Arab Scholar Abu Rayhan al-Biruni Born

Arab Scholar Abu Rayhan al-Biruni Born

“On this in 1048, Persian scholar, mathematician, astronomer, historian, and geographer, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni died.

Born Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni in Khwarezm, an oasis south of the Aral Sea in western Central Asia, in the year 973, al-Biruni received extensive training in an array of studies from his teacher, the eminent Abu Nasr Mansur. He grew to be a versatile scholar and scientist with facility in mathematics, astronomy, history, geography, physics, metaphysics, and Islam. He was also a contemporary of the Muslim physician-scholar Avicenna. Biruni became a powerful figure in several courts, including the Saminid court at Bukhara and the Jurjaniya court, where he was often employed as a diplomat and spokesman. Word spread about Biruni’s scholarship, so when Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni conquered Khwarezm, he made Biruni court astrologer of the Ghaznavid dynasty and often took him along on his invasions into India.

Under Sultan Mahmud’s patronage, Biruni’s scholarship blossomed. He catalogued some 100 known minerals, including their characteristics such as colour, hardness, and rock occurrences. His density measurements were particularly advanced. Biruni devised a method for weighing specimens displaced by water to arrive at highly accurate measurements. His measurements of mineral densities bore values very close to modern determinations, and were not matched in precision by European scientists until the 18th century. He also devised his own method of determining the radius of Earth using the height of a mountain. He was thought to be the first scholar of the Muslim world to recognise that the Earth was a sphere that orbits around the sun. His calculations about Earth’s circumference are also close to modern values.

While accompanying Sultan Mahmud to India, Biruni learned Sanskrit as well as Indian astronomy, philosophy, and astrology, and translated two Sanskrit books into Arabic. He also wrote his own account of his travels in India, Kitab al-Hind (“”Book of India””), which gives a detailed account of the historical and social conditions of the subcontinent at the time.

By the time Biruni died on 13 December 1048 at the age of 75, he had written an estimated 146 books, contributed significantly to the scholarship of future generations, and was considered one of the Muslim world’s greatest scholars upon whom was bestowed the title “”Master.”””

Credit: © Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy
Caption: Abu Rayhan al-Biruni thought to be the first scholar of the Muslim world to recognise that the Earth was a sphere that orbits around the sun, some 500 years before Copernicus did.