Who we are

Monday 3 July BBC 4 9pm

A welcome repeat for this series of three programmes examining the contribution of the Islamic world to scientific achievement. In this first episode, Professor Jim Al-Khalili travels to Syria, Iran, Tunisia and then on to Spain to explore the development of scientific discovery between the 8th and 14th centuries.


Words such as algorithm and alkali all have their origins in Arabic – and without the contributions of the great mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, we would have no algebra as we know it today. The development of modern medicine was also influenced by the 11th-century work of Ibn Sina (known to Europe as Avicenna), whose five-volume encyclopaedia ‘The Canon of Medicine’ was still in use centuries after his death.

The programmes were last aired in 2010, and some of the regions through which Jim travels are very different today.

The BBC microsite is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gnqck

It’s the turn of Islamic art in the programme that follows, when Rageh Omar visits the British Museum to look at artwork celebrating the Hajj. The Hidden Art of Islam, Monday 3 July BBC 4 10 pm, also examines figurative Islamic art, which is believed by many Muslims to be forbidden. Yet portraits and scenes depicting human beings, animals and the natural world and even paintings of pilgrims were produced and valued over centuries of Islamic culture. The BBC microsite is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dczjj and there are five clips from the programme.