25-28 August 2008
Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia
Third History of Islamic Science, Technology and Innovation Conference (ISSTI III)
27 August 2008, Kazan State University
By Academician Dato Engr Lee Yee Cheong,
Chairman, Governing Board, International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation under the Auspices of UNESCO, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1.0 Opening Remarks
IAS President Majali,
Fellows of IAS and Tatarstan Academy of Sciences,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to thank the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) and the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences for inviting me here and more importantly for agreeing to organize ISSTI III. I would also like to thank the Kazan State University for agreeing to host ISSTI III in its beautiful campus.
To set the scene, I would like to provide some background to ISSTI.
I have always been fascinated by history, especially the rise and fall of empires. I fully subscribe to the premise “To know where we are going, we must know where we come from”. As an engineer masquerading as a scientist due to my role in the formation of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) and my interaction with the international scientific community through IAP, IAC and ICSU, I promoted the idea of the Islamic Science, Engineering and Technology Conference to ASM in the late Nineties with negative result. There was a mindset to look forward to advanced S&T in the West rather than wasting time in looking backwards.
In 2005, I was then President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), whose head office is in the NGO building in UNESCO Paris. I got to have UNESCO leadership better, particularly the Deputy Director General, Dr. M. Barbosa, a noted aero-space engineer from Brazil.
I wrote to him to organize a “History of Science, Engineering and Technology Conference” (HISET). My approach was well timed, as UNESCO was then conducting a major cross-cultural initiative. UNESCO justified this initiative by stating that “until the discovery of the new world in the fifteenth century, the world witnessed the rise of successive civilizations each of which gave rise to the other, starting with the beginnings of science and civilization in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab-Islamic, and West European. None of these could claim to be isolated from its predecessors. In fact the history of science and civilization in the western world should be considered as one continuous history.”
UNESCO mounted an impressive exhibition “Golden Age of the Arabic Sciences” in Paris, October 2005-March 2006. The Exhibition was aimed to carry a message of good will to non Muslim societies, and to remind them that Islamic science is part of their own heritage. It was through Islamic S.E.T. that sparked the European Renaissance. I suggested to UNESCO that it was equally important to spread the message to Muslims as well, as the contributions of Muslim scientists are not understood or appreciated in the Islamic world itself. In view of their apparent aversion to S.E.T seen to be Western, there is a pressing need to acquaint the youth in Islamic countries of their rich S.E.T heritage.
In 2005, IAS held its 14th Conference in Kuala Lumpur. I lobbied IAS President, Professor Majali and Executive Director Moneef Joubi to support HISET. The support received from IAS was unequivocal. To my great delight, Moneef is a great authority of the History of Islamic Science, Engineering and Technology and has been a fellow “conspirator” from the very beginning. Other supporters were Mohamed Hassan of TWAS, Nobel Laureate Professor Ahmed Zewail and then IAP Co-Chair, Professor Yves Quere, IAC Co-Chair and then USNAS President, Professor Bruce Alberts and Director of the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies, Professor Zakri Hamid.
Responding to my proposal, UNESCO-WFEO jointly held a Symposium on the “History of Islamic Science, Engineering and Technology” (HISET) as the closing event of the Exhibition in March 2006. Yves Quere spoke at the opening ceremony. Both Moneef and Zakri were present to hold my hands. Through the efforts of Dr. Mustafa El-Tayeb, UNESCO Director on Science Policy and Sustainable Development, sponsorship was obtained from the Islamic Call Society. A great array of eminent historians of Islamic Science and Technology contributed to the success of HISET 2006 now renamed ISSTI 1. Professor George Saliba was present, so also Professor Djebbar of University of Lille. I was so pleased that Yve Quere mentioned yesterday about the efforts of Professor Djebbar in writing the book on Islamic scientific experiments for school children. I feel very proud to have been the matchmaker in bringing the two of them together during ISSTI 1!
From the deliberations of ISSTI 1, I consider the outcomes to be as follows:
• To incorporate the rich Islamic S.E.T heritage and the present day Islamic S.E.T. role models into the textbooks and curricula both in the developed world and the developing world, particularly Islamic countries.
• To incorporate historic Islamic S.E.T experiments in the InterAcademy Panel inquiry based hands-on primary science education programme, led by the “la Main a la pate” of the French Academy of Sciences.
• To have a travelling exhibition from the Paris Exhibition to Islamic countries.
• To rescue study and research centers in History of Islam S.E.T in Western universities from closure to repatriation to universities in Islamic countries.
• To organize subsequent Islamic S.E.T conferences.
The most important outcome of ISSTI 1 was the strong support of the then Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia, the Hon. Dato Sri Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis on behalf of the government of Malaysia. In his keynote address at the opening of ISSTI 1, he committed Malaysia and his Ministry to collaborate with UNESCO in the follow-up of the ongoing UNESCO Initiative.
