Biography of Thabit Ibn Qurra

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Thabit Ibn Qurra Ibn Marwan al-Sabi al-Harrani was born in the year 836 C.E. at Harran (present Turkey). As the name indicates he was basically a member of the Sabian sect, but the great Muslim mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Ibn Shakir, impressed by his knowledge of languages, and realising his potential for a scientificcareer, selected him to join the scientific group at Baghdad that was being patronised by the Abbasid Caliphs. There, he studied under the famous Banu Musa brothers. It was in this setting that Thabit contributed to several branches of science, notably mathematics, astronomy and mechanics, in addition to translating a large number of works from Greek to Arabic. Later, he was patronized by the Abbasid Caliph al-M’utadid. After a long career of scholarship, Thabit died at Baghdad in 901 C.E.

Thabit’s major contribution lies in mathematics and astronomy. He was instrumental in extending the concept of traditional geometry to geometrical algebra and proposed several theories that led to the development of non-Euclidean geometry, spherical trigonometry, integral calculus and real numbers. He criticized a number of theorems of Euclid’s elements and proposed important improvements. He applied arithmetical terminology to geometrical quantities, and studied several aspects of conic sections, notably those of parabola and ellipse. A number of his computations aimed at determining the surfaces and volumes of different types of bodies and constitute, in fact, the processes of integral calculus, as developed later.

In astronomy he was one of the early reformers of Ptolemic views. He analysed several. Problems related to the movements of sun and moon and wrote treatises on sun-dials.

In the fields of mechanics and physics he may be recognised as the founder of static’s. He examined conditions of equilibrium of bodies, beams and levers.

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