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Zaimeche as a source[edit]

After comparing the translation of al-Khazini as presented by Salah Zaimeche in the web based article on the city of "Merv" in the series issued by the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization, with the translation by Khanikoff that appeared in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, I am disturbed by the selective version of Zaimeche's quotation.

Zaimeche's excerpt said:

"For each heavy body of a known weight positioned at a certain distance from the centre of the universe, its gravity depends on the remoteness from the centre of the universe. For that reason, the gravities of bodies relate as their distances from the centre of the universe."

the Khanikoff text provides further context:

"The weight of any heavy body, of known weight at a particular distance from the centre of the world, varies according to the variation of its distance therefrom; so that, as often as it is removed from the centre, it becomes heavier, and when brought nearer to it, is lighter. On this account, the relation of gravity to gravity is as the relation of distance to distance from the centre."

Ignoring the minor differences of translation, the excerpt presented by Zaimeche seems to have been selected to give the false impression, to quote Zaimeche, that "Al-Khazini was thus the first to propose the hypothesis that the gravities of bodies vary depending on their distances from the centre of the Earth; this phenomenon was only discovered in the eighteenth century after a certain development in the theory of gravitation." Both Clagett and Khanikoff took the full passage into count and noted that al-Khazini's theory held that gravity increases with distance.

Such selective use of a quotation to give a false impression leaves one with the impression that Zaimeche, and possibly even the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization web site, are not to be trusted as reliable sources. --SteveMcCluskey 23:31, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

It appears there were two translations, one by Khanikoff and one by Rozhanskaya. I think Zaimeche's quote was based on Rozhanskaya's translation, so it would be more helpful to compare Zaimeche's interpretation with Rozhanskaya's translation of the text, as there may be some differences between both translations. Jagged 85 16:15, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks, if you have Rozhanzkaya's text at hand, I would prefer to cite that passage but I really don't expect it to turn up much that affects the argument. It is highly unlikely that Khanikoff added material to al-Khazini's text, and it is also unlikely that Rozhanskaya's edition left out major pieces of the text.
I can't find the Encyclopaedia of Arabic Science, cited here for an English translation, in World Cat. Rozhanskaya's edition only has the Arabic text with a Russian translation -- and is only available in 9 libraries listed in World Cat.
The problem then remains that Zaimeche apparently cited only those portions of the text that supported his interpretation of al-Khazini as a modern, and conveniently left out those portions that portrayed al-Khazini as falling in the framework of medieval natural philosophy. --SteveMcCluskey 17:34, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't think Rozhanskaya or Khanikoff were adding/removing parts from the text, but were both just interpreting/translating the text slightly differently. Zaimeche may have selected only certain parts from Rozhanskaya's translation, but I doubt he would lie about a quote he specifically attributes to Rozhanskaya. You do have a point that we should question some of his own interpretations, but I do think it is acceptable to use it as a tertiary source for parts attributed to other authors (that is, until we actually read the texts themselves). Jagged 85 18:38, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Khanikoff's edition and translation is partial, but it includes the crucial passage that "as often as it is removed from the centre, it becomes heavier, and when brought nearer to it, is lighter." This is omitted in Zaimeche's version. Whether Zaimeche omitted it or Rozhanszkaya does not matter. The point is that the more complete version available to us includes it and, until we see other evidence from another point of the text, it should be included in the article.
Incidentally, Khanikoff's edition is available online through J-STOR. Since your user page mentions you are a student, you should be able to access it. --SteveMcCluskey 22:15, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the expanded reference listing Roshdi Rashed as the editor of the Encyclopedia, which I presume is the Encyclopedia of the history of Arabic science. It's in our library so I'll take a look at it when I get back next week. Have a good weekend. --SteveMcCluskey 22:38, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
I just checked the passage as translated by Rozhanskaya in her article in Rashed's Encyclopedia. She gives the complete passage I quoted in the article, and accompanies it with an appropriately medieval interpretation. Zaimeche omits the portions of the text she provides that would challenge his anachronistically modern interpretation. It isn't a matter of different translations, it's a matter of selective quotation. If Zaimeche were my student, I would mark his essay down for misuse of sources and he would have a hard time justifying a passing grade. --SteveMcCluskey 17:52, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Nice job tracking down the original source. I guess we can discard Zaimeche's quotations and interpretations in that case. I've also just got hold of the Khanikoff translation, and might have a look at it later. Also, I'd like to know your reason for changing gravity varies with the distance to heaviness varies with the distance? I'm not exactly an expert on this topic, but I left it as gravity because that's what the cited source describes it as. Jagged 85 21:32, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, I'm glad we've come to consensus regarding Zaimeche. Your work on editing is really framing a good structure for Islamic science.
As to the heaviness / gravity issue; I'm trying to avoid a confusion in the readers' mind with Newtonian gravity (as an external attractive force) and Aristotelian gravity (or heaviness; gravitas in Latin; sorry I don't do Arabic) which is an inherent property of heavy bodies. For medieval thinkers, gravitas is opposed to levitas (lightness) which is a similar inherent property of light bodies like fire.
I think "heaviness" gets closer to al-Khazini's medieval concept than "gravity", since he says "A heavy body is one which is moved by an inherent force, constantly, towards the centre of the world.... and that the force referred to is inherent in the body, not derived from without, nor separated from it." SteveMcCluskey 12:47, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

