Al-JazariIsmail al-Jazari is best known as the first Arab mechanical engineer. He earned popularity for inventing machines. He was not only an engineer by his occupation but also an inventor, scientist, skilled worker of handmade designs, and mathematician. He worked on the concepts behind the moving parts of machines of earlier Greek and Muslim scholars. Al-Jazari gathered his lifetime work and wrote it in a book.

Biography – Life Span

Ismail al-Jazari was born in Cizre, Anatolia region of Turkey in 1,136 CE. He is nicknamed as ‘al-Jazari’ his full name is very long that is “Badi Az-Zaman Abul Ismail Ibn Ar-Razaz al-Jazari”. Like many other Muslim scholars, he was also born in the Golden Age of Islam. He has been interested in machines since his young age. His imagination made him an expert in making machines. His father worked at Artuklu Palace in Turkey. Al-Jazari followed his father and became the chief engineer after him at the same palace under the rule of General Saladin Ayubi.

Although the Greek scientist Archimedes laid the basis of mechanical engineering by inventing basic machines, al-Jazari expanded his work. He invented around a hundred mechanical instruments. Most of them were designed in such a way that they worked automatically – which means to run without human support.

After the hard work of his entire life, he wrote a book in the last year of his life. The book serves as the best guide to understanding how machines are built and run. Besides, he invented many new machines that were used in controlling the flow of water, time clocks, and musical instruments. Apart from Archimedes’ work, he also studied the Banu Musa brothers’ contribution to making water fountains. Ismail al-Jazari died in 1,206 CE in Turkey.

Discoveries and Contributions

Al-Jazari’s water device

Ismail al-Jazari was highly dedicated to machines and mechanical devices. He contributed significantly to the field of mechanical engineering. He invented many new parts of machines and mechanisms. Among many of his discoveries are some mechanical parts like a shaft – a straight rod to move the object around, and a pump – to raise the water to heights. These parts were used by him in his following discoveries:

  • Elephant Clock & Water-Clock:
    Al-Jazari’s most famous invention is the Elephant Clock in which a large complex mechanical elephant figurine was made in a clock shape. It was invented to record the passage of time like modern time clocks. Before this, he also invented a water clock and a candle clock.
  • Surgical Instruments:
    Al-Jazari also practiced medicine and developed several surgical instruments to perform complex surgical processes with precision.
  • Water-Raising Machine:
    One of his other well-known inventions was the water-raising machine, known as the “Saqiya chain pump”. This machine was used in ponds, rivers, or flowing canals to raise the water. The machine contained bowls to fill the water and release it on the ground to flow.
  • Music Playing Robot:
    He also invented the musical robotic band in which a group of dummy people played music. The design of this music-playing robot is mentioned in his book “Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices”. The robotic band worked when water fell in one tank at a time. The dummy below that tank was pushed by water and played music. He even designed a mechanical robot that could serve drinks.


  • Ismail al-Jazari is known as the ‘Father of Robotics’ today. Because he was the first to design machines that ran in repeating rounds by themselves.
  • He wrote a book in 1,206 CE known as ‘The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices’. This book gives basic knowledge of how to build machines and their parts. Around a hundred mechanical devices are introduced in this book and the ways to build and run them.
  • After a few centuries, Leonardo Da Vinci, an Italian scientist, was inspired by Ismail al-Jazari’s work and used it in his inventions.