View Full Version : Muslim Scientists 3 : Astronomers

06-03-2005, 04:25 PM

Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Jabir Ibn Sinan al-Battani al-Harrani was born around 858 C.E. in Harran, and according to one account, in Battan, a State of Harran. Battani was first educated by his father Jabir Ibn San'an al-Battani, who was also a well-known scientist. He then moved to Raqqa, situated on the bank of the Euphrates, where he received advanced education and later on flourished as a scholar. At the beginning of the 9th century, he migrated to Samarra, where he worked till the end of his life in 929 C.E. He was of Sabian origin, but was himself a Muslim.

Battani was a famous astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He has been held as one of the greatest astronomic of Islam. He is responsible for a number of important discoveries in astronomy, which was the result of a long career of 42 years of research beginning at Raqqa when he was young. His well-known discovery is the remarkably accurate determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is very close to the latest estimates. He found that the longitude of the sun's apogee had increased by 16° , 47' since Ptolemy. This implied the important discovery of the motion of the solar apsides and of a slow variation in the equation of time. He did not believe in the trapidation of the equinoxes, although Copernicus held it.

Al-Battani determined with remarkable accuracy the obliquity of the ecliptic, the length of the seasons and the true and mean orbit of the sun. He proved, in sharp contrast to Ptolemy, the variation of the apparent angular diameter of the sun and the possibility of annular eclipses. He rectified several orbits of the moon and the planets and propounded a new and very ingenious theory to determine the conditions of visibility of the new moon. His excellent observations of lunar and solar eclipses were used by Dunthorne in 1749 to determine the secular acceleration of motion of the moon. He also provided very neat solutions by means of orthographic projection for some problems of spherical trigonometry.

In mathematics, he was the first to replace the use of Greek chords by sines, with a clear understanding of their superiority. He also developed the concept of cotangent and furnished their table in degrees.

He wrote a number of books on astronomy and trigonometry. His most famous book was his astronomical treatise with tables, which was translated into Latin in the 12th century and flourished as De scienta stellerum — De numeris stellerum et motibus. An old translation of this is available of the Vatican. His Zij was, in fact, more accurate than all others written by that time.

His treatise on astronomy was extremely influential in Europe till the Renaissance, with translations available in several languages. His original discoveries both in astronomy and trigonometry were of great consequence in the development of these sciences.


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06-03-2005, 04:36 PM
Astronomer: AL-FARGHANI

Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir al-Farghani, born in Farghana, Transoxiana, was one of the most distinguished astronomers in the service of al-Mamun and his successors. He wrote "Elements of Astronomy" (Kitab fi al-Harakat al-Samawiya wa Jawami Ilm al-Nujum i.e. the book on celestial motion and thorough science of the stars), which was translated into Latin in the 12th century and exerted great influence upon European astronomy before Regiomontanus. He accepted Ptolemy's theory and value of the precession, but thought that it affected not only the stars but also the planets. He determined the diameter of the earth to be 6,500 miles, and found the greatest distances and also the diameters of the planets.

Al-Farghani's activities extended to engineering. According to Ibn Tughri Birdi, he supervised the construction of the Great Nilometer at al-Fustat (old Cairo). It was completed in 861, the year in which the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who ordered the construction, died. But engineering was not al-Farghani's forte, as transpires from the following story narrated by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a.

Al-Mutawakkil had entrusted the two sons of Musa ibn Shakir, Muhammad and Ahmad, with supervising the digging of a canal named al-Ja'fari. They delegated the work to Al-Farghani, thus deliberately ignoring a better engineer, Sind ibn Ali, whom, out of professional jealousy, they had caused to be sent to Baghdad, away from al-Mutawakkil's court in Samarra. The canal was to run through the new city, al-Ja'fariyya, which al-Mutawakkil had built near Samarra on the Tigris and named after himself. Al-Farghani committed a grave error, making the beginning of the canal deeper than the rest, so that not enough water would run through the length of the canal except when the Tigris was high. News of this angered the Caliph, and the two brothers were saved from severe punishment only by the gracious willingness of Sind ibn Ali to vouch for the correctness of al-Farghani's calculations, thus risking his own welfare and possibly his life. As had been correctly predicted by astrologers, however, al-Mutawakkil was murdered shortly before the error became apparent. The explanation given for Al-Farghani's mistake is that being a theoretician rather than a practical engineer, he never successfully completed a construction.

