The Genius of their Age: Ibn Sina, Biruni, and the Lost Enlightenment

Oxford Univ. Sept. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780197675557. $29.95. BIOG
Ibn Sina (980–1037), known in the West as Vicenna, and al-Biruni (973–1048) are the well-deserved focus of this book. Starr (chair, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute; Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age) makes the case that they were perhaps the foremost intellectual figures of the Middle Age. They turned out a torrent of innovative and influential tracts in disciplines as far ranging as metaphysics, medicine, and mathematics. Starr makes a convincing case for his subjects’ greatness. He notes that Ibn Sina was probably the most significant philosopher in the Islamic tradition; it was his medical treatise that became the standard medical textbook in Europe, India, and the Middle East for more than 600 years. Mathematician al-Biruni’s achievement is also impressive, undogmatic, and inventive; he was the first to effectively measure Earth’s radius, which made chemist and science historian George Sarton rate his achievements equal to Galileo’s.
VERDICT An indispensable book about the Arab enlightenment and its key players. Will prove interesting to readers who want to know more about this era and its innovations.
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