from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Portrait of Al-Biruni on a Soviet postage stamp

Abu r-Raihan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni ( Arabic أبو الريحان محمد بن أحمد البيروني, DMG Abū r-Raiḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī ; Persian only brieflyابوریحان بیرونی, Abū Raiḥān Bīrūnī ) - also (al-) Biruni for short ; born on September 4th, 973 in the Khorezmian capital Kath (not far from today's Khiva in Uzbekistan); died on December 9, 1048 in Ghazna (now in Afghanistan) was a Persian ( chorzmic ) polymath , mathematician , cartographer , astronomer , astrologer, philosopher, pharmacologist , mineralogist, explorer, historian and translator intoCentral Asia .

life and work

Illustration of a lunar eclipse from the Kitab at-Tafhim
A drawn compass by Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī

Abū r-Raiḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad lived in Khorezmia for the first 20 years, where he was trained at a young age by the scholar Abu Nasr Mansur . When the Afrighid dynasty ruling from Kath , which was close to al-Biruni, was overthrown by the Mamunids from Gurganj in 995 , he left the country and went to the court of the Samanid Mansur II in Bukhara . Ibn Sina (Avicenna) , who is known primarily as a physician and philosopher , worked here with whom al-Biruni (after he had initiated a programmatic correspondence around 997) worked together for many years and which he also expresses in his "Chronology" the year 1000 mentioned. In 998 he moved to Tabaristan and lived at the court of the Ziyarid Qaboos (Qābūs ibn Wuschmagīr) before returning to his homeland, where he belonged to the Gurganjian scholars around Khwarazm-Shah Mamun II for seven years. Apparently he had previously made peace with the Mamunids and the observation of a lunar eclipse on May 24th, 997 in Kath shows that he must have visited Khoresmia again sooner. Al-Biruni had agreed with Abu'l-Wafa that he would observe the event in Baghdad ; By comparing the noted entry times of the earth's shadow, they were able to determine the difference in the geographic longitudes of Kath and Baghdad. Al-Biruni dealt with astronomy , history and cartography during this time .

In 1017 the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni Khoresmia conquered and took al-Biruni, Abu Nasr Mansur ibn Iraq and others as his prisoners to Ghazna . In the following years al-Biruni received financial grants from Mahmud for astronomical tasks. The observation of a solar eclipse on April 8, 1019 in Laghman north of Kabul shows that he was able to move freely, at least within Mahmud's domain. He also determined the exact latitude of Kath. From 1022 Mahmud ruled parts of northern India. Al-Biruni accompanied him on these campaigns. He was the first Islamic scientist who dealt with Brahmin science and reported extensively on it in the Kitab al-Hind . Al-Biruni, whose mother tongue was chorus , translated numerous Arabic and Greek works into Sanskrit , including the elements of Euclid . In 1023 he determined the radius of the globe to be 6339.6 km with a new measuring method he had invented , which is very close to the real current value at the equator of 6378.1 km. Abu 'r-Raihan Muhammad al-Biruni constructed the first pycnometer . He used it to determine the density (specific weight) of different materials .


Al-Biruni (Iranian postage stamp, 1973)

A modern city in the area of ​​al-Biruni's birthplace was renamed Beruniy in his honor . The University of Shiraz named their astronomical observatory Abu Reihan Observatory . The International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored him by naming the lunar crater Al-Biruni .


Al-Biruni wrote about 146 books with an estimated 13,000 pages and exchanged letters with colleagues like Avicenna (Ibn Sina). About a fifth of his work has been preserved, including:

  • Al-Qānūn al-Masʿūdī , a manual of astronomy dedicated to Sultan Masud I of Ghazni
  • "Book of instruction in the beginnings of the art of star interpretation"
  • Kitāb aṣ-Ṣaidala : Pharmacognosy, an alphabetical directory of medicinal plants and foods
  • Kitāb al-Ǧamāhir fī maʿrifat al-ǧawāhir , a book on minerals
  • Kitāb Taḥdīd nihāyat al-amkin li-taṣḥīḥ masāfāt al-masākin , a book on geodesy
  • Kitāb Tārīḫ al-Hind , a book on the history of India
  • Kitāb al-Āṯār al-bāqiya ʿan al-qurūn al-ḫāliya ("Book of the Legacies of Earlier Centuries"), a historical work dedicated to the Ziyarid Qaboos (created around 1000) - English translation by Sachau: The chronology of ancient nations ( digitized version )


  • Karl Schoy : The trigonometric teachings of the Persian astronomer Abu'l-Rai.hân Mu.h. Ibn A.hmad al-Bîrûnî: depicted after Al-qânûn al-masûdî . Edited by Julius Ruska and Heinrich Wieleitner after the author's death . Hanover, Orient-Buchhandlung Lafaire, 1927
  • Muhammad Taqi ad-Din al-Hilali : The Introduction to Al-Biruni's Stone Book . Translated with explanations. Dissertation under the supervision of Richard Hartmann and Hans Heinrich Schaeder . With a dedication to Herbert W. Duda . Leipzig, Harrassowitz Verlag 1941. Digitized
  • Wassilios Klein: Abu Rayhan al-Biruni and the religions. An intercultural perspective . Bautz, Nordhausen 2005, ISBN 3-88309-317-3 (Intercultural Library 119).
  • Gotthard Strohmaier Al-Biruni , Spectrum of Science May 2001
  • Gotthard Strohmaier (Ed.): Al-Bīrūnī . In the gardens of science (Leipzig 1991). 3. Edition. Reclam, Leipzig 2002, ISBN 3-379-20045-X (Selected texts from the works of the Muslim polymath. Translated and explained by Gotthard Strohmaier).
  • Friedrun R. Hau: al-Bīrūnī, Abū Raiḥān. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 184.

Web links

Commons : Abu Rayhan al-Biruni  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. He got the nickname "al-Bīrūnī" later, probably because of his skeptical attitude. The followers of the Greek skeptic Pyrrhon , the Pyrrhones, were called Bīrūnīyūn in Arabic .
  2. ^ Gotthard Strohmaier : Avicenna. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-41946-1 , pp. 43-56.