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Glossary

A

Alchemy:
The medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned particularly with attempts to convert common metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.

Alembic:
An apparatus formerly used for distilling, consisting of a gourd shaped container and a cap with a long spout.

Algorithm:
A process or set of rules used in calculations or other problem-solving operations.

Almanac:
A calendar giving important dates and information, such as the phases of the moon.

Aloe:
A succulent tropical plant with thick tapering leaves and bell-shaped flowers.

Alum:
A crystalline compound consisting of a double sulphate of aluminium and potassium, used in dying and tanning.

Amputated:
Cut off (a limb) in a surgical operation.

Anaesthesia:
Insensitivity to pain, especially as induced by an anaesthetic before a surgical operation.

Antidotes:
A medicine taken to counteract a poison.

Andalusia:
A region in southern Spain on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

Antimony:
A brittle silvery-white metallic element.

Aorta:
The main artery supplying blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Artichoke:
The unopened flower head of a thistle-like plant, eaten as a vegetable.

Aristotle:
Greek philosopher (384-322 BC). Along with Plato (his teacher) Aristotle was one of the greatest philosophers and scientist in ancient history. He was also the teacher of Alexandra the Great.

Astrology:
The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies and their supposed influence on human affairs.

Attar:
A fragrant essential oil made from rose petals and other fragrant substances.

Aubergine:
Purple egg-shaped fruit eaten as a vegetable.


B

Baghdad:
Capital and largest city of Iraq located in the Middle East. Baghdad was the centre of the Islamic world both as a trade destination for learning for five centuries. In 1258 the city was attacked by Mongols and destroyed.

Bibliography:
A list of books or documents on a particular subject or by a particular author.

Botany:
The scientific study of plants.

Byzantines:
The Byzantine Empire (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire) lasted over 1,000 years and included parts of southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. In 1453 it was defeated by the Ottoman Turks and Constantinople became Istanbul.


C

Cairo:
Capital of Egypt. It grew from small Islamic communities before the Fatimid dynasty built it in the 10th century. After the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 it became the richest and most populated city of Islam. Around the mosque of al-Azhar a university was built which still exists and is considered one of the oldest learning centres of the world.

Cinnabar:
A bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide.

Cipher:
Zero.

Contagious:
A disease that is likely to spread to and affect others.

Cordoba:
This was the capital of Muslim Spain under the Umayyad dynasty. In the 10th century it was the largest city in Europe with half a million inhabitants. Cordoba had paved streets and streetlights a thousand years before they existed in London. There were dozens of libraries and hundreds of mosques.

Cornea:
The transparent layer forming the front of the eye.

Courtyard:
An open area enclosed by walls or buildings, especially in a castle or large house.

Crusades:
Any of a series of medieval military expeditions made by Europeans to capture the Holy Land from the Muslims during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.


D

Damascus:
Capital of Syria. It was the first capital of the Muslims under the Umayyad dynasty. This dynasty was in power for 100 years but fell in 750. In 707 there was a hospital, considered to be the first in the world. Damascus was an important centre for learning, trade and industry.

Diaphragm:
A dome-shaped muscular partition separating the thorax from the abdomen in mammals.


E

Elixir:
A magical or medicinal potion, especially (in former times) either one supposedly able to change metals into gold or supposedly able to prolong life indefinitely.

Epidermis:
The surface layer of an animal’s skin or the outer layer of tissue in a plant.

Equivalent:
Equal in value, amount, function, meaning.

Endowment:
Provide with a permanent income.


G

Gall bladder:
A small sac-shaped organ beneath the liver in which bile is stored.

Granada:
A city in south-eastern Spain. It is here that the Alhambra palace built by Muslims in the Middle Ages is located.


H

Haemophilia:
A medical condition in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced, causing severe bleeding from even a slight injury.

Henna:
The powdered leaves of a tropical shrub, used as a reddish-brown dye to colour the hair and decorate the body.

Hereditary:
A condition that can be passed on genetically from parents to their offspring.


I

Illiterate:
A person who cannot read or write.

Ingenious:
Clever, original and inventive.


K

Kohl:
A black powder used as eye make-up in some parts of the world.


L

Lute:
A stringed instrument with a long neck and a rounded body with a flat front, played by plucking.


M

Malaga:
A port city and resort in Andalusia in southern Spain on the Mediterranean.

Maldives:
A country consisting of a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean.

Manuscript:
Book or document (often referring to handwritten collections).

Middle Ages:
The period of European history from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West (5th century) to the fall of Constantinople (1453).

Middle East:
An area of South West Asia and northern Africa, stretching from the Mediterranean to Pakistan, including countries such as Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Syria.

Morocco:
Kingdom in the north west of Africa.


N

Nadir:
The point on the celestial sphere directly opposite the zenith and below an observer.


O

Ophthalmology:
The study and treatment of disorders and diseases of the eye.


P

Palermo:
The capital of Sicily; located in north-western Sicily.

Pancreas:
A large gland behind the stomach which secretes digestive enzymes.

Parable:
A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.

Pathology:
The branch of medicine concerned with the causes and effects of disease.

Persian:
The language of Persia (present day Iran) in any of its ancient forms.

Physician:
A person qualified to practice medicine.

Physiotherapy:
The treatment of disease or injury by massage and exercise.

Philosopher:
Someone who studies the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Philosophy:
The study of the nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Planetarium:
A building in which images of stars, planets, and constellations are projected onto a domed ceiling.

Plato:
One of the most famous Greek philosophers in ancient history. He investigated the nature of knowledge, ethic and politics. He was the pupil of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. He founded the first institution of education in Athens around 300 BC called the Academy.

Psychological:
Of, affecting or arising in the mind.


R

Renaissance:
The revival of art, literature and philosophy under the influence of classical models in the 14th-16th centuries.

Revenue:
Income.

Romans:
Relating to the people of ancient Rome.


S

Sediment:
Matter that settles to the bottom of liquid.

Seville:
A city in south-western Spain.

Sociology:
The study of human society.

Stipend:
A fixed regular sum paid as a salary.


T

Tare:
An allowance made for the weight of the packaging in determining the net weight of goods.

Treason:
The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government.

Treatise:
A written work dealing formally with a subject.

Tuberculosis:
An infectious bacterial disease characterised by the growth of tubercles in the tissues, especially the lungs.


Z

Zircon:
A mineral consisting of zirconium silicate, typically brown.

Zoology:
The scientific study of animals.