Biography of Omar Al-Khayyam

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Ghiyath al-Din Abul Fateh Omar Ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyam was born at Nishapur, the provincial capital of Khurasan around 1044 C.E. (c. 1038 to 1048). Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, physician and poet, he is commonly known as Omar Khayyam. Khayyam means the tent-maker, and although generally considered as Persian, it has also been suggested that he could have belonged to the Khayyami tribe of Arab origin who might have settled in Persia. Little is known about his early life, except for the fact that he was educated at Nishapur and lived there and at Samarqand for most of his life. He was a contemporary of Nidham al-Mulk Tusi. Contrary to the available opportunities, he did not like to be employed at the King’s court and led a calm life devoted to search for knowledge. He travelled to the great centres of learn- ing, Samarqand, Bukhara, Balkh and Isphahan in order to study further and exchange views with the scholars there. While at Samarqand he was patronised by a dignatory, Abu Tahir. He died at Nishapur in 1123-24.

Algebra would seem to rank first among the fields to which he contributed. He made an attempt to classify most algebraic equations, including the third degree equations and, in fact, offered solutions for a number of them. This includes geometric solutions of cubic equations and partial geometric solutions of most other equations. His book Maqalat fi al-Jabr wa al-Muqabila is a master- piece on algebra and has great importance in the development of algebra. His remarkableclassification of equations is based on the complexity of the equations, as the higher the degree of an equation, the more terms, or combinations of terms, it will contain. Thus, Khayyam recognizes 13 different forms of cubic equatlon. His method of solving equations is largely geometrical and depends upon an ingenious selection of proper conics. He also developed the binomial expansion when the exponent is a positive integer. In fact, he has been considered to be the first to find the binomial theorem and determine binomial coefficients. In geometry, hestudied generalities of Euclid and contributed to the theory of parallel lines.

The Saljuq Sultan, Malikshah Jalal al-Din, called him to the new observatory at Ray around 1074 and assigned him the task of determining a correct solar calendar. This had become necessary in view of the revenue collections and other administrative matters that were to be performed at different times of the year. Khayyamintroduced a calendar that was remarkably accurate, and was named as Al-Tarikh-al-Jalali. It had an error of one day in 3770 years and was thus even superior to the Georgian calendar (error of 1 day in 3330 years).

His contributions to other fields of science include a study of generalities of Euclid, development of methods for the accurate determination ofspecific gravity, etc. In metaphysics, he wrote three books Risala Dar Wujud and the recently discovered Nauruz- namah. He was also a renowned astronomer and a physician.

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