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 SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS2

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PostSubject: SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS2   Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:05 am

As in the 'Abbasid centers of learning, Islamic Spain's interest in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine was always lively - partly because of their obvious utility. In the tenth century Cordoban mathematicians began to make their own original contributions. The first original mathematician and astronomer of al-Andalus was Maslamah al-Majriti, who died in 1008. He had been preceded by competent scientists - men like Ibn Abi 'Ubaydah of Valencia, a leading astronomer in the ninth century. But al-Majriti was in a class by himself. He wrote a number of works on mathematics and astronomy, studied and elaborated the Arabic translation of Ptolemy's Almagest, and enlarged and corrected the astronomical tables of the famous al-Khwarazmi. He also compiled conversion tables in which the dates of the Persian calendar were related to Hijrah dates, so that for the first time the events of Persia's past could be dated with precision.

Al-Zarqali, known to the West as Arzachel, was another leading mathematician and astronomer who flourished in Cordoba in the eleventh century. Combining theoretical knowledge with technical skill, he excelled at the construction of precision instruments for astronomical use and built a water clock capable of determining the hours of the day and night and indicating the days of the lunar months. He also contributed to the famous Toledan Tables, a highly accurate compilation of astronomical data. Arzachel was famous as well for his Book of Tables. Many "books of tables" had been compiled before then, but his is an almanac containing tables which allow one to find the days on which Coptic, Roman, lunar, and Persian months begin, other tables which give the position of planets at any given time, and still others facilitating the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses. He also compiled valuable tables of latitude and longitude.

Another important scholar was al-Bitruji, who developed a new theory of stellar movement, based on Aristotle's thinking, in his Book of Form, a work that was later popular in the West. The names of many stars are still those given them by Muslim astronomers, such as Altair (from al-tair, "the flier"), Deneb (from dhanab, "tail"), and Betelgeuse (from bayt al-jawza, "the house of the twins" or "Gemini"). Other terms still in use today such as zenith, nadir, and azimuth are also derived from Arabic and so reflect the work of the Muslim astronomers of al-Andalus and their impact on the West.

Scientists of Islamic Spain also contributed to medicine, the Muslim science par excellence. Interest in medicine goes back to the very earliest times (the Prophet himself stated that there was a remedy for every illness), '' and although the greatest Muslim physicians practiced in Baghdad, those in al-Andalus made important contributions too. Ibn al-Nafis, for example, discovered the pulmonary circulation of blood

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