Thābit ibn Qurra

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"Thebit" redirects here. For crater on the Moon, see Thebit (crater).
Thābit ibn Qurrah
Born 210-211 AH/ 826 AD
Harran (now in Şanlıurfa Province, Turkey)
Died Wednesday, 26 Safar, 288 AH / February 18, 901 AD
Baghdad (now Iraq)
Academic background
Influences Banu Musa, Archimedes, Apollonius, Nicomachus, Euclid
Academic work
Era Islamic Golden Age
Main interests Mathematics, Mechanics, Astronomy, Astrology, Translation, Number theory
Notable ideas
Influenced Al-Khazini, Al-Isfizari, Na'im ibn Musa[1]

Al-Ṣābiʾ Thābit ibn Qurrah al-Ḥarrānī (Arabic: ثابت بن قره‎‎, Latin: Thebit/Thebith/Tebit;[2] 826[3] – February 18, 901) was an Arab[4] Sabian mathematician, physician, astronomer, and translator who lived in Baghdad in the second half of the ninth century during the time of Abbasid Caliphate.

Ibn Qurra made important discoveries in algebra, geometry, and astronomy. In astronomy, Thabit is considered one of the first reformers of the Ptolemaic system, and in mechanics he was a founder of statics.[3]


Thabit was born in Harran (known as Kharanu, "passage" in old Assyrian language) in Assyria (modern-day Turkey). The city of Harran was never fully Christianized, unlike the rest of Assyria. By the early Arabic era, the people of Harran were still adhering to the cult of Sin. Thabit and his pupils lived in the midst of the most intellectually vibrant, and probably the largest, city of the time, Baghdad. He occupied himself with mathematics, astronomy, astrology, magic, mechanics, medicine, and philosophy. Later in his life, Thabit's patron was the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tadid (reigned 892–902). Thabit became the Caliph's personal friend and courtier. Thabit died in Baghdad. After him the greatest Sabean name was Abu Abdallah Mohammad ibn Jabir Al-Battani.[citation needed]


Pages from Thābit's Arabic translation of Apollonius' Conics

Thabit's native language was Syriac, which was the eastern Aramaic dialect from Edessa, and he was fluent in Greek and Arabic. He translated from Greek into Arabic works by Apollonius, Archimedes, Euclid and Ptolemy. He revised the translation of Euclid's Elements of Hunayn ibn Ishaq. He also rewrote Hunayn's translation of Ptolemy's Almagest and translated Ptolemy's Geography. Thabit's translation of a work by Archimedes which gave a construction of a regular heptagon was discovered in the 20th century, the original having been lost.[citation needed]


The medieval astronomical theory of the trepidation of the equinoxes is often attributed to Thabit.[citation needed] But it had already been described by Theon of Alexandria in his comments of the Handy Tables of Ptolemy. According to Copernicus Thabit determined the length of the sidereal year as 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 12 seconds (an error of 2 seconds). Copernicus based his claim on the Latin text attributed to Thabit. Thabit published his observations of the Sun.[citation needed]


See also: Thabit number

In mathematics, Thabit discovered an equation for determining amicable numbers. He also wrote on the theory of numbers, and extended their use to describe the ratios between geometrical quantities, a step which the Greeks did not take.

He is known for having calculated the solution to a chessboard problem involving an exponential series.[5]

He also described a Pythagoras theorem.[6]


In physics, Thabit rejected the Peripatetic and Aristotelian notions of a "natural place" for each element. He instead proposed a theory of motion in which both the upward and downward motions are caused by weight, and that the order of the universe is a result of two competing attractions (jadhb): one of these being "between the sublunar and celestial elements", and the other being "between all parts of each element separately".[7]


Only a few of Thabit's works are preserved in their original form.



  1. ^ Panza, Marco (2008). "The Role of Algebraic Inferences in Na'īm Ibn Mūsā's Collection of Geometrical Propositions". Arabic Sciences and Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. 18 (2): 165–191. doi:10.1017/S0957423908000532. 
  2. ^ Latham, J. D. (2003). "Review of Richard Lorch's 'Thabit ibn Qurran: On the Sector-Figure and Related Texts'". Journal of Semitic Studies. Oxford University Press. 48 (2): 401–403. doi:10.1093/jss/48.2.401. 
  3. ^ a b Holme, Audun (2010). Geometry : our cultural heritage (2nd ed.). Heidelberg: Springer. p. 188. ISBN 3-642-14440-3. 
  4. ^ editors, general; Lindberg, David C.; Numbers, Ronald L. (2001). The Cambridge history of science. (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-521-59448-6. 
  5. ^ Masood, Ehsad (2009). Science and Islam A History. Icon Books Ltd. pp. 48–49. 
  6. ^ Aydin Sayili (Mar 1960). "Thâbit ibn Qurra's Generalization of the Pythagorean Theorem". Isis. 51 (1): 35–37. doi:10.1086/348837. JSTOR 227603. 
  7. ^ Mohammed Abattouy (2001). "Greek Mechanics in Arabic Context: Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Isfizarı and the Arabic Traditions of Aristotelian and Euclidean Mechanics", Science in Context 14, p. 205-206. Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ a b Van Brummelen, Glen (2010-01-26). "Review of "On the Sector-Figure and Related Texts"". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Francis J. Carmody: The astronomical works of Thābit b. Qurra. 262 pp. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1960.
  • Rashed, Roshdi (1996). Les Mathématiques Infinitésimales du IXe au XIe Siècle 1: Fondateurs et commentateurs: Banū Mūsā, Ibn Qurra, Ibn Sīnān, al-Khāzin, al-Qūhī, Ibn al-Samḥ, Ibn Hūd. London.  Reviews: Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1998) in Isis 89 (1) pp. 112-113; Charles Burnett (1998) in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 61 (2) p. 406.
  • Churton, Tobias. The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and the First Freemasons. Barnes and Noble Publishing, 2006.
  • Hakim S Ayub Ali. Zakhira-i Thābit ibn Qurra (preface by Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman), Aligarh, India, 1987.

External links[edit]