For a few hundred years, when science and mathematics were enjoying a period of great invention, one region of the world stood out. Masters of these disciplines were revered there, medicine advanced quickly, and the average person was curious about how nature worked. Not surprisingly, this region was globally respected.
In the other half of the known planet, scientists were punished, even killed. Mathematics was outlawed as irreligious and alien, and was later made subservient to religion. The standard of living was low.
The prosperous region was the Islamic Middle East, while an ignorant Europe remained poor. Both regions were religiously governed (historians differ about the role and natures of the religions in this context), but science flourished only in one of them. Now, of course the roles of the Islamic Middle East and the West are reversed.
Since World War II, the United States has been the world’s undisputed leader in science. Throughout this period, the brightest students were drawn away from their native lands, attracted by superior research universities and opportunities. Until recently, more than half of all mathematics, science, and engineering graduate students in the US were foreign-born. Many of these talents stayed after graduation, and both industry and government took advantage of this.