Ismaeel al-Jazari (active c. 1206)

A page from a copy of al-Jazari's Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

Ismaeel al-Jazari was an inventor and engineer who lived in Mesopotamia during the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Very little is known about al-Jazari’s life, though it is thought that he served as chief engineer and adviser at the Artuklu Palace, the residence of the Mardin branch of the Turkish Artuqid dynasty. In 1206 he presented his sultan with the Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, which provides great insight into craftsmanship and engineering in medieval Arab society. Al-Jazari described in detail a number of machines and practical devices including a water wheel and several clocks, alongside instructions on how to construct them. As well as having a practical function, many of the devices were eccentrically or fancifully designed. Examples include his ‘peacock’ fountain, a hand-washing device featuring humanoid automata as servants offering soap and towels.