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TRANSLATING BOOKS INTO ARABIC
Thābit ibn Qurra, who was not a Muslim but a Sabian star-worshiper living in Baghdad, translated “The Conica” of Apollonius of Pergamon from Greek into Arabic in the 9th century.
CHRISTIANS, SABIANS AND MUSLIMS TRANSLATED BOOKS INTO ARABIC
In the 8th and 9th centuries, translations from mostly Greek and Roman Empire books, (half of the translations being made by Christians) provided the knowledge that Muslim scholars would later make additions to.
Muslim websites, and even some Wikipedia articles, mistakenly give Muslims credit for many things actually borrowed from non-Muslims.
In the late 8th century and early 9th century, the Syrian Muslim scholar Abu Yahya Ibn al-Batriq translated from Greek into Arabic some works of Galen of Pergamon, Hippocrates and Ptolemy. At around the same time, Baghdad mathematician Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf translated Euclid’s “Elements” from Greek into Arabic.
Translation from Greek to Arabic greatly expanded during the mid 9th century, when a Syriac-speaking Nestorian Christian named Hunayn ibn Ishaq (Johannitius) translated books from Greek into Arabic. He also wrote his own book on treatment of eye diseases. The Abbasid Caliph al-Mamun may have financed his travel to Byzantium to purchase many more medical and other scientific and philosophy books, which he and his son and nephew translated into Arabic.
Qusta ibn Luqa was a 9th century Melkite Christian who traveled throughout the Byzantine Empire purchasing Greek books.
Among the works translated into Arabic were
a) Plato of 400 BC Athens who wrote about reflections in concave mirrors.
b) Aristarchus of Samos was an astronomer of around 300 BC who wrote that the earth and the other 5 known planets traveled around the sun, and listed the 6 planets in the sequence of their distance from the sun.
c) Diocles in about 200 BC, who wrote about parabolas, burning lenses, spherical aberration and the mathematics of parabolic reflecting mirrors.
d) Theodosius of Bithynia was a late 2nd century BC astronomer who wrote about spherical geometry of the sky.
e) The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger wrote that rainbows appear when water is sprayed, and wrote that light passing through cylindrical glass rods shows colors.
f) Hero (or Heron) of Alexandria was a 1st century inventor who built steam-powered mechanical “robots” for use in Greek temples.
He also wrote a 4 volume work on building water clocks.
g) Dioscorides, an army surgeon in the eastern part of the Roman Empire that later became the Byzantine Empire, beginning in the year 77 wrote books on medicine including over 500 botanicals, and including sleeping potions of opium for use as an anesthetic during surgery.
h) Around the year 140, Ptolemy in Alexandria (then part of the Roman Empire) wrote about astronomy, mathematics and optics. Muslims demanded a copy of his book as terms of a peace treaty (which Muslims later broke) with the Byzantine Empire.
i) Around the year 160, Galen of Pergamon (a Greek living in the Roman Empire) wrote medical books, including material on drugs prepared from plants and animals, anatomy, inflammation and fevers.
j) The 5th century Hindu astronomer Aryabhata claimed the planets and the moon do not have their own light but reflect the light of the sun, wrote about spherical trigonometry, published a table of sines, and wrote about algorithms for solving quadratic equations
k) Paulos of Aegina was a 7th century Byzantine Empire physician who wrote a 7 volume medical encyclopedia, 2 volumes of which were on surgery. Included in the encyclopedia were such topics as treating drooping eyelid by sewing it open, and using the blunt end of a couching needle to push cataracts away from the front of the eye.
l) Some Persian converts to Islam, Jews, Sabians, Hindus and Zoroastrians also translated works into Arabic. Caliphs and wealthy Muslims often financed the purchase of books and the translations.
m) In the 8th century, the Hindu medical encyclopedia Sushruta Samhita was translated into Arabic.
n) In 773, Al Fazari translated “Correctly Established Doctrine of Brahma”, written in India in 628 by a Hindu named Brahmagupta, which contained explanations of algebra, algorithms, and the number zero.
Image by ibn Qurra, digitized at Oxford University, via Wikimedia Commons.
image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conica_of_Apollonius_of_Perga_fol._162b_and_164a.jpg#mw-jump-to-license