Arabick Roots

Arabick RootsArabick Roots

The early Fellows of the Royal Society were keenly aware of the rich scholarly tradition of the Arab and Muslim world. They took every opportunity to read and discuss the works of the Arab and Persian astronomers, physicians and mathematicians  and they valued the knowledge shared by ambassadors from Morocco and the kingdom of Tripoli.

This exhibition explores the Arabick roots of knowledge, which were significant at the founding period of the Royal Society. We use the 17th century spelling of the word 'Arabic' that was often used to refer to languages that uses the Arabic type such as Arabic and Persian.

The exhibition is now closed to visitors, however we hope you enjoy browsing these pages. Follow the subject links to see images and read descriptions of some of the fascinating books, manuscripts and artefacts which featured in Arabick Roots.

The exhibition catalogue (29MB PDF) is also available to download.

Arabick knowledge

The Arabick roots of knowledge were significant at the founding period of the Royal Society.


The astronomers of the 17th century needed Arabic observations to support their theories.


Robert Boyle FRS was influenced by Arab chemists and studied the Arabic and Syriac languages.

Language and philosophy

Some of the early Fellows were leading Arabists and sought to bring literary and philosophical works to western audiences.


Writings by physicians from the Arab world were studied in European universities into the 17th century.


Fellows of the Royal Society turned to Muslim physicians during the smallpox epidemic in the 18th century.


The Royal Society is grateful to our lead sponsor The Qatar Foundation and also to the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation and our exhibition design partners Cultural Innovations for supporting ‘Arabick Roots’. We are pleased to acknowledge and thank Dr Rim Turkmani for her painstaking work as exhibition curator.