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Ness Creighton

Egyptian Muslim mathematician, also known as al-Hasib al-Misri, the Egyptian Calculator (or Reckoner). His full name was Abu Kamil Shujaʿ ibn Aslam ibn Muhammad ibn Shuja. Very few biographical details are known concerning Abu Kamil, but his productive peak appears to have been at the end of the ninth century. The year of his birth and the year of his death are known with a decent degree of certainty as he is known to have died before al-Imrani (who died in 955) but to have lived well beyond al-Khwarizmi (who died in 850). A direct successor in the development of algebra to al-Khwarizmi, his texts on algebraic theory helped to form the groundwork for later mathematicians, including al-Karaji. Fibonacci would later adopt his mathematical techniques.

Abu Kamil worked to perfect many of al Khwarizmi s algebraic methods including work with the multiplication and division of algebraic objects and the addition ...

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Abdul Karim Bangura

Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi, or Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi, was born in 870 c.e in Kazakhstan or Persia or Afghanistan Also known in the West as Alpharabius he is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher scientist and musicologist of his era and perhaps one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in all of history As a political philosopher al Farabi sought out answers to many of the most difficult questions facing the Islamic world during his lifetime He questioned the relations between humankind and God the role of the intermediary the influence of the divine law in private life and the limitations of the human mind He went beyond the divine law and searched for humankind s place in the universe and our relationship with nature society and the divine law He inquired about the different types of political institutions ...

Article

Georgia L. Irby-Massie

Greek mathematician, called “the father of algebra,” worked at Alexandria, the main center of scientific intellectualism in antiquity. Diophantus’s dates have been much debated. The mathematician quotes from Hypsikles of Alexandria (fl. c. 150–100 BCE) on polygonal numbers and is himself first cited by Theon of Alexandria (fl. 360–385 CE). Saint Dionysius of Alexandria (d. c. 264 CE) is possibly the addressee of the Arithmetika’s introduction. We know little of Diophantus’s life beyond the testimony of a contrived and possibly apocryphal arithmetical epigram preserved in the sixth-century Anthologia Graeca 14 126 that dates major personal events in his life marriage at age twenty six birth of a son at thirty eight his son s death four years before his own at eighty four his boyhood lasted 1 6th of his life he married after 1 7th more his beard grew after 1 12th more and his son was ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

Greek polymath most noted for his calculation of the circumference of the earth and his invention of the discipline of geography, was born in Cyrene in modern Libya, an outpost of Greek culture; he was exposed early to exotic contacts at the end of the Greek world. Nothing is known about his youth, but by the 260s BCE he was studying in Athens, primarily with the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, and Arcesilaus of Pitane, the director of the Academy. He was also a close associate of the mathematician Archimedes, who dedicated at least one work to him. Eratosthenes was thus trained in the wide variety of thought that Hellenistic Athens offered, and his early writings demonstrate his ability in philosophy, philology, and mathematics. But there are few details about the nearly twenty years that he spent in the city.

In 246 BCE the new Ptolemaic king Ptolemy III ...

Article

Euclid  

Carmen De Michele

ancient Hellenistic mathematician, also known as Euclid of Alexandria, is considered the “father of geometry.” He is one of the most prominent mathematicians of Greco-Roman antiquity; his best known work is his treatise on geometry, the Elements.

Little is known about Euclid s life His date and place of birth as well as the circumstances of his death are unknown so that they can only be estimated by looking at contemporaries named in references The only reliable source is Proclus s 410 485 CE summary of the history of Greek mathematicians written centuries later Euclid was probably one of Plato s students at his Academy in Athens where he studied mathematics Euclid moved to Alexandria the largest city in the ancient world and taught mathematics at the Library of Alexandria under the reign of Ptolemy I Soter A questionable anecdote describes how when Ptolemy I asked the mathematician if ...