The baton was passed to Malaysia, which organised the “Excellence in Islamic Science, Technology and Innovation” Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur January-February 2007, with exhibits from the collection of Professor Sezgin of the Goethe Institute of the University of Frankfurt. Professor Sezgin was the honoured guest of the Exhibition and received an honorary professorship from the University of Technology with the understanding to replicate his exhibits and writings to the University. The Exhibition was visited by 300,000 people, mostly students. Most did not realize until then the splendor of Islamic S&T.
ISSTI II was jointly organised in Kuala Lumpur by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Malaysia and UNESCO with a number of other international organizations like IAS, TWAS and again the Islamic Call Society in August 2007. ISSTI II extended the spectrum from eminent historians of Islamic S&T through present-day Islamic S&T icons to future S&T role players. Thus an important innovation of ISSTI II was the International Workshop for Young Muslim S.T.I practitioners.
The outstanding plenary and session keynote speakers and session speakers included Nobel Laureate Professor Ahmed Zewail, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Professor Yves Quere, Dr. Walter Erdelen, Dr. Mustafa El-Tayeb, Professor Mohamed Hassan, Professor George Saliba, Prof Gul Russell, Dr Djebbar, Dr. Moneef Zoubi, Tan Sri Omar Abdul Rahman, Dr Razley Nordin, Dr S.T.K Naim etc. My successor as WFEO President 2005=2007, Kamel Ayadi of Tunisia continued WFEO’s supporter by being a keynote speaker. The key role player was again the Honourable Dato Sri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia. The video and written presentations and other details of the Symposium are available in www.issti.gov.my ISSTI II was an unqualified success.
Moneef Joubi offered during the OIC Comstech STI Policy Study Centre Workshop 29-30 March 2008 in Islamabad to hold ISSTI III during the 16th of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences in Kazan, Tatarstan in August 2008.
Here we are this morning in Kazan with Professor George Saliba and Yve Quere, offering once again their strong support by their presence. Dr Mustafa El-Tayeb asked me to convey his apologies to you all due to unavoidable circumstances, but pledges UNESCO’s continuing support.
It is my earnest hope that you all would think this initiative is well worth continuing and that the host for ISSTI IV 2009 will be forthcoming after today.
2.0 Closing Remarks and Afterthoughts
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like first of all to thank my rapporteur Professor Shamser Ali, President of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences who conducted this Conference so admirably, due to his deep knowledge of the history of Islamic Science and Technology.
After listening attentively to all the learned discourses presented so absorbingly by all the speakers, particularly Professor George Saliba and
Professor Charles Falco, you must surely agree with me that ISSTI (Islamic STI) must continue as an annual event. I would like ISSTI 4 2009 to focus more on the impact of S&T innovations on Islamic economies and societies of the day so that the vital nexus between S&T and society prosperity and well-being can be demonstrated for the benefit of present day Islamic policy makers and S&T role players. I would therefore suggest ISSTI 4 must continue to emulate ISSTI 2 in reaching out to the young Muslim scientists and engineers with good gender balance and geographical spread. ISSTI 4 must continue the innovation of ISSTI 3 in engaging science journalists. Above all, ISSTI 4 must involve top policy makers in Islamic countries.
However, ISSTI must be institutionalized. It cannot continue to depend on the enthusiasm of Moneef Joubi, Mustafa El Tayeb and myself. I would urge institutions under OIC to take ISSTI under their wings. The obvious choices are Comstech and IAS. I see IAS President Professor Majali nodding his head in agreement. I am sure Comstech will agree to be the secretariat of ISSTI with IAS in support so that Islamic host countries for ISSTI can be decided in good time preferably two years in advance. I am sure UNESCO will continue to support this initiative. You can also count on the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation in Kuala Lumpur to support ISSTI and WFEO.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The original UNESCO cross-cultural initiative to which I as WFEO President totally subscribe was with the affirmation “until the discovery of the new world in the fifteenth century, the world witnessed the rise of successive civilizations each of which gave rise to the other, starting with the beginnings of science and civilization in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab-Islamic, and West European. None of these could claim to be isolated from its predecessors. In fact the history of science and civilization in the western world should be considered as one continuous history.”
It is my aspiration to spread the success of ISSTI to other civilizations. I learned recently that China has built the National Science and Technology Museum in Beijing under the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST). The National S&T Museum is due to be opened in 2009. CAST is the national member of WFEO for China. I therefore wrote to the Executive Secretary of CAST Madam Cheng Donghong suggesting the holding of an international conference on the History of Chinese Science and Technology in the National S&T Museum in Beijing in 2009. I supported my argument with the history of development of ISSTI. I am pleased to report that she replied saying my proposal is under serious consideration.
I am confident through this initiative, we can demonstrate that “science technology and innovation” is universal and young scientists and engineers in developing countries can take pride in their own STI heritage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure I now invite His Excellency Dr. Salehi, IOC Assistant Secretary General for Science and Technology to formally close ISSTI III.
30 August 2008
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