Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (October 4, 973 (0973-10-04), Qat, Khorezm, Afridi – December 11, 1048 (2 Rajab 440 AH), Ghazni, Ghaznevid state, present-day Afghanistan. The medieval Persian encyclopedist scholar and thinker, the author of many major works on history, geography, philology, astronomy, mathematics, mechanics, geodesy, mineralogy, pharmacology, geology and others. Biruni mastered almost all the sciences of his time. The list of Biruni”s works, compiled by himself around 1036, contains more than a hundred titles. He wrote his scientific works in Arabic and Persian.
Al-Biruni was born on October 4, 973 (0973-10-04) in the Khorezmian city of Kyat (now the city of Beruni in the Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan). According to other sources Biruni was born on September 4, 973. Little is known about his parents; in his own writings, Biruni wrote that he did not know his father and grandfather. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Biruni was born into an Iranian family.
Biruni described the languages he learned as follows: “Then I went on to Arabic and Persian, in each of which I am an alien, with difficulty mastering it.
According to some Orientalists, his native language was a Khorezmian dialect of Persian.
In all, he knew Khorezmian, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Sanskrit.
Biruni put Arabic above Persian when he wrote: “I find the insult in Arabic sweeter than the praise in Persian… this dialect is good only for Khosroi”s tales and night tales”.
Coming out of the artisan circles, he received a broad mathematical and philosophical education. His teacher in the ancient capital of Khorezmshakhs, Kyat, was an outstanding mathematician and astronomer Ibn Iraq. After the capture of Qat by the emir of Gurgandj in 995 and transfer of the capital of Khorezm to Gurgandj, al-Biruni, who supported the deposed dynasty of Afridi, left for Ray, where he worked for al-Hodzhandi. Biruni worked in Gurgan at the court of the Ziyarid Emir of Tabaristan, Shams al-Ma”ali Qabus, to whom he dedicated his “Chronology” around 1000. He eventually returned to Khorezm and worked in Gurganj at the court of Khorezm shahs Ali (997-1009) and Mamun II.
In 1017, after the conquest of Khorezm by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, he and other captive scholars were forced to move to Ghazna, where he worked at the court of Sultan Mahmud and his successors Masud and Maudud. Al-Biruni participated in Mahmud”s campaigns to India, where he lived for several years. Al-Biruni dedicated his work on astronomy and spherical trigonometry, known as the “Canon of Masud,” to Masud who patronized him.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) moved from Bukhara to Khorezm in 997, where he lived for 15 years until 1012. In 997-998. Biruni corresponded with Ibn Sina on various questions of cosmogony and physics, embodied in the form of questions and answers. In Urgench, Ibn Sina was lucky to work at the Academy of Mamun, where Abu Rayhan Beruni was already working. It is noteworthy that the foundations of two works that made Ibn Sina famous, “Canon of Medicine” (Al-Qanun fit-t-tibb) and “The Book of Healing” (Kitab ash-sifa) were laid in Khorezm – in Urgench. “The Canon of Medicine” was begun in Khorezm in 1000. In 1012, Ibn Sina left Khorezm for Khorasan.
In his first work, Chronology, or Monuments of Past Generations (1000), al-Biruni collected and described all the calendar systems used by the various peoples of the world known to him at the time, and compiled a chronological table of all eras, beginning with the biblical patriarchs.
In his work “India, or the Book Containing Explanations of Teachings Belonging to Indians, Acceptable to Reason or Rejected” completed in 1030, al-Biruni gave a detailed scientific and critical description of the life, culture and science of Indians, described their religious and philosophical systems, quite accurately transcribed the teachings of classical Sankhya, the theory of cosmic evolution, the teaching about the connection between the soul and the “subtle body”, etc. The famous legend of the creator of the game of chess is also set forth here.
Biruni devoted 45 works to astronomy. A popular introduction to the science of astronomy is the “Book of Star Science Precepts,” written around 1029 and surviving in two versions: Arabic and Farsi. This book consists of 530 questions and answers about geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, geography, chronology, the astrolabe, and astrology.
