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
First Half of Tenth Century
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.
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.
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).
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).
IBRAHIM IBN SINAN
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).
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