The Father Of Robotics: Al-Jazari
BADI’AL-ZAMAN ABÛ AL-’IZZ İSMÂİL IBN AL’RAZÂZ AL-JAZARÎ WAS AN ENGINEER WHO LIVED IN THE ARTUKID CAPITAL, DİYARBAKIR, IN THE 12TH CENTURY. The systems he developed played a pIoneerIng role In the scIence of robotIcs.
Al-Jazarî was employed for 25 years under the patronage of the Artukid sultans, serving in turn Nûreddîn, his elder son Kutbeddîn and then his younger son Nasîreddîn. Al-Jazarî penned his famous work, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, in 1206 during the reign of Sultan Nasîreddîn.
Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Highly impressed by the mechanical devices Al-Jazarî presented to him, Sultan Nasîreddîn commanded the engineer to compose a work explaining the construction of all these gadgets with illustrations and instructions for their use so that such knowledge would not be lost. That is how Al-Jazarî came to produce his work, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. In the introduction to the book, Al-Jazarî describes how he examined the inventions of engineers who had lived in previous centuries and tested them both practically and theoretically, ascertaining that many of them had been designed without sufficient thought. Completing his observations after much effort, the scholar introduced several devices in the six chapters of his book and provided illustrations of 173 of them.
A Master Clockmaker
Al-Jazarî devotes the first chapter of his book to clocks. The book, which gives details about the construction and use of several water clocks, also describes some interesting time pieces based on the melting rate of a wax candle. The most remarkable device in this section however is the elephant clock. This mechanism, in the form of a throne placed on top of a model elephant, is a very advanced water clock capable of showing the hours and minutes of the day.
The second chapter of the book is concerned with fruit syrup cups and glasses. Designed primarily for entertainment, these devices were far more than simple vessels for serving fruit syrup. Al-Jazarî designed, for example, a mechanical model that could fill a cup he held in his hand and then was capable of repeating the action over and over when he pulled a lever. The book’s third chapter is very interesting as well with everything from models of measuring vessels showing how much blood the doctor needs to draw from his patient to pitchers capable of pouring a single glass of beverage.
Pumps And Fountains
The fourth chapter of this great work consists of designs for fountains. Capable of spraying water in several different shapes simultaneously and changing their way of spraying on the hour as long as the pool they are in is connected to a water source, these fountains awaken awe even today.
The fifth chapter of the book is about pumps that enable water to be transported over sizable distances and to sizable elevations. Thanks to such devices, the mechanism, which was installed in a water mill on a river bed, could transport water to elevations of several meters and provide irrigation for farm land. This design is the first use in the world of crankshaft in a chain pump.
A Scientist For All Time
In the last chapter of his book, this great polymath, whose knowledge went far beyond that of his own time, discusses giant door locks, a device for measuring angles and a water clock.
Describing in detail how these devices, some of which were his own inventions, were constructed and used as well as giving illustrations, Al-Jazarî produced one of the most significant works in the history of engineering, thereby preserving the medieval science of mechanics right up to the present.