The Persian-Toledan Astronomical Connection and the European Renaissance

The Persian-Toledan Astronomical Connection and the European Renaissance

By M. Heydari-Malayeri

Paper given at the Academia Europaea 19th Annual Conference (2007)

Abstract: This paper aims at presenting a brief overview of astronomical exchanges between the Eastern and Western parts of the Islamic world from the 8th to 14th century. These cultural interactions were in fact vaster involving Persian, Indian, Greek, and Chinese traditions. I will particularly focus on some interesting relations between the Persian astronomical heritage and the Andalusian (Spanish) achievements in that period. After a brief introduction dealing mainly with a couple of terminological remarks, I will present a glimpse of the historical context in which Muslim science developed.

In Section 3, the origins of Muslim astronomy will be briefly examined. Section 4 will be concerned with Khwârizmi, the Persian astronomer/mathematician who wrote the first major astronomical work in the Muslim world. His influence on later Andalusian astronomy will be looked into in Section 5. Andalusian astronomy flourished in the 11th century, as will be studied in Section 6. Among its major achievements were the Toledan Tables and the Alfonsine Tables, which will be presented in Section 7. The Tables had a major position in European astronomy until the advent of Copernicus in the 16th century.

Since Ptolemy’s models were not satisfactory, Muslim astronomers tried to improve them, as we will see in Section 8. This Section also shows how Andalusian astronomers took part in this effort, which was necessary in the path to the Scientific Revolution. Finally, Section 9 presents the Spanish influence on the eve of the Renaissance.

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