Umar Khayyam, an Islamic poet, and mathematician, was born around 1048 in Nishapur, a prominent centre of learning in Iran, and is best known in his native country for his mathematical achievements.
After completing his education in Nishapur, he travelled to Samarkand, now in Uzbekistan, where he completed his famous work, Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, on which rests his mathematical reputation. He discovered a geometrical method of solving cubic equations by intersecting a parabola with a circle, and extended the work on extraction of cube and fourth roots to the extraction of nth roots for arbitrary whole numbers. His reputation resulted in an invitation from the Seljuk* Sultan to Isfahan, in Iran, to undertake the astronomical observations necessary to reform the calendar.
An observatory was built there in order for him to accomplish this task and a new, more accurate calendar was produced; it was adopted as the official Persian calendar on March 15, 1079 and became the base for the Gregorian and other calendars.
Umar Khayyam’s works influenced the English mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703), who contributed substantially to the origins of calculus, and was the most influential English mathematician before Isaac Newton. Several treatises on other scientific topics are also attributed to Khayyam: a work on music theory that uses ratios to deal with musical intervals, another on weights and balances, and another on a mathematical problem in metallurgy.
Having mastered philosophy, jurisprudence, history, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy, Umar taught and served the court in Nishapur where he died in 1131.
A lunar crater is named after Umar Khayyam in recognition of his contribution to astronomy.
Visit Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature to view the location of this crater.
*Seljuk: Major Muslim dynasty of Turkish origin in Persia and Iraq (1040–1194) and Syria (1078–1178)
- Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor Mehdi Aminrazavi, An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Vol. 1: From Zoroaster to ‘Umar Khayyam, I.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd, London, 2008
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2011 Edition
Research by Nimira Dewji
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