Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad Beruni

(973-1048, Kyat. Gazna)
Encyclopaedist, astronomer, mathematician, geographer, physicist, geologist,
Pharmacologist, historian, linguist
Founder of geodesy


Abu Rayhan Beruni was born on September 4, 973 in the suburbs of the town of Kyat, the ancient capital of Khorezm. He was brought up in the family of a famous scholar, prominent mathematician and astronomer Abu Nasr ibn Irak, which belonged to the dynasty of Khorezm-shah – Afrigides. Living at court Beruni could get good education which enabled him to start making research.

In about the year of 1004 Beruni had moved to the city of Gurganj (the new capital of Khorezm-shahs), where at court of the governor Abu-l-Abbas Ma’mun ibn Ma’mun (1009-1017) he occupied an honoured position and went on his scientific work at the Ma’mun Academy in Khorezm. In 1017 on the strong request from the sultan Mahmud Gaznavi, he and scholars moved to the city of Gazna, where Beruni stayed till the end of his life. He died in Gazna on December 11, 1048.

Main Scientific Works

Abu Rayhan Beruni is the author of about 150 scientific works, including such fundamental manuscripts written in the Arabic language as al-Asar al-baqiya min-qurun al-haliya  («The Memoirs of past Generations» – «Chronology») – the manuscript dedicated to the chronology of the ancient and early medieval which describes their religious and national customs and holidays;

Kitab fi-tahrir ma lil-Hind min maqala maqbula fi-l-aql aw ma’ruza (The book describing Indian knowledge intellectually acceptable or rejected» – «India») – the work which is considered encyclopedia of India in which the author described customs, festivities, religion and the science of Indian people;

Al-Qanun al-Mas’udi («The Cannon of Mas’ud») – the manuscript on astronomy devoted to sultan Mas’ud from Ghazna, is the encyclopedia on mathematics and astronomy of the middle ages;

Kitab at-tafhim fi-awail Sino’t at-tanjim («A Book of Elementary Knowledge in the Science of Stars» – «Tafhim») – a medieval textbook on elementary mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography and gagging instruments. The book was translated into the Persian language too;

Maqaka fi istiradj al-awtar fi-d-daira bi-khawas al-hatt al-munhani fikha («Defining Borders of Locations for Specifying the Distance between Settlements» – «Geodesy») –  a manuscript in which the author defines a distance between settlements using the triangulation method;

Kitab tahdid nihayat al-amakin li-taskhih masafat al-masakin («Collection of knowledge for understanding precious things») – «Mineralogy») – the manuscript dedicated to comprehensive description and properties of stones and metals with indication of their deposits;

Kitab as-Saydana fi-t-tib» («Pharmacognosy in medicine») ­– a collection of descriptions of over 1000 drugs of herbal, animal and mineral origin, with their names in different languages.

Contribution to the World Science

Whereas, he was first to introduce a circumference with a single radius to scientific circulation in trigonometry, he took trigonometric lines for functions and introduced the notion of ‘functions’.

In mathematics, he could generalize the famous Indian mathematical problem on calculating of the sum of geometric sequence of 64-degree with the base of 2 to any degree, invented new ways of projecting, triangulation, (measuring distances using the method of solving using triangles), method of square interpolation, and the use of complex trigonometric formulas enabled him to enhance the astronomic researches.

In astronomy, he used to assert a similar fiery nature of the sun and stars, which is different to the dark celestial bodies – planets, mobility of stars and their huge size compared to the size of the Earth, as well as he suggested the idea of gravitation. He maintained the slope angle of ecliptics (a yearly path of the sun) to the equator, calculated the radius of the Earth, and described the colours of the Moon during moon eclipses, and the Sun crown when the sun eclipse happens.

In his manuscript “India” he opened this mysterious for the western world country in terms of its language, ethnic and cultural and historical aspects.

         In mineralogy Beruni was first to measure the specific gravities of solid bodies and liquids using his own instrument, based on which he suggested classification of minerals; developed his theory on minerals’ origin and gave paragenetic data.

In geology, he promoted a series of scientific ideas, including the geotechtonical, i.e. the idea of mobility, as well as the geological evolution of  the Amudarya and the Arabian Desert.

In physics, Beruni held weather-forecast, hydrostatic and optical observations and explained the vacuum.

In chemistry, he exposed the theory of transmutation of elementary metals into precious ones, to strong criticism.

In geography, he suggested an extraordinary theory of seas and the idea of building of the first in the world spherical globe of the Earth, as well as he made a hypothetical assumption of the availability of a continent behind the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

         In pharmacology, he made a structured collection of all known in that period medicines (drugs) of the mineral, herbal, animal origin, which helped the development of the drug science in the medieval time.

World Recognition

Of all his manuscripts retained to-date, 31 works have been translated into German, English, Russian and Uzbek, 24 of the works have been researched and 3 of the manuscripts have been published in the original Arabic language. Beruni was recognized in the history of sciences as the founder of the new field – geodesy (the science of measuring the relief and surface of land using due instruments.

His name was immortalized in the name of the lunar crater. One of the minor planets of the solar system, discovered in 1986 and registered in Harvard Center under the Ref.N0 9936, was named after him.