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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 ...

Article

Elizabeth Miller

conjectural early human, also known as Mitochondrial Eve, was proposed by Rebecca L. Cann and her fellow researchers in 1987 Using mitochondrial DNA inherited only along the maternal line Cann and her associates examined 147 individuals and produced a genetic evolutionary tree showing branching from two sets of individuals one set of African ancestry and a second set of mixed African and other ancestry The most parsimonious explanation of the tree was that modern humans originated in Africa from a single source which Cann and her coworkers named Eve at a date between 140 000 and 290 000 years ago Subsequent research has placed this date more accurately at approximately 200 000 years ago by comparing ten human genetic models African Eve is a mathematical model and not an actual fossil of human remains Nonetheless most scientists now agree that she is the most recent woman who is ancestral ...

Article

Chris Stringer

It has been several decades since the man from Kibish made his appearance before the world of science. Strongly built, stained in hues of blue and brown from his lengthy immersion in the soil, the fragments of his skull, jaw, and skeleton had been disinterred from their resting place on the banks of the River Kibish in Ethiopia in 1967.  Researchers did not realize it at the time, but scrutiny of those few bone fragments would prove to be crucial in a fundamental rethinking about the evolution of our species.

Article

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

Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, more commonly known as Averroës, was born in Córdoba, Spain. His father, a judge in Córdoba, instructed him in Muslim jurisprudence. In his native city he also studied theology, philosophy, and mathematics under the Arab philosopher Ibn Tufayl and medicine under the Arab physician Avenzoar. Averroës was appointed judge in Seville in 1169 and in Córdoba in 1171; in 1182 he became chief physician to Abu Yaqub Yusuf, the Almohad caliph of Morocco and Muslim Spain. Averroës's view that reason takes precedence over religion led to his being exiled in 1195 by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; he was restored to favor shortly before his death.

Averroës held that metaphysical truths can be expressed in two ways: through philosophy, as represented by the views of Aristotle and through religion which is truth presented in a ...

Article

Frank L. Green

pioneer, farmer, and cattleman, was born probably in Pennsylvania or Louisiana. His mother was Scotch-Irish, his father perhaps West Indian. He may have been born as early as 1770, but that would have made him seventy-four years old by the time that he came to Oregon in 1844. Oral tradition among the family gives his birth year as 1779.

Bush was a successful cattle trader in Missouri beginning around 1820, and he became quite wealthy. In 1831 he married Isabella James, a German woman; they had five children. Because Missouri was not well disposed toward people of color, Bush took the opportunity to travel west in a wagon train led by Michael T. Simmons of Kentucky.

Bush found Oregon only a little more tolerant than Missouri The provisional government voted to exclude blacks and to whip those who would not leave but the legislation was ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

North African translator, was born near Tunis in the early eleventh century (scholars estimate between 1010 and 1015). Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) was famed for introducing many principles of Arab medicine and scientific enquiry to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The first known biographies of Constantinus Africanus were written and modified by Christian monks from the monastery of Monte Cassino. This occurred several decades after his death. As such, much of the information on the life of Constantinus must be seen trough the lens of these monastic sources. As a convert from Islam to Christianity, he was held up not only as a rare success of conversion but as an example of the intellectual accomplishments of Monte Cassino.

The writings of Petrus Diaconus a monk at Monte Cassino who wrote one of the earliest biographies claimed that Constantinus Africanus was born in Carthage and traveled throughout the ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

root doctor and physician, first appears in the historical record in the early 1830s as a slave in Maury County, Tennessee. At the time he was owned by William H. Macon, who hired him out to practice medicine in six counties in the middle Tennessee frontier. Doctor Jack seems to have begun his general practice throughout Tennessee in the 1820s, though he may well have attended to the medical needs of his fellow slaves and others in the community for several years before. Like Cesar and other slave physicians in early America, Doctor Jack probably gained a knowledge of traditional African folk remedies using roots and herbs from other slaves though he may also have learned of various cures from Native Americans or European settlers in the region In the late 1820s one of his patients expressed the view that the world would be peopled a great ...

