Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

August 2006
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Scholars of Renown

Thabit Ibn Qurra

Thabit played a crucial role in the establishment of astronomy as an exact science.

Thabit Ibn Qurra is a 9th century Muslim scientist who made original contributions to mathematics and other fields of science during the golden period of Islamic era. He is also known as a translator of Greek works into Arabic. He played a crucial role in the establishment of astronomy as an exact science (method, topic and programme) and wrote even on logic, psychology, ethics, religion and politics. Born in 836 in Harran, Mesopotamia (now in Turkey), Thabit was a member of the Sabian sect. Muhammad Ibn Musa Ibn Shakir, who visited Harran was impressed by Thabitís knowledge of languages and realising the young manís potential, persuaded him to go to Baghdad and take lessons in mathematics from him and his brothers (the Banu Musa). In Baghdad, Thabit received mathematical training and also training in medicine. Later he was appointed court astronomer in Baghdad. There, Thabitís patron was the Caliph, Al-Mutamid, one of the greatest of the Abbasid caliphs. Thabit played an important role in preparing the way for such important mathematical discoveries as the extension of the concept of number to (positive) real numbers, integral calculus, theorems in spherical trigonometry, analytic geometry and non-euclidean geometry. An important work, Kitab Fiíl Qarastun (The book on the beam balance) by Thabit is on mechanics. In this work, Thabit proves the principle of equilibrium of levers.