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How a Library Made Baghdad the World's Most Important Center of Learning

When hearing about grand libraries, one might think of the Library of Alexandria or the Library of Congress. However a different library was established in the 9th century as one of the world’s greatest centers of science and learning.

The House of Wisdom was founded in the city of Baghdad, Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age, which lasted from the 8th to the 14th century. The Islamic Golden Age was an important period in Islamic history characterized by a series of rapid scientific, cultural, and economic advancements.

Although the House of Wisdom was visited by scholars from all around the Middle East, it was owned by the Abbasid Dynasty, which ruled over the Islamic Empire. Details on the library’s founding are debated. Many believe it was started by Abu Ja’far al-Mansur, who collected books on the sciences. What started as one hall became an educational capital. Students regardless of gender, faith, ethnicity, or language were welcomed into the House of Wisdom. The library grew, needing multiple extensions, study rooms, and even an observatory to be added.

The House of Wisdom was home to many scholars and their most notable works. Famous thinkers like Al-Khawarizmi, father of Algebra, and Al-Kindi, known as the “father of Arab philosophy” studied at this library. The translation movement which lasted over two centuries was started at the House of Wisdom, where texts would be translated from the Greek, Hebrew, and Indian languages into Arabic.

For centuries, the House of Wisdom was hailed as the scientific and educational center of the MIddle East. Sadly, in 1258 the Mongols started a week of pillaging and destruction in the Islamic Empire. Legends say, so many books were thrown into the Tigris River that the water turned black with the ink.

The House of Wisdom created a lasting impact in the intellectual world, providing a place for scholars from all over to meet and discuss some of the most influential scientific discoveries.

[Sources: 1001 Inventions; Islamcity.org; Britannica.com]

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