The Sky is the Limit: Meet the Engineer Who Tried to Fly

The idea of flying and the science of flight have a very long history. Many inventors have made several attempts throughout history at building flying machines for humans. The Brothers Wright are perhaps the most famous among them. In 1903 they had the first controlled airplane flight and landing. But even centuries before the Wright brothers a Muslim polymath, Abu al-Qasim Abbas ibn Firnas ibn Wirdas al-Takurini, or better known as Abbas Ibn Firnas had already made a successful attempt at human flight.  

Who was Ibn Firnas?

Abbas Ibn Firnas was a physician, engineer, Arabic poet, Andalusian musician and inventor, he was born in 810 and he lived in the Emirate of Cordoba (present day Spain). Ibn Firnas is one of the first to have ever demonstrated a successful flight. With his flying machine he jumped off a cliff and stayed aloft for 10 minutes. Unfortunately, he couldn’t land as smoothly and injured his back during his crash. This mistake made him realize how important the tail of a bird is for the landing.   

Abbas Ibn Firnas is also known for his water clock called Al-Maqata for keeping track of time and many other inventions. He experimented with crystal and sand to make high quality transparent glass and made lenses for correcting eyesight. And because he studied astronomy, he created a mechanized planetarium with revolving planets and lightning produced by hidden mechanisms in the room. On top of that, he wrote many books on science and was appointed as the first teacher at the Cordoban music school of Ziryab. 

His devotion to science and achievements make him an important historian figure to remember. To honor his accomplishments Baghdad’s northern airport is named after him as well as a bridge in Cordoba and a moon crater.  

To learn more about this great man, read this article!

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