If you live in the West it is easy to dismiss other cultures contributions to the development of scientific knowledge.
Didn't it go the Greeks, Romans, dark ages, Renaissance, the englightment (17th, 18th century), industrial revolution......
Oh we may mention the Chinese and Gunpowder and such like but that's about it.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili has a series called Science and Islam on BBC Four at 9pm. It started last night and continues on January 12th and 19th. I missed last nights (was watching Three Men in many boats) but I did read his article about the 11th century Arab Physicist al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham. al-hassan used a scientific method long before it was established in the west. He was also working with prisms and light some 7 centuries before Newton.
As Professor Al-Khalili rightly states this shouldn't surprise us. The ninth to thirteenth centuries was a golden age in Arabic Science when Western Europe was stagnant.
Reading Professor Al-Khalili's article, which is well worth reading al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham sounds like a remarkable man, did surprise me but in thinking about it it shouldn't have. For instance the forerunner of modern chess was called Shatranj. The Arabs produced books and analysis the quality of which wasn't seen in Europe until the 18th century.
It does show that our Western centric view of world History needs challenging from time to time.