historical figures in evolution

Evolution Before Darwin: Al-Jahiz.


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Al-Jahiz (781-868)

Al-Jahiz was an Arab scholar who lived in the city of Basra, Iraq, probably of African descent. As a child, he worked selling fish on the banks of the channels to help support his family. He became one of the most prolific and versatile writers of the Abbasids, producing more than 200 books during his lifetime. He wrote literature, biology, zoology, history, rhetoric, psychology, theology, and controversy. In his Book of Animals, written probably between 847 and 867, Jahiz produced the first extensive study on animals ever published in the Islamic world, where he comes close to suggesting a theory of evolution and natural selection that Darwin was going to match one thousand years later.

His vision of nature is that of an interconnected world through networks and webs. He handled the concept of an ecosystem, understood the idea of the survival of the fittest, and even conceived adaptations. Like Aristotle, he believed in spontaneous generation. Unlike Darwin, who sees a ruthless nature, Jahiz saw a perfect and divinely balanced universe.

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