The story of aviation often begins with Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for flying machines, which would later inspire the Wright brothers and their famous sustained flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
Yet centuries before Leonardo, in A.D. 875, Abbas bin Firnas, a Muslim inventor in Spain, cloaked himself in bird feathers, strapped himself to a glider made of wood and silk, then jumped into the air and stayed aloft for some time — making him the first person in recorded history to fly.
This tidbit and many others like it can be gleaned from ”Islamic Science Rediscovered,” an intriguing new exhibition at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City that explores the vast spectrum of accomplishments by Muslim scientists from A.D. 700 to 1700. It is a copy of a show that has been at the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai since last year; it may make other stops in the United States after it ends its run in Jersey City.
Through interactive models and vivid displays and artifacts, the exhibition illustrates how Muslim scholars helped advance nine different scientific disciplines, including medicine, engineering and astronomy.