The elephant clock, one of al-Jazari’s inventions


(c. 1136 - c. 1206)

The son of a craftsman, al-Jazari was hired around 1180 as a court engineer for the Artuqid dynasty in northern Mesopotamia. Twenty-five years later, he began composing The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, the sole source of details about his life. The book describes fifty inventions ranging from whimsical drinking vessels designed for courtiers to water-raising machines for farmers. Though he “has been described as the Leonardo da Vinci of the East,” wrote one historian, “it might be more accurate to describe Leonardo as the al-Jazari of the West.”

Issues Contributed