The main work of Biruni on astronomy is the “Canon of Mas”ud on Astronomy and the Stars”. The plan of this work is close to the standard plan of the Arabian zij, but unlike them here are detailed experimental and mathematical proofs of all the provisions set forth; a number of provisions of his predecessors, for example, the assumption of Sabit ibn Korra about the connection between the motion of the apogee of the Sun and the advance of the equinoxes Biruni refutes, in many issues he comes to new conclusions. He considered the hypothesis of the movement of the Earth around the Sun; he claimed the same fiery nature of the Sun and stars, in contrast to the dark bodies – planets, the mobility of the stars and their huge size compared to the Earth, the idea of gravitation. Biruni carried out observations on the wall quadrant of 7.5 m radius built by al-Nasawi in Rhea, performing them with an accuracy of 2′. He established the angle of inclination of the ecliptic to the equator, calculated the radius of the Earth, described the change in the coloring of the moon during lunar eclipses and the solar corona during solar eclipses.
Biruni paid much attention to mathematics, especially trigonometry: besides a considerable part of the “Canon of Mas”ud”, he devoted to it the works “On determining chords in a circle by means of a broken line inscribed in it” (here a number of theorems belonging to Archimedes, not preserved in Greek manuscripts, are considered), “On Indian rachics” (this book discusses the so-called triple rule), “The Sphere”, “Book of pearls on the sphere plane” and others. The treatise “Shadows”, several treatises on astrolabe and other astronomical instruments, and a number of works on geodesy are devoted to questions of applied mathematics.
In 1038 Biruni wrote “Mineralogy, or a book of summaries for the knowledge of treasures”, which defines the specific weight of many minerals and gives detailed information about more than fifty minerals, ores, metals, alloys, etc. He also compiled “Pharmacognosy in medicine” – a book on medical preparations, a major work of great importance in our time. In this book, he described in detail about 880 plants, their parts and excreta; he gave their exact characteristics and regulated the terminology. Biruni collected and explained about 4,500 Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Indian, Persian, Khorezmian, Sogdian, Turkic and other names of plants; these synonyms are important for modern study of the history of pharmacognosy.
As a researcher, Biruni emphasized the necessity of thoroughly testing knowledge by experience, opposing experimental knowledge to speculative knowledge. From these positions he criticized the Aristotelian and Avicenne concept of “natural place” and arguments against the existence of emptiness.
In addition to his native Khorezmian language, Biruni knew Arabic, Persian, Greek, Syriac, as well as Hebrew, Sanskrit and Hindi. This knowledge helped him to develop principles of translation of natural scientific terminology from one language to another. The system of transcription created by Biruni on the basis of Arabic script in many respects anticipated the modern system of transmission of Indian words in Urdu.
Biruni in his works gives the names of Turkic months and Turkic medicinal herbs.
Biruni in his work “Monuments of the Past Generations” gives the Turkic names of years according to the animal cycle: Sichkan, Od, Bars, Tushkan, Lui, Ilan, Yunt, Kuy, Pichin, Tagigu, Tunguz. In the same work he gives the names of months in Turkic: ulug-oi, kichik-oi, birinchi-oi, ikkinchi-oi, uchinchi-oi, turtinchi-oi, beshinchi-oi, oltinchi-oi, yetinchi-oi, sakkizinchi-oi, tokkuzinchi-oi, uninchi-oi.
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Scientific works in Persian
Despite his Iranian origins, Biruni wrote most of his scientific works in Arabic, the scientific language of his time, but the Kitab al-Tafhim, one of his masterpieces, was written in both Persian and Arabic, showing his ability to write in both languages equally. “Kitab al-Tafhim” is one of the most important early works of scholarship in Persian and represents a rich source of Persian prose and lexicography. The book skillfully and in the most detailed way deals with the disciplines that make up the medieval quadrivium. His scholarly writings also contain passages in another Iranian language, Khorezmian.
In the 1950s and 1980s, the scientific heritage of Biruni was studied by U. Karimov, who translated a number of his works.
The legacy and biography of Biruni were also the subject of research by the British scholar C. Bosworth. Biruni”s contribution to ethnography was analyzed in the publication of Ahmed Akbar.
* Al Biruni”s Geography according to the Maasud Canon http:history-maps.rupicturesall_1small_1836 Portvein777tm(c)