According to the popular notion of science history, the period between the ninth and thirteenth centuries was what has come to be called the Dark Ages.
Scientific advances ground to a halt and the world languished in an intellectual backwater and then the Renaissance happened. The world woke up and great science got going again, picking up where the ancient Greeks and Romans had left off.
But, as Professor Jim Al-Khalili will show in this series, that simply is not true.
While Europe may have been less productive during this period, elsewhere in the world a vast Islamic empire was buzzing with intellectual activity.
A massive movement to translate the work of other cultures allowed scholars working in Arabic to understand, build on and then surpass the scientific achievements of the past, leaving a valuable legacy to the scientists of the European Renaissance.
In part one Jim meets Professor Peter Pormann, a specialist in the history of medicine at the great library of the medical charity the Wellcome Trust in London. He introduces us to the great physician Mohammed Ibn Zakariya ar-Razi, whose groundbreaking work on differential diagnosis, specifically with measles and smallpox, was still being quoted in English and French texts hundreds of years after his death.
Jim also goes to the chemistry laboratory of Dr Andrea Sella, who tells us about Jabir Ibn Hayyan. Jim believes that Jabir was the true father of chemistry, responsible for elevating previous work to the status of a science.