Complex Made Simple

11 Arabs with great achievements throughout history

We often hear that the Arabic language is complex. In fact, it’s this complexity that makes it beautiful.

With more than 290 million native speakers, it is one of the five most spoken languages in the world.

UNESCO is celebrating this year’s World Arabic Language Day (18 and 19 December) with the theme of new technologies, their role, and how to harness them.

We celebrate this event AMEinfo style bringing you 11 of the top Arab achievers of all time.

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Our top picks

Avicenna: Ibn Sina (980- 1037 AD)

Ibn Sina’s contributions ranged from medicine, psychology and pharmacology to geology, physics, astronomy, chemistry and philosophy. He was also a poet, an Islamic scholar and theologian. His most important contribution to medical science was his famous book Al Qanun Fi Al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine).  His other major work is “The Book of Healing”, a scientific and philosophical encyclopedia.

Omar Khayyam (1048- 1131 AD)

In the year 1072 AD, Omar Khayyam documented the most accurate year length ever calculated – a figure still accurate enough for most purposes in the modern world. Khayyam was an astronomer, astrologer, physician, philosopher, and mathematician: he made outstanding contributions in algebra. His poetry is better known in the West than any other non-Western poet.

 Al-Khawarizmi (780-850 AD)

Muhammad Al-Khawarizmi oversaw the translation of the major Greek and Indian mathematical and astronomy works into. The word “algorithm” is derived from the Latinization of his name, and the word “algebra” is derived from the Latinization of “al-jabr”, part of the title of his most famous book, in which he introduced the fundamental algebraic methods and techniques for solving equations.

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 Muhammad Ibn Battuta  (1304 – 1377 AD)

He was a Moroccan scholar who widely travelled the medieval world. Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the Islamic world and many non-Muslim lands, including North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling usually simply referred to as The Travels.  This account of his journeys provides a picture of medieval civilization that is still widely consulted today.

Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (872-950AD)

Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi was one the earliest Islamic intellectuals who was instrumental in transmitting the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle to the Muslim world. He had a considerable influence on the later Islamic philosophers such as Avicenna.

Peter Brian Medawar (1915-1987 AD)

He was named the Father of Transplantation. Medawar’s earlier research, done at Oxford, was on tissue culture, the regeneration of peripheral nerves and the mathematical analysis of the changes of shape of organisms that occur during this development. His investigation into why skin taken from one human being will not form a permanent graft on the skin of another enabled him to establish theorems of transplantation immunity and earning him a Nobel Prize in 1960.

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Naguib Mahfouz (1911, 2006 AD)

Born in Cairo in 1911, Naguib Mahfouz began writing when he was seventeen. The appearance of the Cairo Triology, Bayn al Qasrayn, Qasr al Shawq, Sukkariya (Between-the-Palaces, Palace of Longing, Sugarhouse) in 1957 made him famous throughout the Arab world. He is now the author of no fewer than thirty novels, more than a hundred short stories, and more than two hundred articles.  He won a Nobel Prize in 1988.

 Ahmed Zewail (1946-2016 AD)

After studying at the university in Alexandria, Ahmed Zewail moved to the US to undertake his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After some time spent working at the University of California, Berkeley, Zewail transferred to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1976. He was known as the “father of femtochemistry”, atomic level physical chemistry. He was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and became the first Egyptian to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field.

 Tawakkol Karman (1979- still alive)

Tawakkol Karman is a Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights, activist. She leads the group “Women Journalists Without Chains,” which she co-founded in 2005. She became the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising that is part of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Karman has been called the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution” by Yemenis. She is a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the second youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date.

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Majdah Aburass (??-still alive)

Saudi academic Majdah Aburass is the first Arab woman to join NASA’s research team of scientists. Aburas holds a doctorate degree from the University of Surrey in environmental studies and biotechnology, specializing in oil pollutions.  Aburas, is a faculty member at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and researcher in environmental sciences, ecology, sustainable development ─ where she lectures on different disciplines such as microbiological pollution, physiology of microorganisms, industrial microbiology and ecological pollution. She was also appointed as a member of the science division at NASA’s regional office.

Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (1956- still alive)

Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud flew in the US Space Shuttle in 1985. Bin Abdul Aziz is originally a civilian pilot with experience in the leadership of some aircraft (1,000 flight hours) and holds a commercial aircraft license. He was the first Arab to go to space.

He has undergone stages of high-level training, including: how to deploy the Arab satellite at a distance of 320 km of the Earth’s surface, as well as how to take photos using a camera from the model (Hamlad – 500) to take pictures of geological features of the Arabian Peninsula.