Article

Stephen Cory

, famous mathematician born in Pisa, spent much of his youth in Algeria where his father, Guilieimo Bonaccio, served as a representative for Italian merchants engaged in the leather trade. Fibonacci is often known as Leonardo of Pisa. Leonardo was one of the first mathematicians to introduce the Arabic (Hindu) numeral system into Europe. He also brought the concepts of the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid into European use, having encountered an Arabic translation of Euclid’s Elements in North Africa. Fibonacci is best known for introducing a number series that is named after him (the Fibonacci sequence) and whose ratios closely approximate the “golden ratio,” or 1.618034, which reproduces a geometric symmetry often found in nature. His work was noticed by the king of Sicily, Frederick II, who also served as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1215 As a result Leonardo conducted his research and published his texts with royal ...

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William F. Mugleston

calculator, was born in West Africa. Nothing is known of his parents or other relatives. At the age of fourteen he was brought as a slave to colonial America and apparently lived the remainder of his life in Virginia. In his old age he was owned by Elizabeth Coxe of Alexandria.

Fuller led the typical life of a slave and never learned to read or write, but he was widely noted late in his life for his extraordinary ability to perform rapid and complicated mathematical calculations in his head. He was often visited by travelers wanting to witness his skill. One of them was Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia the noted physician and educator Rush quizzed him and verified the accuracy of his answers Among other feats Fuller could multiply nine figures by nine give the number of seconds in a year calculate how many seconds anyone had lived ...

Article

Georgia L. Irby-Massie

Greek polymath who worked in mathematics, astronomy, and mechanics. He is especially famous for descriptions of automata (air-, water-, and steam-powered mechanical devices) and steam-powered aeolipiles. “Hero’s engine,” deriving from Ctesibius of Alexandria’s design (290250 bce), is the first device to transform steam into rotary motion. The aeolipile consists of a hollow sphere attached by pipes to an enclosed water-filled cauldron. When the cauldron is heated, the sphere spins on a pivot as it releases steam (Pneumatics 50).

Hero’s much disputed floruit was pinpointed by Neugebauer (1975, 846), who noted that Hero used eyewitness evidence of a lunar eclipse of 62 ce, visible from both Rome and Alexandria, to calculate the distance between those two cities (Dioptra 35). Making no use of Ptolemy of Alexandria (127after 146 ce Hero likely predated Ptolemy Neugebauer Very little is known of Hero s life His mathematical corpus ...

Article

Hypatia  

Michael A. B. Deakin

Alexandrian astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, was the first woman mathematician of whose life and work we have reasonably detailed and secure knowledge. She was active as a public figure, taking a leading part in the civic affairs of Alexandria and also delivering popular lectures on philosophy: a Neoplatonist philosophy heavily influenced by mathematics. She also taught students the intricacies of technical mathematics and astronomy. Her public profile alone was probably distinguished enough to earn her a place in history, but this has been cemented by the lurid nature of her death. She died in 415, murdered by a crowd of Christian zealots who seized her, stripped her, and proceeded to dismember her and to burn her mangled corpse. Undoubtedly this further circumstance has served to keep her name alive.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician Theon and taught both mathematics and philosophy in the then Greek city of Alexandria ...

Article

Abdelhamid I. Sabra

Egyptian scientist, was known in his lifetime as al-Basri, where he was first in Basra, Iraq, and as al-Misri, since he ended his life in Cairo, having escaped from the “widespread plagues” described in some detail by the Christian physician Ibn Butlan (d. AH 458/1066 CE). Ibn Butlan witnessed the plagues while he traveled to Aleppo, al-Fustat, and al-Qustantiniyya, and he lists Ibn al-Haytham among “the men of science” who fell victim to the plague.

