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History of Islamic Science 4
Based on the book
Introduction to the History of Scienceby George Sarton
(provided with photos and portraits)
Edited and prepared by Prof. Hamed A. Ead
These pages are edited by Prof. Hamed Abdel-reheem Ead, Professor of Chemistry at the Faculty of Science -University of Cairo, Giza, Egypt and director of the Science Heritage Center
Web site: http://www.frcu.eun.eg/www/universities/html/hamed2.htm
Back to Islamic Alchemy
The Time of Al-Mas'udi
First Half of Tenth Century
The overwhelming superiority
of Muslim culture continued to be felt throughout the tenth century. Indeed,
it was felt more strongly than over, not only the foremost men of science
were Muslims, but also because cultural influences are essentially cumulative.
By the beginning, or at any rate by the middle of the century, the excellence
of muslim science was already so well established, even in the West, that
each new arabic work benefited to some extent by the prestige pertaining
to all. To be sure, other languages, such as Latin, Greek, or Hebrew were
also used by scholars, but the works written in those languages contained
nothing new, and in the field of science, as in any other, when one ceases
to go forward, one already begins to go backward. All the new discoveries
and the new thoughts were published in arabic. strangely enough, the language
of the Qur'an had thus become the international vehicle of scientific progress.
The development of Muslim culture was fostere in Spain
by the eighth Umayyad caliph of the west, Abd al-Rahman II, the advances
of Muslim science continued to take place almost extensively in the east.
Muslim Mathematics and Astronomy
Practically all the writings
of this period were arabic. Let us consider these Arabic writings first.
The mathematical production of this period was less abundant and on whole
less brilliant than that of the previous one, but it was, for the first
time exclusively Muslim, and there were at least two very distinguished
mathematicians, Abu Kamil and Ibrahim ibn Sinan. Ibn al-Adami and Ibn Amajur
compiled astronomical tables; the latter was said to be one of the best
Muslim observers; he made a number of observations between 885 and 933,
being aided by his son Ali and a slave called Moflih. Abu Kamil perfected
al-Khwarizmi's algebra; he made a special study of the pentagon and decagon
and of the addition and subtraction of radicals; he could determine and
construct the two (real) roots of a quadratic equation. Abu Othman translated
Book X of Euclid, together with Pappos's commentary upon it. Al-Balkhi
and the physician Sinan ibn Thabit wrote various treatises on mathematical,
astronomical, and astrological subjects. Al-Hamdani compiled astronomical
tables for Yemen, and his great work on archaeology of his country contains
much information on the scientific views of the early Arabs. Ibrahim ibn
Sinan was primarily a geometer; he wrote commentaries on Apollonios and
on Almagest and his determination of the area of a parabola was one of
the greatest achievements of Muslim mathematics. Al-Imrani wrote astrological
treatise and a commentary on Abu Kamil's algebra.
Muslim Physics and Alchemy
Ibn Wahshiya who will be
dealt with more fully below, was primarily an alchemist and an occultist.
His works do not seem to have any chemical importance, but they may help
to understand alchemical symbolism.
The newer medical ideas were,
all of them, published in Arabic, but not necessarily by Muslims. The greatest
physician of the age was a Jew, Ishaq al-Isra'ili (Isaac Judaeus). We owe
him, for instance, the main mediaeval treatise on urine.
Two of the Muslim mathematicians dealt with above,
Abu Othman and Sinan ibn Thabit, became famous as organizers of hospitals;
Sinan took pains to raise the scientific standards of the medical profession;
Abu Othman translated Galenic writings into Arabic.
Mohammed ibnal-Husain ibn
Hamid. Flourished at the end of the ninth century or the beginning of the
tenth. Muslim astronomer. He compiled astronomical tables which were completed
after his death by his pupil al-Qasim ibn Mohammed ibn Hisham al-Madani.
They appeared in 920-21 under the title Nazm al-iqd (Arrangement of the
Pearl Necklace"), together with a theoretical introduction (lost!).
H. Suter: Mathematiker (44, 1920).
Abul-Qasim Abdallah Ibn Amajur
(or Majur?) al-Turki. He originated from Fargana, Turkestan, and flourished
c. 885-933. Muslim astronomer. One of the greatest observers among the
Muslims. He made many observations between 885 and 933, together with his
son Abu-Hasan Ali and emancipated slave of the latter, named Muflih. Father
and son are often called Banu Amajur. Some of their observations are recorded
by Ibn Yunus. Together they produced many astronomical tables: the Pure
(alkhalis), the Girdled (al-Muzannar), the Wonderful (al-badi), tables
of Mars according to Persian chronology, etc.
H. Suter: Mathematiker (49,
211, 1900; 165, 1902).
ABU KAMIL(a) + (b) = [
a + b + (2ab) ] ).
Abu Kamil Shuja ibn Aslam
ibn Mohammed ibn Shuja al-hasib al-Misri, i. e., the Egyptian calculator.
He originated from Egypt and flourished after al-Khwarizmi, he died c.
850, and before al-Imrani, who died 955. We place him tentatively about
the beginning of the tenth century. Mathematician. He perfected al-Khawarizimi's
work on algebra. Determination and construction of both roots of quadratic
equations. Multiplication and division of algebraic quantities. Addition
and subtraction of radicals (corresponding to our formula
Study of the pentagon and decagon (algebraic treatment).
