A Turkish professor has dedicated himself to finding remnants of the great inventions of Ismail Al-Jazari – a man of wisdom who inspired cybernetic and robotic sciences with his centuries-old inventions.
He even influenced modern systems of the steam engine and to some extent, automatic controls.
Al-Jazari was a genius born in the 12th century and he died in the early 13th century. His skills were greatly admired by the sultan of the Artuqid State, and he spent 25 years at the palace of Artuqids, which is today located in the eastern Diyarbakir province of Turkey.
Irfan Yildiz, a professor at Dice University of Turkey, is leading an excavating dig at the palace with more than one dozen workers in hopes of shedding light on history, learning the mindset of the great inventor and possibly finding remnants of Al-Jazari’s first robotic and engineering works.
“Al-Jazari is the first man to build robots,” said Yildiz, who extensively studied the Muslim inventor and authored papers about him and his effect on science. “He also invented the crankshaft in this palace. We can regard him as the father of cybernetics and automation.”
The academician said that Al-Jazari wrote a book about his inventions, “The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices,” and it is possible that some of his machines were buried under the debris of the palace waiting to be discovered.
Al-Jazari mentioned dozens of engineering mechanisms and innovations in his ancient book including mechanical controls, water-raising systems, water-supplying mechanisms, clocks and robots, according to Yildiz, who said the dig team unearthed some of the water systems and there is no not reason that robotic artifacts should not be found.
“We have so far unearthed water-distribution system,” he said, but his team has not yet been able to find any robotic instrument as yet, but is determined to continue efforts until they find it.
The professor believes the Artuqid palace played a prominent place in the history of science given the very first steps of the cybernetic science principals were practiced there and the foundations of the primitive-level computer also took place at the palace thanks to the mechanical genius of the golden age of Islam.
The elephant clock is among the interesting inventions Al-Jazari. The medieval clock includes a weight-powered water clock placed inside in the form of an elephant. The elephant clock also carries dragons, a phoenix and a turban — each one represents various cultures including India, Africa, China, Persia and Islam.
The man of science also produced a musical robot that had a mechanical system in which male figures would produce a musical sound once an hour, enabling the listener to be aware of time.
One might assume this man of science who was ahead of his time might not have a direct influenced today. But that would be wrong. Al-Jazari is credited with something common in the contemporary world: flush toilet.
Although his invention, which was designed as a hand-washing mechanism, included a system similar to the flush mechanism used today; it is believed the invention that was the forerunner of the modern flush toilet system.
With his extraordinary mindset and inventions, Al-Jazari the engineer left his mark on history and serves as an inspiration for the whole of humanity.
Those curious about the great mind of the middle ages can visit Istanbul Al-Jazari Museum where they can view replicas and reconstructions of his greatly admired inventions.
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