Ibn al-Haytham’s education is known mainly from his extant writings, which luckily are many, most of them original and impressive, with continuous interest in astronomy, and especially a new significant emphasis on the study of light as a clear branch of “physics”: “light,” he noted, in his Optics book 5 does not behave in the way it does for the sake of the eye He was not an atomist but he accepted ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

early Moroccan scientist, was born near the Spanish city of Saragossa toward the end of the eleventh century. His full name was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yayha hin al-Sa’igh al Tujibi al Andalusi al Sarakusti ibn Bajja, and he is known as Avempace in medieval Latin. According to some accounts, Ibn Bajjah’s ancestors were Andalusi or Safardic Jews. Ibn Bajjah’s connection to Africa began in 1110 when the city of Saragossa fell to the Almoravids of the Saharan Desert. As a wazir or minister to various Almoravid governers Ibn Bajjah traveled frequently between North Africa and Al Andalus Muslim Spain Indeed it was the Almoravid capture of al Andalus that united the Sahara North Africa and al Andalus as one political unit He is known primarily for his deeply philosophical works on the nature of the divine and the individual soul works that would became widely popular in translation ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, scientist, and theologian, was born Abu al Walid Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Rushd. Known in the Medieval Latin West as Averroes, he was one of the most influential commentators on Aristotle and on Plato’s Republic. A philosopher, scientist, and theologian of remarkable ability, Ibn Rushd famously stated that there was no inherent inconsistency between Greek rational thought and Islam. Born in 1120 in Cordoba Ibn Rushd wrote and studied in North Africa as well as in Muslim Spain al Andalus Although his life has often been portrayed as a struggle between rational thought and the tyranny of the African Almohad rulers who reigned in al Andalus Ibn Rushd s thinking was influenced as much by his time in Africa as his time in Spain Popular depictions of Ibn Rushd as an oppressed liberal thinker and as a European stifled by the close mindedness of the ...

Article

Ness Creighton

Egyptian astronomer, whose full name was Abu’l-Hasan ʿAli B. Abi Saʿid ʿAbd Al-Rahma, Ahmad B. Yunus Al-Sadafi, was one of the most prominent Muslim astronomers, not only of his time, but in terms of general influence. His al-Zidj al-kabir al-hakimi, considered one of the finest surviving astronomical handbooks, has been used extensively as a source of data by early and modern astronomers.

Ibn Yunus was the son of an eminent Egyptian historian ʿAbd al Rahnan and great grandson of the companion Yunus of the legal scholar al Shafi i While his exact date of birth is unknown it can be inferred from his reported age at the date of his father s death that he was born in the year 950 CE He is known not only as an astronomer but also as a poet and a musician having had much reported talent with the lute Some of Ibn Yunus s poems ...

Article

Russell Hopley

geographer, was born in the Moroccan city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta). Al-Sharif al-Idrisi completed his early education in Cordoba and subsequently spent time in Malaga, an Andalusian city that had been ruled by the Banu Hammud, a family of Arab noblemen descended from the Prophet. Idrisi's grandfather had been the final Arab ruler of Malaga, and the family's fortunes suffered considerably following the Almoravid occupation of Islamic Spain, an event that proved central in determining the course of Idrisi's life.

Idrisi's stay in Malaga appears to have been cut short by the political turmoil that marked the final decade of Almoravid rule in Andalusia, and he next appears in Palermo, Sicily, in 1139, where he was given sanctuary at the Norman court of Roger II Idrisi would spend the following two decades at the Norman court in Sicily and it was there that he composed the monumental ...

Article

Reginald H. Pitts

inventor, entrepreneur, and historian, was born in what is now Gardiner, Maine, the son of Matthias Lewis, a farm laborer of Mohegan Indian ancestry. Nothing is now known of Lewis's mother. Sometime after 28 July 1800 Lewis's father married Lucy Stockbridge of Pittston, Maine, the daughter of African slaves. It is not known whether this marriage legalized a longstanding relationship or was Matthias's actual second marriage.