Article

Betty E. Plummer

physician, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His surname is sometimes spelled Derham. Despite his slave status, he learned basic reading and writing skills from his first owners, whom he described as Christians. Durham also received his medical training from his masters. At that period most American physicians acquired their medical education through the apprenticeship system. Durham began a form of apprenticeship at the age of eight, when he became the slave of John A. Kearsley Jr., a physician who taught him to compound medicines and to perform routine medical procedures. Durham later belonged to other doctors in Philadelphia, at least one of whom was a British sympathizer. This association with a Loyalist master probably explains why Durham later became the property of George West, a surgeon in the British Sixteenth Regiment.

Along with his new master Durham performed amputations on wounded troops along the ...

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 ...

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

Egyptian playwright, was an eye doctor originally from Mosul, Iraq, and possibly of Christian background. He was most famous for his lightly veiled satirical shadow plays, especially for those aimed at the moralist Mamluk Sultan al-Zahir Baybars (r. 1260–1277) in Cairo.

Although some scholars have wrongly claimed that Islam lacked a theatrical tradition because of various religious proscriptions, the art form of shadow puppetry has a long history. Shadow plays, called Khayal al-Zill in Arabic were very popular during the month of Ramadan as a form of entertainment to wile away the late night hours Beginning as early as the tenth century and perhaps before the popularity of shadow play as an art form reached its peak just as Ibn Daniyal began writing Ibn Daniyal was especially creative with his shadow characters including the popular Sahib al Dabbus Man with a Club referring to a man with an oversized ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was an important doctor and known polemicist in Fatimid Egypt The vivid details of Ibn Ridwan s life are well preserved in his compelling autobiography Although the original manuscript is lost a version of the autobiography survives in the work of another author Ibn Abi Usaybiʿa The life of Ibn Ridwan is a remarkable story of perseverance and accomplishment despite humble beginnings From a poor and relatively unknown family Ibn Ridwan began his life around 998 in the slums of Giza near Cairo From the beginning he supported himself and his family through magical predictions and astrology Something of a Fatimid Benjamin Franklin Ibn Ridwan was self taught He relied on his own insatiable appetite for books to learn how to practice medicine He did not go through the standard apprenticeship expected of doctors at the time His intimate knowledge of the medical literature however soon allowed him to surpass ...

Article

Stephen Cory

North African philosopher and physician who worked in the court of the North African Almohad dynasty, which ruled North Africa and Islamic Spain from the mid-twelfth century through the early thirteenth century. Ibn Tufayl was probably born in the city of Guadix in southern Spain during the second decade of the twelfth century. His full name was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tufayl al-Qaysi. The exact date of his birth is unknown, and very little is known about his family background or childhood. A supporter and friend of the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl is best known as the author of Hayy ibn Yaqzan a philosophical tale about a man raised on a desert island The story was later translated into Latin Dutch and English among other languages It is thought to have influenced such philosophers and writers as Daniel Defoe John ...

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

Joab Eichenberg-Eilon

Jewish neo-Platonic philosopher active in Egypt, was born in Qayrawan (present-day Tunisia). Other forms of his name are Yitzhaq ben Shelomo ha Yisraeli, Ishaq al-Israʿili, Abu Yaʿqub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Israʿili, Isaac Judaeus, and Isaac Israeli the elder. He was a predecessor of Solomon Ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, and the early kabbalists of the Geronese school. The originator of the emanation theory (Atziluth) in Jewish thought, he is also known for his theory of prophecy in relation to philosophy.

He was the physician of the founder of the Fatimid dynasty, Caliph ʿAbd Allah al-Mahdi Billah; and many of his medical books, written originally in Arabic, were translated into Latin, Spanish, and Hebrew and used in medical education. They include Kitab al Hummayat, on fevers; Kitab al adwiya al mufrada wa al aghdhiya (Latin Diaetae universales et particulares; Hebrew Tivʾei haMezonoth ...