His work was largely used by al-Kakhi and Leonardo de Pisa.
H. Suter: Die Mathematiker
und Astronomen der Araber (43, 1900; Nachtrage, 164, 1902).
Abu Othman Sa'id ibn Ya'qub
al-Dimashqi, (i. e., the Damascene). Flourished at Bagdad under al-Muqtadir,
Khalifa from 908 to 932. Muslim physician and mathematician. He translated
into Arabic works of Aristotle, Euclid, Galen (on temperaments and on the
pulse), and porphyry. His most important translation was that of Book X
of Euclid, together with Pappos's commentary on it which is extant only
in Arabic. The supervision of hospitals in Bagdad, Mekka, and Medina was
intrusted to him in 915.
L. Leclerc: Medicine arabe
(vol. 1, 374, 1876. Only a few lines). H. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomen
der Araber (49, 211, 1900).
Abu Zaid Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi.
Born in Shamistiyan, province of Balkh, died in 934. Geographer, mathematician.
A member of the Imamiya sect; disciple of al-Kindi. Of the many books ascribed
to him in the Fihrist, I quote: the excellency of mathematics; on certitude
in astrology. His "Figures of the Climates" (Suwar al-aqalim) consisted
chiefly of geographical maps.
The "Book of the Creation and History" formerly ascribed
to him was really written in 966 by Mutahhar ibn Tahir al-Maqdisi (q. v.,
M. J. de Goeje: Die Istakhri-Balkhi
Frage (Z. d. deutschen morgenl. Ges., vol. 25, 42-58, 1871). H. Suter:
Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber (211, 1900).
IBRAHIM IBN SINAN
Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Sinan
ibn Thabit ibn Qurra. Born in 908-9, died in 946. Grandson of Thabit ibn
Qurra (q. v. second half of ninth century); his father Sinan, who embraced
Islam and died in 943, was also a distinguished astronomer and mathematician
(see medical section below). Muslim mathematician and astronomer. He wrote
commentaries on the first book of "Conics" and on the "Almagest", and many
papers on geometrical and astronomical subjects (for example, on sundials).
His Quadrature of the parabola was much simpler than that of Archimedes,
in fact the simplest ever made before the invention of the integral calculus.
H. Suter: Die Mathematiker
und Astronomen der Araber (53, 1900).
Ali ibn Ahmed al-Imrani.
Born at Mosul in Upper Mesopotamia; he flourished there and died in 955056.
Muslim mathematician and astrologer. He wrote a commentary on Abu Kamil's
algebra and various astrological treatises. One of these, on the choosing
of (Auspicious) days, was translated by Savasodra at Barcelona in 1131
or 1134 (De electiobus) (q. v. first half of twelfth century).
H. Suter: Mathematiker (56, 1900; 165, 1902).
Abu Bakr Ahmed (or Mohammed)
ibn Ali ibn al-Wahshiya al-Kaldani or al-Nabati. Born in Iraq of a Nabataean
family, flourished about the end of the third century H., i. e., before
912. Alchemist. Author of alchemistic and occult writings (quoted in the
Fihrist). He wrote c. 904 the so-called "Nabataean agriculture" (Kitab
al-falaha al-nabatiya), an alleged translation from ancient Babylonain
sources, the purpose of which was to extol the Babylonian-Aramean-Syrian
civilization (or more simply the "old" civilization before the hegira)
against that of the conquering Arabs. It contains valuable information
on agriculture and superstitions.
This forgery became famous because the great Russian
orientalist Khvolson was entirely deceived by it. Of course, Ibn Wahshiya
was as unable to read the cuneiform texts as the Egyptian Arabs the hieroglyphic.
Fihrist (311-312, 358).
Isaac Judaeus. Isaac Israeli
the elder. (Not to be mistaken for the Spanish astronomer Isaac Israeli
the younger; q. v., first half of fourteenth century.) Isaac ibn Solomon.
Abu Ya'qub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Isra'ili. Born in Egypt; flourished in
Qairawan, Tunis, where he died, a centenarian, about the middle of the
tenth century (c. 932?). Jewish physician and philosopher. One of the first
to direct the attention of the jews to Greek science and philosophy. Physician
to the Fatimid caliph "Ubaid Allah al-Mahdi" (909 to 934), he composed
at his request many medical writings in Arabic. Translated into Latin in
1087 by Constantine the African, Into Hebrew, and into Spanish, their influence
was very great. The main medical writings are: on fevers (Kitab al-Hummayat);
the book of simple drugs and nutriments (Kitab al-adwiya al-mufrada wal-aghdhiya;
diaetae universales et particulares); on urine (Kitab al-Baul, by far the
most elaborate mediaeval treatise on the subject); on deontology, the "Guide
of the physician" (lost in Arabic, extant in Hebrew under the title of
Manhag (or Musarha-rofe'im). He wrote also a medico-philosophical treatise
on the elements (Kitab al-istiqsat), and another on definitions. Isaac
was the earliest jewish philosopher (or one of the earliest) to publish
a classification of the sciences. This was essentially the Aristotelian
one as transmitted and modified by the Muslims.
Wustenfeld: Geschichte der
arabischen Aerzte (51-52, 1840).