The Islamic Near East

Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 4)


At the same time as the so-called European Dark Ages, which, in terms of science, were not as dark as had once been supposed, 1 science and learning were occupying an important place in the society of the neighbouring Islamic Near East. Astronomy, of course, was a major aspect of this science. According to King (1996: 146), “it was not Islam that encouraged the development of astronomy but the richness of Islamic society, a multiracial, highly-literate, tolerant society with one predominant language, Arabic.” Islamic astronomy was founded on a mixture of traditional “folk” astronomy and Indian, Persian, and Greek mathematical astronomy, but by the turn of the second millennium it had evolved into a science characteristically its own.2


Local Time Solar Eclipse Lunar Eclipse Eclipse Observation True Accuracy 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, McCluskey (1998) and Chapter 5 below.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    King (1996: 144).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    King (1996: 143) estimates that there are over 10,000 in libraries throughout the world.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    lncluding more than one hundred solar and lunar eclipses. See Said, Stephenson, & Rada (1989) and Stephenson & Said (1997).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    King (1996).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sayili (1960: 50–87).Google Scholar
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  8. 8.
    For details of the use and operation of these calendar systems, see Said & Stephenson (1996).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For example, the late fourteenth century Damascene astronomer Ibn al-Shātir is known to have written a book entitled Ta `liq al-Arsād which contained details of how he derived an alternative planetary model to that of Ptolemy from his observations. It seems that a number of eclipse observations were contained in this work. However, all manuscript copies of it have been lost. See Saliba (1987).Google Scholar
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    See, for example, al-Birūnī, Kitāb Tahdid Nihāāyāt al-Amākin li-Tas hīh Masāfāt al-Masākin, 166–168; trans. Ali (1967: 129–130).Google Scholar
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    For further biographical details, see Kennedy (1970). 35 A1-Birūni also reports an observation of an annular solar eclipse by al-Irānshahrī on 28 July 873 AD. Although no timings of this eclipse are reported, it is of considerable historical interest as according to Ptolemy’s eclipse theory (Almagest, V, 14), annular eclipse are not possible. See Goldstein (1979).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DurhamUK

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