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Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi
Born 10 August 787
Balkh, Afghanistan
Died 9 March 886
al-Wasit, Iraq
Nationality Persia

Ja'far ibn Muḥammad Abū Ma'shar al-Balkhī (10 August 787 in Balkh, Afghanistan9 March 886 in al-Wasit, Iraq), also known as al-Falaki or Albumasar was a Persian (Tājīk) mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and Islamic philosopher. Many of his works were translated into Latin and were well known in amongst many European astrologers, astronomers, and mathematicians (Mathematici) during the European Middle Ages.

Astrology and natural philosophy

Richard Lemay has argued that the writings of Albumasar were very likely the single most important original source of Aristotle's theories of nature for European scholars, starting a little before the middle of the 12th century.[1]

It was not until later in the 12th century that the original books of Aristotle on nature began to become available in Latin. The works of Aristotle on logic had been known earlier, and Aristotle was generally recognized as "the master of logic." But during the course of the 12th century, Aristotle was transformed into the "master of those who know," and in particular a master of natural philosophy. It is especially interesting that the work of Albumasar (or Balkhi) in question is a treatise on astrology. Its Latin title is Introductorium in Astronmiam, a translation of the Arabic Kitab al-mudkhal al-kabir ila 'ilm ahkam an-nujjum, written in Baghdad in the year 848 A.D. It was translated into Latin first by John of Seville in 1133, and again, less literally and abridged, by Hermann of Carinthia in 1140 A.D.


Abu Ma'shar has been credited as the first astronomer to define astrological ages - the Age of Pisces, the Age of Aquarius, etc. - on the basis of the precession of the equinoxes through the zodiac.[2]

Abu Ma'shar developed a planetary model which has been interpreted as a heliocentric model. This is due to his orbital revolutions of the planets being given as heliocentric revolutions rather than geocentric revolutions, and the only known planetary theory in which this occurs is in the heliocentric theory. His work on planetary theory has not survived, but his astronomical data was later recorded by al-Hashimi and al-Biruni.[3]

See also

  • Islamic astrology
  • List of Iranian scientists

External links


  1. Richard Lemay, Abu Ma'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century, The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Persian Astrology, 1962.
  2. Olav Hammer, Claiming Knowledge, ISBN 90 04 13638. p. 73
  3. Bartel Leendert van der Waerden (1987). "The Heliocentric System in Greek, Persian and Hindu Astronomy", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1), 525–545 [534-537].

Further reading

  • Pingree, David (1970). "Abū Ma'shar al-Balkhī, Ja'far ibn Muḥammad". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 32-39. ISBN 0684101149.