Thābit ibn Qurra

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Thābit ibn Qurra
Born210-211 AH/ 826 or 836 AD
DiedWednesday, 26 Safar, 288 AH / February 18, 901 AD
Baghdad (now Iraq)
Academic background
Influences Banu Musa, Archimedes, Apollonius, Nicomachus, Euclid
Academic work
Era Islamic Golden Age
Main interests Mathematics, Mechanics, Astronomy, Astrology, Translation, Number theory
Notable ideas
Influenced Al-Khazini, Al-Isfizari, Na'im ibn Musa [1]

Al-Ṣābiʾ Thābit ibn Qurrah al-Ḥarrānī (Arabic : ثابت بن قره, Latin : Thebit/Thebith/Tebit; [2] 826 or 836 [3] [4] – February 18, 901) was an Arab [5] [6] Sabian mathematician, physician, astronomer, and translator who lived in Baghdad in the second half of the ninth century during the time of the Abbasid Caliphate.


Thābit ibn Qurrah made important discoveries in algebra, geometry, and astronomy. In astronomy, Thābit is considered one of the first reformers of the Ptolemaic system, and in mechanics he was a founder of statics. [4]


Al-Jazira region and its subdivisions (Diyar Bakr, Diyar Mudar, and Diyar Rabi'a) during the Abbasid Caliphate Al-Jazira.svg
Al-Jazira region and its subdivisions (Diyar Bakr, Diyar Mudar, and Diyar Rabi'a) during the Abbasid Caliphate

Thābit was born in Harran in Upper Mesopotamia, which at the time was part of the Diyar Mudar subdivision of the al-Jazira region of the Abbasid Caliphate. The city of Harran was never fully Christianized. By the early Muslim conquests, the people of Harran were still adhering to the cult of Sin.

Thābit and his pupils lived in the midst of the most intellectually vibrant, and probably the largest, city of the time, Baghdad. He occupied himself with mathematics, astronomy, astrology, magic, mechanics, medicine, and philosophy. Later in his life, Thābit's patron was the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tadid (reigned 892902). Thābit became the Caliph's personal friend and courtier. Thābit died in Baghdad.


Pages from Thabit's Arabic translation of Apollonius' Conics Conica of Apollonius of Perga fol. 162b and 164a.jpg
Pages from Thābit's Arabic translation of Apollonius' Conics

Thābit's native language was Syriac, [7] which was the eastern Aramaic variety from Edessa, and he was fluent in both Greek and Arabic.

Thābit translated from Greek into Arabic works by Apollonius of Perga, Archimedes, Euclid and Ptolemy. He revised the translation of Euclid's Elements of Hunayn ibn Ishaq. He also rewrote Hunayn's translation of Ptolemy's Almagest and translated Ptolemy's Geography. Thābit's translation of a work by Archimedes which gave a construction of a regular heptagon was discovered in the 20th century, the original having been lost.[ citation needed ]


The medieval astronomical theory of the trepidation of the equinoxes is often attributed to Thābit.[ citation needed ] But it had already been described by Theon of Alexandria in his comments of the Handy Tables of Ptolemy. According to Copernicus, Thābit determined the length of the sidereal year as 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 12 seconds (an error of 2 seconds). Copernicus based his claim on the Latin text attributed to Thābit. Thābit published his observations of the Sun.[ citation needed ]


In mathematics, Thābit discovered an equation for determining amicable numbers. He also wrote on the theory of numbers, and extended their use to describe the ratios between geometrical quantities, a step which the Greeks did not take.

He is known for having calculated the solution to a chessboard problem involving an exponential series. [8]

He computed the volume of the paraboloid. [9]

He also described a generalization of Pythagoras' theorem. [10]


In physics, Thābit rejected the Peripatetic and Aristotelian notions of a "natural place" for each element. He instead proposed a theory of motion in which both the upward and downward motions are caused by weight, and that the order of the universe is a result of two competing attractions (jadhb): one of these being "between the sublunar and celestial elements", and the other being "between all parts of each element separately". [11] and in mechanics he was a founder of statics. [4]


Only a few of Thābit's works are preserved in their original form.


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  1. Panza, Marco (2008). "The Role of Algebraic Inferences in Na'īm Ibn Mūsā's Collection of Geometrical Propositions". Arabic Sciences and Philosophy. 18 (2): 165–191. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1017/S0957423908000532.
  2. Latham, J. D. (2003). "Review of Richard Lorch's 'Thabit ibn Qurran: On the Sector-Figure and Related Texts'". Journal of Semitic Studies . 48 (2): 401–403. doi:10.1093/jss/48.2.401.
  3. Roshdi Rashed (2009). "Thābit ibn Qurra. Science and Philosophy in Ninth-Century Baghdad. pp. 23–24.
  4. 1 2 3 Holme, Audun (2010). Geometry : our cultural heritage (2nd ed.). Heidelberg: Springer. p.  188. ISBN   978-3-642-14440-0.
  5. "Thābit ibn Qurrah | Arab mathematician, physician, and philosopher". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  6. editors, general; Lindberg, David C.; Numbers, Ronald L. (2001). The Cambridge history of science (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 447. ISBN   978-0-521-59448-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. "Thabit biography". The sect, with strong Greek connections, had in earlier times adopted Greek culture, and it was common for members to speak Greek although after the conquest of the Sabians by Islam, they became Arabic speakers. There was another language spoken in southeastern Turkey, namely Syriac, which was based on the East Aramaic dialect of Edessa. This language was Thābit ibn Qurra's native language, but he was fluent in both Greek and Arabic.
  8. Masood, Ehsad (2009). Science and Islam A History . Icon Books Ltd. pp.  48–49.
  9. Smith, David Eugen (1925). History of Mathematics, Volume II. p. 685.
  10. Aydin Sayili (Mar 1960). "Thâbit ibn Qurra's Generalization of the Pythagorean Theorem". Isis. 51 (1): 35–37. doi:10.1086/348837. JSTOR   227603.
  11. Mohammed Abattouy (2001). "Greek Mechanics in Arabic Context: Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Isfizarı and the Arabic Traditions of Aristotelian and Euclidean Mechanics", Science in Context14, p. 205-206. Cambridge University Press.
  12. 1 2 Van Brummelen, Glen (2010-01-26). "Review of "On the Sector-Figure and Related Texts"". MAA Reviews. Retrieved 2017-05-12.

Further reading