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Al-Battani, Iranian Muslim Philosopher

01 August, 2007 07:29

Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Jabir Ibn Sinan al-Battani al-Harrani was born around 858 A.D. in Harran, and according to one account, in Battan, a State of Harran. Battani was first educated by his father Jabir Ibn San'an al-Battani, who was also a well-known scientist. He then moved to Raqqa, situated on the bank of the Euphrates, where he received advanced education and later on flourished as a scholar. At the beginning of the 9th century, he migrated to Samarra, where he worked till the end of his life in 929 A.D. He was of Sabian origin, but was himself a Muslim.

Battani was a famous astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He has been held as one of the greatest astronomists of Islam. He is responsible for a number of important discoveries in astronomy, which was the result of a long career of 42 years of research beginning at Raqqa when he was young. His well-known discovery is the remarkably accurate determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is very close to the latest estimates. He found that the longitude of the sun's apogee had increased by 16° , 47' since Ptolemy. This implied the important discovery of the motion of the solar apsides and of a slow variation in the equation of time. He did not believe in the trapidation of the equinoxes, although Copernicus held it.

Al-Battani determined with remarkable accuracy the obliquity of the ecliptic, the length of the seasons and the true and mean orbit of the sun.

He proved, in sharp contrast to Ptolemy, the variation of the apparent angular diameter of the sun and the possibility of annular eclipses. He rectified several orbits of the moon and the planets and propounded a new and very ingenious theory to determine the conditions of visibility of the new moon. His excellent observations of lunar and solar eclipses were used by Dunthorne in 1749 to determine the secular acceleration of motion of the moon. He also provided very neat solutions by means of orthographic projection for some problems of spherical trigonometry.

In mathematics, he was the first to replace the use of Greek chords by sines, with a clear understanding of their superiority.

He also developed the concept of cotangent and furnished their table in degrees.

He wrote a number of books on astronomy and trigonometry. His most famous book was his astronomical treatise with tables, which was translated into Latin in the 12th century and flourished as De scienta stellerum — De numeris stellerum et motibus. An old translation of this is available of the Vatican. His Zij was, in fact, more accurate than all others written by that time.

His treatise on astronomy was extremely influential in Europe till the Renaissance, with translations available in several languages. His original discoveries both in astronomy and trigonometry were of great consequence in the development of these sciences.

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