Biruni, Al- (C. 973–1050)

views updated

BIRUNI, AL- (C. 973–1050)

Al-Biruni was a polymath of the Islamic eleventh century who wrote in multiple scientific fields. Included among his subjects were astronomy, mathematics, pharmacology, and mineralogy, and he also contributed important works of history and cultural studies.

Al-Biruni originated from the region of Khwarazm, and his name refers to the fact that he was born in a suburb of the capital. Although Persian, he preferred to write in Arabic. When Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna conquered Khwarazm in 1017, al-Biruni was taken as a prisoner to his capital. He became the court astrologer and then accompanied Mahmud on his expeditions to northwestern India. This led al-Biruni to study Sanskrit and Indian religions and customs, which he recorded in Kitab ta˓rikh al-Hind (Alberuni's India). His writings include significant observations on the natural features, social structure, and religious practices of the non-Muslim Indians. He was a prolific author of some 180 works of varying lengths, including many important treatises on mathematical and astronomical topics.

See alsoAstronomy ; Historical Writing ; Knowledge ; Science, Islam and .


Biruni, al-. Alberuni's India. Translated by Eduard Sachau. London: Keegan Paul, 1910.

Marcia Hermansen