nurtured by Islamic society. The book is a call to become more aware of how their work still echoes around us; it is a spur to further reading and study.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Naeem Ali on September 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Lost History provides a glimpse of the achievements of the Muslim world at the peak of the Islamic civilization.

It's a book about Muslim intellectuals, scientists, inventors, leaders and the significant achievements they made in the areas of astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Mr. Morgan also describes cities that were the centers of learning and intellectual thought in the world at the time such as Baghdad (Yes, the same Baghdad), Cordoba and Cairo.

My favourite account is that of ibn Firnas the inventor, who in the year 875 built a glider and flew for 10 minutes, but did not consider the mechanics of landing.

It is a well written book and easy to read with some amazing stories.
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