The Genius of Abbas Ibn Firnas
He is a multi-talented, broad-minded Muslim scholar with a broad imagination. He was far ahead of his time, and was even distinguished by having preceded the great geniuses who followed him and who were described as being ahead of their time, including Leonardo da Vinci.
Early Life and Talents
His name is Abbas Ibn Firnas. He was born and lived in Cordoba, Andalusia, in the year 810 and died there in the year 887. He was an encyclopedic scientist and inventor who excelled in mathematics, physics, medicine, astronomy, and engineering, and he did not even abandon poetry and music.
Engineering and Inventions
In the engineering field, Ibn Firnas was fond of mechanical devices and watches. This remarkable scientist was also interested in crystals, quartz, sand, and glass manufacturing. He took advantage of his extensive knowledge in this field to design a water clock. He also developed a method for producing glass from sand.
Moreover, after experiments with lenses and interest in their magnification properties, he transformed glass made of sand into silica and quartz glass, and in this way created Andalusian drinking cups.
Abbas bin Firnas also succeeded in making a mixture of glass that made it more transparent and superior to similar products available at that time.
Another of his practical achievements in this field is that he devised a special method for making “reading stones,” a curved lens that can help the visually impaired read.
Contributions to Science and Mathematics
Some researchers believe that after a trip to Iraq, Ibn Firnas transferred the Arabic numeral system to Andalusia, and that he invented a first model for glasses and a “chronometer,” which are very accurate watches used in maritime and air navigation.
Pioneering Attempts at Flight
As for his attempt to embody the dream that humans have had throughout the ages of flying like birds, Abbas Ibn Firnas kept this genius idea until he got old, reaching the age of 65 years, and apparently he knew the seriousness and difficulty of such an impossible task in relation to the available science and knowledge. In his time.
That was in the year 875. This eminent scholar made two wings from cloth and silk, covering them with panels of light wood, and to be extra cautious, he sewed bird feathers to the garment he was wearing.
He chose a suitable place for this dangerous experiment, and that was in the Jabal Al-Arous area in the Al-Rusafa area in Andalusia. People crowded around him as he stood near a cliff, donned the wings he had created, and took off into the air. According to witnesses, he flew in the air in a circle for 10 minutes, and while returning to the top of the slope, he fell while trying to land and suffered bruises and an injury to the back area.
The flaw in that experiment was that Ibn Firnas did not take into account the importance of having a tail to help maneuver when landing, as birds do. That experiment was nonetheless described as successful, despite its unpleasant ending. Its importance is that it was unprecedented and practical, and this remarkable scientist preceded his inventor counterparts, such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), by several centuries.
British writer John Harding, for example, considers that experiment of Abbas ibn Firnas to be the first glider attempt at heavier-than-air flight in the history of aviation.