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Banu Musa

In the 9th centrury during the golden age of Muslim civilization, the Banu Musa Brothers paved the way for future scientists with their inventions and research. They forced people to look at the world in a different light and because of this, they inspired intellectuals and impacted the future for hundreds of years to come. Although each brother’s research contributed to different fields, together they would become global leaders in the field of sciences.

The Banu Musa brothers were three brothers born and raised in Baghdad. The oldest,  Abu Ja’far Muhammad, made novel contributions to the areas of geometry and astronomy. The second, Abu al-Qasim Ahmad, impacted the trajectory of the fields of mechanics and engineering and would become an expert in automatic machines and mechanical devices. The youngest, Al-Hasan, followed his eldest brother into the field of geometry. 

Their father, Musa ibn Shakir, a highwayman and astrologer, passed away when the brothers were of young age, leaving them to become orphans. Shortly thereafter, they were adopted by the former governor of Baghdad, a man whom their father had worked for. He sheltered the brothers at the famous House of Wisdom Library where they completed their education and began the path that would lead to their success.

 The House of Wisdom was not only a library, but also acted as a translation center. During the days of Muslim civilization, a translation movement began to understand research conducted in other languages and further expand knowledge. The Banu Musa brothers started their work by translating ancient Greek works into Arabic. Not only did they earn money by doing so, they also learned Greek. They soon began to sponsor scientists and translators to keep their work going. 

As the brothers worked on translating Greek mathematical works, they began building on previous concepts and producing their own works. They became pioneers in Astronomy and built their own observatory where they would perform calculations and observations for astronomical tables. They went on to write 20 books in mathematics, mechanics and philosophy. 

One of their most famous books is called The Book of Ingenious Devices ( “Kitab al-Hiyal”).  This book showcases over 100 inventions created by the Banu Musa Brothers including, but not limited to, toys and entertainment devices. Some of these devices include a float valve, an automatic flute player, mechanical trick devices, a hurricane lamp and a gas mask. They also created the earliest known mechanical musical instrument and engineer simulator. 

The second book they wrote is the  Book of Measurement of Plain and Spherical Figures.  This book became well-known by Islamic and European mathematicians and was even translated into Latin.  They made observations on the sun and moon and  even measured the length of the year: 365 days and 6 hours. Abu Ja’far Muhammad was the first to discover that heavenly bodies and celestial spheres  followed the same laws of physics as Earth. 

    The Banu Musa works became a legacy. For years to come, scientists would be guided by their work. Their hard work and dedication to learning led them to become known in history and should be followed as an example by all.


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