Khanikoff's commentary[edit]

I'm having some difficulty understanding what exactly Khanikoff means about al-Khazini's theory of "terrestrial gravitation", so I've just quoted him in the article for now. It would be helpful if someone could explain what exactly he means by it. Jagged 85 10:21, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

Two comments: First, remember that Khanikoff was an amateur (in the good 19th c. sense of the word) writing with 19th c. perspective on medieval science. He tended to look at things from a modern (Newtonian) perspective and contrast them with the thought of unnamed Greeks. In the century since he wrote we've learned a lot more details about ancient and medieval science. Consequently, recent historical studies such as Rozhanskaya's or Clagett's, can place al-Khazini's work in the context of the ideas of such other thinkers as Aristotle, Euclid, Alhacen, etc. In this light he appears more as a product of his times and as a less revolutionary figure.
As to the specific question, terrestrial gravity is the tendency of heavy bodies toward the center of the universe; it is not applicable to celestial bodies which, in the Aristotelian framework, are neither heavy nor light. (Al-Khazini differentiates elemental bodies from the celestial spheres) Khanikoff says al-Khazini's concept of gravity is not a universal mutual Newtonian force but he still seems to be thinking that al-Khazini conceived gravity as some kind of external attractive force -- contrary to al-Khazini's clearly-expressed opinion. I'd take a look at what Rozhanskaya may have to say on the matter in her encyclopedia article on Statics, since she's the current expert on al-Khazini. --SteveMcCluskey 13:38, 20 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly did al-Khazini contribute to gravitational theory that wasn't already known to Aristotle or Alhacen? I'll have a look at Clagett and Rozhanskaya's works the next time I visit the library. Jagged 85 00:24, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

I've just read Rozahanskaya's work at the library today, which made it a lot clearer what al-Khazini actually meant by "gravity" ("thiql"), so I've edited the article according to her explanations (and quoted her in a few footnotes). Jagged 85 03:28, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 03:43, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Stub and rework[edit]

For background information, please see RFC/U and Cleanup. With 154 edits, User:Jagged 85 is the main contributor to this article by far (2nd is User:SteveMcCluskey who did cleanup work with 19 edits). The issues are a repeat of what had been exemplarily shown here, here, here or here. Since the article was created by Jagged 85 (on 11 June 2007) I stubbed the article completely. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:43, 17 April 2011 (UTC)


For this article I plan to add as much background information on Al-Khazini as I can. This is his biography page and it has very little information on who he was. As of now the article mentions his most known work as "The Book of Balance and Wisdom", but it does not go into detail about how or what he studied during his life time. I plan to try and add more information on his contributions to science. I have a lot of work to do to try and better this article so any advice or criticism is welcome. Ashblackburn (talk) 02:58, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

You definitely added much more information onto this article considering there was almost nothing on it to start with. The only suggestions I can think of for further improvement would be to add a little bit more of his background information about his life and maybe a little more detail about how the balance worked and what the tables were intended to be for. However, I know you found this article on the stubs page, and a lot of the suggestions on there are stubs for a reason. If there was a lot of information available his article certainly would have been much longer. I myself was considering editing this article but decided not to because I couldn't find anything related to the subject. Given the amount of information available to you I think you did a good job expanding the article. Khan ali10 (talk) 01:19, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I think you did a good job expanding this article. There is a lot of good information here. The suggestions I would have would be to read over the article again and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Also, some of the wording is a little awkward and I think the whole article would be much more cohesive with just a little rewording. You did a great job! Osbo6401 (talk) 03:10, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

I don't know what else you could ad as I am not familiar with this man. Maybe a little rewording as was suggested above and maybe get a picture of the fellow.--SamuelBecket (talk) 03:39, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

Helpful Hints on Improving this Article[edit]

  • Provide more background information on Al-Khazini, such as where he was born and raised, birth and death (if available) or flourishing dates.
  • Did Al-Khazini have any family, children that succeeded him?
  • Link the name of Sanjar ibn Malikshah. By the way, name his relation to Al-Khazini.
  • State the significance and or impact Al-Khazini's books had on the rest of the world/scholars/science.
  • State the instrument described in his book Treatise on Astronomical Wisdom and what it was used for. Provide link for the instrument and picture.
  • Who influenced and or taught Al-Khazini? Link them in the article and state impact/importance it had on Al-Khazini.
  • State how Al-Khazini influenced astronomical science during the 12 century.
  • Add more links throughout the article for his books and people in his life.

Hope this helps!

(Jhareemy (talk) 05:34, 16 May 2014 (UTC))