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The Magic Jar and Other Devices from 9th Century Persia

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A Historical and Experimental Study

image of Nuncius

After the advent of Islam the interest of scientists was drawn towards “ingenious devices.” Ahmad ibn Müsä ibn Shäkir Khuräsäni was one of the greatest Iranian scientists of the 9th century AD. He worked on many mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic devices and presented his inventions in a book entitled Kitäb Al-Hiyal. A combined historical and experimental research project was undertaken by the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST). One part of the project consisted of designing and reproducing the mechanisms for separating liquids described in Al-Hiyal. This paper provides details of the design of four of these devices, which function on the basis of the relative viscosities or densities of the liquids being separated. They were recreated and tested in accordance with the indications provided in ibn Shäkir Khuräsäni’s text. This paper provides the historical background and a technical analysis of these remarkable inventions.

Affiliations: 1: Iranian Research Organization for Science & Technology (IROST)


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