Chemistry, or alchemy, from the Arabic a!kimiya, was first studied among Arabs in the seventh century, A.D., by Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Muawiyya who was familiar with the writings of the ancient Greeks on that subject. Muawiyya was followed by Jabir ibn Hayyan (known to the West as Geber). Jabir was born in the year 721 A.D., and later became the pupil of the celebrated Islamic teacher, the Imam Jaffar. He spent most of his life in Kufa, Iraq. In spite of Jabir's leanings toward mysticism and superstition, he more clearly recognized and proclaimed the importance of experimentation than any other early chemist. "The first essential in chemistry," he declared, "is that you should perform practical work and conduct experiments, for he who performs not practical work nor makes experiments will never attain the least degree of mastery." He made noteworthy advances in both the theory and practice of chemistry.
Jabir was acquainted with the usual chemical reactions such as crystallization, calcination, solution, sublimation, reduction and often described them. Among Jabir's great contributions were his studies in the transmutation of metals. Regarding practical applications of chemistry, Jabir described pr~cesses for the preparation of steel and the refinement of other metals, for dying cloth and leather, for making varnishes to waterproof cloth and to protect iron, and for the preparation of hair dyes. He devised a recipe for making an illuminating ink for manuscripts from "golden" marcasite to replace the much more expensive ones made from gold itself, and suggested the use of manganese dioxide in glass-making.
Jabir is credited with the discovery of red oxide, bichloride of mercury, hydrochloric acid, nitrate of silver, nitric acid, and sal ammonic, and ammonium chloride. The preparation of nitric acid was perhaps his most useful discovery. But to the alchemists and chemists of the Middle Ages, the descriptions and illustrations of furnaces in Jabir's books were probably of even greater value.
After the death of Jabir, history records a few alchemists in the interval, but it is only with the chemist and physician, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (known to the West as Rhazes) that Jabir's great example was successfully followed. Razi was learned in almost every branch of science and i,hilosophy, alchemy, mathematics, logic, ethics,
  metaphysics and music. By profession a physician, his medical writings were more famous than his works in alchemy. His interest in alchemy seems to have begun in his youth and he is reported to have said that "no man deserves the name of 'philosopher' unless he be a master of theoretical and applied chemistry." He authored more than one hundred medical books, thirty-three treatises on natural science (exclusive of alchemy), eleven on mathematics and astronomy and more than forty-five on philosophy, logic and theology. On alchemy, he wrote Compendium of Twelve Treatises and Book Secrets.

Razi is a figure of exceptional importance in the history of chemistry since in his works we find for the first time a systematic classification of carefully observed arid verified facts regarding chemical substances, reactions and apparatuses described in a language almost entirely free from mysticism and ambiguity. Razi also gives a list of the apparatuses used in chemistry. These consist of two classes: (I) instruments used for melting metals, and (2) those used for the manipulation of substances generally. He completes the subject by describing how to make composite pieces of apparatuses and, in general, provides the same kind of information as is to be found in laboratory manuals today.
Another famous scientist who followed Razi is Abu Ah al-Hussain ibri Sina, the Avicenna of Europe, who has been described as the "Aristotle of the Arabs." During his lifetime, he accomplished an amazing mass of literary, medical, philosophical and scientific works. In his Book of Remedy, he wrote about minerals, formation of rocks and stones and properties of minerals and metals.

From the fourth to the twelfth centuries, A.D, the original chemical research and writing in Europe was virtually non-existent. Instead, Arabic texts came to be translated into Latin, these treatises functioning as standard textbooks for students in Europe. The translation of technical matters presented special difficulties, so that scholars often had to content themselves with literal renderings. It was safer not to translate words the meaning of which was imperfectly understood. Thus, in the translation from Arabic to Latin, such words were often simply transliterated, e.g. alembic, camphor, borax, elixir, talc and saffron.


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