Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > History of Science, Mathematics, Technology > 159. Omar Khayyam

159.  Omar Khayyam (1048-1122 CE).  Maqalah fi al-jabr wa-al muqabalah. Manuscript on paper, 56 leaves. Lahore, India, 13th century. RBML, Smith Oriental MS 45

Best known in the west as the poet who wrote the Ruba 'iyat, Omar Khayyam was also one of the leading mathematicians of the Islamic world. This manuscript of his "Algebra," written in standard Arabic scientific characters, was probably copied from an earlier manuscript; the work begins with basic definitions and makes its principal contribution in the field of cubic equations. Although the "Algebra" was unknown to western mathematicians until the eighteenth century, Omar received wide recognition for it in the Islamic world. He was called to the court of Sultan Malik Shah I (1054-1092), where he revised astronomical tables and introduced a highly accurate calendar. Among the other fourteen works bound in this volume are two by Sharaf al-Din al Tusi (d. ca. 1213/1214), one on the height of vertical objects and the other on the height of the North Pole, and treatises by Alhazen (965-1039) on the astrolabe, and by al-Farabi (ca. 870-950) on music.

Gift of David Eugene Smith, 1931

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