Firstly, thanks to everyone who has emailed or Tweeted me their comments about the possible alternative titles for my new book – and indeed thanks to Richard Wiseman who set up a vote on his blog page, and to everyone who voted or added a useful comment. So, here is an update.
Firstly, a quick recap: After three and a bit years in the writing, my new book on the scientific achievements during the golden age of the medieval Islamic empire is almost finished. It heads off to printers next week, to be in all good bookshops on 30 September! Hurrah.
It also now has the new title as shown on the left. This might not have been everyone’s first choice title, but there was a rationale for doing it – one that I concede is sensible and actually necessary.
The original working title has been “The House of Wisdom“, with the subtitle of “The Flourishing of A Glorious Civilisation and the Golden Age of Arabic Science“. This despite another book, by Jonathan Lyons, out a few years ago on the same subject with the same title “The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilisation“.
Now, the marketing arm of the publishers have become rightly concerned about the likely confusion between the two books (same title, same subject, even book covers were looking similar!) and all parties have now settled on the alternative title of “Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science” – a reference to a quote about Ibn Khaldun, the Arab scholar of the 14th century and father of the fields of economics and social science. Some people tweeted me about this saying they were not so sure about the new title, that it sounded like a travel guide or government initiative etc. I guess it is all about the context. Ibn Khaldun’s full quote (which will appear on the back cover of the book) reads:
- “He who finds a new path is a pathfinder, even if the trail has to be found again by others; and he who walks far ahead of his contemporaries is a leader, even though centuries pass before he is recognized as such.”
al-Biruni, a Persian polymath and genius to to rival
Leonardo da Vinci? Or the Syrian astronomer Ibn
al-Shatir, whose manuscripts would inspire
Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the solar system?
Or al-Khwarizmi, the father of algebra and the
greatest mathematician of the medieval world? Or
the Iraqi physicist Ibn al-Haytham who practised the
modern scientific method 600 years before Bacon and
Descartes and founded the field of modern optics long
before Newton? Or even ninth-century physician
al-Razi, who carried out some of the world’s earliest