AL-FARGHANI (C. 860)

Abu’l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir al-Farghani, born in Farghana, Transoxiana, was one of the most distinguished astronomers in the service of al-Mamun and his successors. He wrote “Elements of Astronomy” (Kitab fi al-Harakat al-Samawiya wa Jawami Ilm al-Nujum i.e. the publication on celestial motion and thorough science of the stars), which was converted into Latin in the 12th century and used large leverage upon European astronomy before Regiomontanus. He acknowledged Ptolemy’s idea and value of the precession, but thought that it influenced not only the stars but furthermore the planets. He very resolute the diameter of the soil to be 6,500 miles, and. discovered the utmost distances and furthermore the diameters of the satellites.

Al-Farghani’s activities expanded to technology. According to Ibn Tughri Birdi, he supervised the building of the Great Nilometer at al-Fustat (old Cairo). It was completed in 861, the year in which the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who organised the building, past away. But technology was not al-Farghani’s forte, as transpires from the following article narrated by Ibn Abi Usaybi’a.

Al-Mutawakkil had entrusted the two sons of Musa ibn Shakir, Muhammad and Ahmad, with overseeing the cutting into of a canal named al-Ja’fari. They delegated the work to Al-Farghani, therefore on purpose ignoring a better technician, Sind ibn Ali, who, out of expert jealousy, they had initiated to be dispatched to Baghdad, away from al-Mutawakkil’s court in Samarra. The canal was to run through the new city, al-Ja’fariyya, which al-Mutawakkil had constructed beside Samarra on the Tigris and entitled after himself. Al-Farghani committed a serious error, making the starting of the canal deeper than the rest, so that not sufficient water would run through the extent of the canal except when the Tigris was high. report of this enraged the Caliph, and the two male siblings were kept from critical punishment only by the gracious willingness of Sind ibn Ali to vouch for the correctness of al-Farghani’s computed results, therefore endangering his own welfare and possibly his life. As had been rightly forecast by astrologers, however, al-Mutawakkil was murdered soon before the error became clear-cut. The explanation granted for Al-Farghani’s error is that being a theoretician rather than a functional technician, he not ever effectively accomplished a building.

The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, written in 987, ascribes only two works to Al-Farghani: (1) “The Book of sections, a summary of the Almagest” (Kitab al-Fusul, Ikhtiyar al-Majisti) and (2) “Book on the Construction of Sun-dials” (Kitab ‘Amal al-Rukhamat).

The Jawami, or ‘The components’ as we will call it, was Al- Farghani’s best-known and most influential work. Abd al-Aziz al-Qabisi (d. 967) composed a commentary on it, which is maintained in the Istanbul manuscript, Aya Sofya 4832, fols. 97v-114v. Two Latin translations pursued in the 12th years. Jacob Anatoli produced a Hebrew transformation of the book that assisted as a basis for a third Latin version, seeming in 1590, while Jacob Golius released a new Latin text simultaneously with the Arabic initial in 1669. The leverage of ‘The components’ on mediaeval Europe is apparently vindicated by the occurrence of innumerable Latin manuscripts in European libraries.

quotations to it in mediaeval writers are numerous, and there is no question that it was greatly responsible for spreading information of Ptolemaic astronomy, at smallest until this function was taken over by Sacrobosco’s Sphere. But even then, ‘The components’ of Al-Farghani proceeded to be used, and Sacrobosco’s Sphere was evidently indebted to it. It was from ‘The components’ (in Gherard’s transformation) that Dante drawn from the astronomical knowledge brandished in the ‘Vita nuova’ and in the ‘Convivio’.

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