Although little is known of Lewis's early life, it appears that he first went to sea in ships that worked the Atlantic rim and the coastal trade down to the Caribbean. It is known that Lewis wanted to become a missionary to Africa; after his death, his neighbors remembered, “it was said … that the Congregational Church in Hallowell [where Lewis moved around 1820 had in consequence of the intelligence he had manifested in youth obtained for him an ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

known in Latin as Raimundus Lullus, Ramon Llull was a Catalan intellectual, translator, doctor, mathematician, theologian, and missionary born in 1232 or 1233 in Palma, the capital of the island of Majorca in the western Mediterranean south of Barcelona. The Catalans had almost suddenly become masters of the western Mediterranean, and the conquest of Majorca by King James I from the Berber North African Almohad Empire in 1229 three years before his death was still fresh in 1232. Ramon Llull would spend most of his life at a crossroads between the Christian powers of Europe and the Muslim powers of North Africa, absorbing the influence of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. Having experienced an Augustinian conversion from a life licentiousness to one of spiritual contemplation, the first decades of his life from a biography, Vita coaetanea are described as given to ...

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Justin Stearns

Moroccan mathematician, was born in the Ibn Nahid quarter of Marrakesh on 30 December 1256, at the tail end of the Almohad dynasty’s (1121–1269) rule over North Africa. Little is known regarding his childhood, save that, as suggested by his name—“Son of the Builder”—his father was involved in construction and he himself came from humble origins. Unlike many of his scholarly contemporaries, who traveled in order to study with teachers in other parts of the Islamic world, Ibn al-Bannaʾ, perhaps in part due to his lack of interest in studying Prophetic tradition, seems never to have left Morocco, and indeed, with the exception of some trips to Fez, remained for most of his life in Marrakesh. While Ibn al-Bannaʾ studied a wide variety of religious and secular sciences, he achieved fame due to his work in the fields of mathematics and astronomy.

Ibn al Bannaʾ was educated in and ...

Article

Michael A. B. Deakin

mathematician, astronomer, and geographer, was the principal figure of the “silver age” of ancient Greek mathematics. Little is known of his life; what the sources tell us is contradictory and unreliable. The little we do know reliably is gleaned rather from what survives of his writing. His principal work, at least in what has survived, is the Synagoge or Collection, and even this has not reached us in its entirety. It is described as having comprised eight books, of which the first and part of the second are missing. The only other work of his that survives in the original Greek (and that only in part) is a commentary on Ptolemy’s Almagest. Beyond these are works in other languages that are thought to be translations of originals by him. An Arabic commentary on Book X of Euclid’s Elements may be a translation of a work he is ...

Article

Ptolemy  

Prudence Jones

was an ancient Alexandrian astronomer geographer and philosopher Almost nothing is known about the life of Claudius Ptolemy or as he would have called himself Claudius Ptolemaeus From astronomical observations he made in Alexandria we know he was active between 127 and 141 CE As a scientist in Alexandria he was probably connected with the Library of Alexandria His name indicates that he was a Roman citizen and that citizenship was probably conferred upon him or upon one of his ancestors by someone named Claudius perhaps even the emperor Claudius He shares the name Ptolemy with the rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty which controlled Egypt from 323 to 30 BCE although there is no evidence that he was related to that family The name Ptolemaeus could indicate that he was born in the Egyptian city of Ptolemais but it is not known whether he was born there or at Alexandria ...

Article

Strabo  

Daniela Dueck

Hellenistic geographer and historian, of Amasia, Pontus, was born and raised in Amasia in northern Asia Minor and educated by renowned Hellenistic Asian teachers. His ancestors on his mother’s side were companions of the kings of Pontus but supported the Romans during the Mithridatic War. In his adult life Strabo visited and lived in Rome, Alexandria, Nysa, and possibly Smyrna and Athens. In Rome (in 44 and 29 BCE) he met and socialized with Roman notables and Greek intellectuals. In 25 BCE he traveled to Egypt with Aelius Gallus the Roman governor. He probably got as far as many other regions in the world, more than he expressly reveals. After writing earlier historiographical work(s), Strabo composed his Geography sometime between 18 and 23 CE and died in Rome or, less likely, in Asia Minor.

His works included (1) History a survey of events at least from the time of ...