The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, written in 987, ascribes only two works to Al-Farghani: (1) "The Book of Chapters, a summary of the Almagest" (Kitab al-Fusul, Ikhtiyar al-Majisti) and (2) "Book on the Construction of Sun-dials" (Kitab 'Amal al-Rukhamat).

The Jawami, or 'The Elements' as we shall call it, was Al- Farghani's best-known and most influential work. Abd al-Aziz al-Qabisi (d. 967) wrote a commentary on it, which is preserved in the Istanbul manuscript, Aya Sofya 4832, fols. 97v-114v. Two Latin translations followed in the 12th century. Jacob Anatoli produced a Hebrew translation of the book that served as a basis for a third Latin version, appearing in 1590, whereas Jacob Golius published a new Latin text together with the Arabic original in 1669. The influence of 'The Elements' on mediaeval Europe is clearly vindicated by the presence of innumerable Latin manuscripts in European libraries.

References to it by medieval writers are many, and there is no doubt that it was greatly responsible for spreading knowledge of Ptolemaic astronomy, at least until this role was taken over by Sacrobosco's Sphere. But even then, 'The Elements' of Al-Farghani continued to be used, and Sacrobosco's Sphere was evidently indebted to it. It was from 'The Elements' (in Gherard's translation) that Dante derived the astronomical knowledge displayed in the 'Vita nuova' and in the 'Convivio'.


06-03-2005, 04:38 PM

Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi full name(Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan Nasir al-Din al-Tusi), was born in Tus (Khurasan) in 1201 C.E. He learnt sciences and philosophy from Kamal al-Din Ibn Yunus and others. He was one of those who were kidnapped by Hasan Bin Sabah's agents and sent to Almut, Hasan's stronghold. In 1256 when Almut was conquered by the Mongols, Nasir al-Din joined Halagu's service. Halagu Khan was deeply impressed by his knowledge, including his astrological competency; appointed him as one of his ministers, and, later on, as administrator of Auqaf. He was instrumental in the establishment and progress of the observatory at Maragha. In his last year of life he went to Baghdad and died there.

Nasir al-Din was one of the greatest scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, theologians and physicians of the time and was a prolific writer. He made significant contributions to a large number of subjects, and it is indeed difficult to present his work in a few words. He wrote one or several treatises on different sciences and subjects including those on geometry, algebra, arithmetic, trigonometry, medicine, metaphysics, logic, ethics and theology. In addition he wrote poetry in Persian.

In mathematics, his major contribution would seem to be in trigonometry, which was compiled by him as a new subject in its own right for the first time. Also he developed the subject of spherical trigonometry, including six fundamental formulas for the solution of spherical right-angled triangles.

As the chief scientist at the observatory established under his supervision at Maragha, he made significant contributions to astronomy. The observatory was equipped with the best possible instruments, including those collected by the Mongol armies from Baghdad and other Islamic centers. The instruments included astrolabes, representations of constellations, epicycles, shapes of spheres, etc. He himself invented an instrument 'turquet' that contained two planes. After the devoted work of 12 years at the observatory and with the assistance of his group, he produced new astronomical tables called Al-Zij-Ilkhani dedicated to Ilkhan (Halagu Khan). Although Tusi had contemplated completing the tables in 30 years, the time required for the completion of planetary cycles, but he had to complete them in 12 years on orders from Halagu Khan. The tables were largely based on original observations, but also drew upon the then existing knowledge on the subject. The Zij Ilkhani became the most popular tables among astronomers and remained so till the 15th century. Nasir al-Din pointed out several serious shortcomings in Ptolemy's astronomy and foreshadowed the later dissatisfaction with the system that culminated in the Copernican reforms.

In philosophy, apart from his contribution in logic and meta- physics, his work on ethics entitled Akhlaq-i-Nasri became the most important book on the subject, and remained popular for centuries. His book Tajrid-al-'Aqaid was a major work on al-Kalam (Islamic Scholastic Philosophy) and enjoyed widespread popularity. Several commentaries were written on this book and even a number of super commentaries on the major commentaries, Sharh Qadim and Sharh Jadid.

The list of his known treatises is exhaustive; Brockelmann lists 56 and Sarton 64. About one-fourth of these concern mathematics, another fourth astronomy, another fourth philosophy and religion, and the remainder other subjects. The books, though originally written in Arabic and Persian, were translated into Latin and other European languages in the Middle Ages and several of these have been printed.

Tusi's influence has been significant in the development of science, notably in mathematics and astronomy. His books were widely consulted for centuries and he has been held in high repute for his rich contributions.


05-21-2006, 11:08 PM
Thank you very much for this fascinating info.


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