Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī (September 15, 973 in Kath, Khwarezm – December 13, 1048 in Ghazni) was a Persian polymath scholar of the 11th century.
He was a scientist and physicist, an anthropologist and psychologist, an astronomer, a chemist, a critic of alchemy and astrology, an encyclopedist and historian, a geographer and traveller, a geodesist and geologist, a mathematician, a pharmacist and physician, an Islamic philosopher and Shia theologian, and a scholar and teacher, and he contributed greatly to all of these fields.
He was the first Muslim scholar to study India and the Brahminical tradition,and has been described as the father of Indology,the father of geodesy, and “the first anthropologist”. He was also one of the earliest leading exponents of the experimental scientific method, and was responsible for introducing the experimental method into mechanics and mineralogy, a pioneer of comparative sociology and experimental psychology, and the first to conduct elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena.
George Sarton, the father of the history of science, described Biruni as “one of the very greatest scientists of Islam, and, all considered, one of the greatest of all times.” A. I. Sabra desribed Biruni as “one of the great scientific minds in all history.”
The Al-Biruni crater, on the Moon, is named after Biruni. Tashkent Technical University (formerly Tashkent Polytechnic Institute) is also named after Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.
He was born in Khwarazm formerly north-eastern part of the presently in Khiva, Uzbekistan. He studied mathematics and astronomy under Abu Nasr Mansur.
He was a colleague of the fellow philosopher and physician Abū Alī ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), the historian, philosopher and ethicist Ibn Miskawayh, in a university and science center established by prince Abu al-Abbas Ma’mun Khawarazmshah. He also travelled to South Asia or Central Asia (Modern Day Afghanistan) with Mahmud of Ghazni (whose son and successor Masud was, however, his major patron), and accompanied him on his campaigns in India (in 1030), learning Indian languages, and studying the religion and philosophy of its people. There, he also wrote his Ta’rikh al-Hind (“Chronicles of India”). Biruni wrote his books in Arabic and his native language Persian, though he knew no less than four other languages: Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, and possibly Berber.
He was buried in Ghazni in Afghanistan.
Biruni’s works number 146 in total. These include 35 books on astronomy, 4 on astrolabes, 23 on astrology, 5 on chronology, 2 on time measurement, 9 on geography, 10 on geodesy and mapping theory, 15 on mathematics (8 on arithmetic, 5 on geometry, 2 on trigonometry), 2 on mechanics, 2 on medicine and pharmacology, 1 on meteorology, 2 on mineralogy and gems, 4 on history, 2 on India, 3 on religion and philosophy, 16 literary works, 2 books on magic, and 9 unclassified books. Among these works, only 22 have survived, and only 13 of these works have been published. 6 of his surviving works are on astronomy. His extant works include:
Critical study of what India says, whether accepted by reason or refused (Arabic تحقيق ما للهند من مقولة معقولة في العقل أم مرذولة) – a compendium of India’s religion and philosophy
The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries (Arabic الآثار الباقية عن القرون الخالية) – a comparative study of calendars of different cultures and civilizations, interlaced with mathematical, astronomical, and historical information.
The Mas’udi Canon (Persian قانون مسعودي) – an extensive encyclopedia on astronomy, geography, and engineering, named after Mas’ud, son of Mahmud of Ghazni, to whom he dedicated
Understanding Astrology (Arabic التفهيم لصناعة التنجيم) – a question and answer style book about mathematics and astronomy, in Arabic and Persian
Pharmacy – about drugs and medicines
Gems (Arabic الجماهر في معرفة الجواهر) about geology, minerals, and gems, dedicated to Mawdud son of Mas’ud
A historical summary book
History of Mahmud of Ghazni and his father
History of Khawarazm
He described about planisphere.
An illustration from Biruni’s Persian book. It shows different phases of the moon.
Will Durant wrote the following on al-Biruni’s contributions to Islamic astronomy:
“He wrote treatises on the astrolabe, the planisphere, the armillary sphere; and formulated astronomical tables for Sultan Masud. He took it for granted that the earth is round, noted “the attraction of all things towards the center of the earth,” and remarked that astronomic data can be explained as well by supposing that the earth turns daily on its axis and annually around the sun, as by the reverse hypothesis.”