THABIT IBN QURRA
THABIT IBN QURRA
Thabit Ibn Qurra Ibn Marwan al-Sabi al-Harrani was born in the year 836 C.E.
at Harran (present Turkey). As the name indicates he was basically a member of
the Sabian sect, but the great Muslim mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Ibn
Shakir, impressed by his knowledge of languages, and realising his potential for
a scientific career, selected him to join the scientific group at Baghdad that
was being patronised by the Abbasid Caliphs. There, he studied under the famous
Banu Musa brothers. It was in this setting that Thabit contributed to several
branches of science, notably mathematics, astronomy and mechanics, in addition
to translating a large number of works from Greek to Arabic. Later, he was
patronised by the Abbasid Caliph al-M'utadid. After a long career of
scholarship, Thabit died at Baghdad in 901 C.E.
Thabit's major contribution lies in mathematics and astronomy. He was
instrumental in extending the concept of traditional geometry to geometrical
algebra and proposed several theories that led to the development of
non-Euclidean geometry, spherical trigonometry, integral calculus and real
numbers. He criticized a number of theorems of Euclid's elements and proposed
important improvements. He applied arithmetical terminology to geometrical
quantities, and studied several aspects of conic sections, notably those of
parabola and ellipse. A number of his computations aimed at determining the
surfaces and volumes of different types of bodies and constitute, in fact, the
processes of integral calculus, as developed later.
In astronomy he was one of the early reformers of Ptolemaic views. He analyzed
several. problems related to the movements of sun and moon and wrote treatises
In the fields of mechanics and physics he may be recognized as the founder of
statics. He examined conditions of equilibrium of bodies, beams and levers.
In addition to translating a large number of books himself, he founded a
school of translation and supervised the translation of a further large number
of books from Greek to Arabic.
Among Thabit's writings a large number have survived, while several are not
extant. Most of the books are on mathematics, followed by astronomy and
medicine. The books have been written in Arabic but some are in Syriac. In the
Middle Ages, some of his books were translated into Latin by Gherard of Cremona.
In recent centuries, a number of his books have been translated into European
languages and published.
He carried further the work of the Banu Musa brothers and later his son and
grandson continued in this tradition, together with the other members of the
group. His original books as well as his translations accomplished in the 9th
century exerted a positive influence on the development of subsequent scientific