OMAR ALKHAYYAM (1044  1123 C.E.)
Omar AlKhayyam was an outstanding mathematician and
astronomer. He was also well known as a poet, philosopher,
and physician. In the "History of Western Philosophy",
Bertrand Russell remarks that Omar Khayyam was the only
man known to him who was both a poet and a mathematician.
Omar Khayyam reformed the solar calendar in 1079 C.E.
His work on Algebra was highly valued throughout Europe
in the Middle Ages. In the West, he is best known for
his poetic work ‘Rubaiyat’ (quatrains) which
was translated by Edward Fitzgerald in 1859. His full
name was Ghiyath alDin Abul Fateh Omar Ibn Ibrahim
alKhayyam.
Omar Khayyam was born in 1044 C.E. at Nishapur, the
provincial capital of Khurasan. He is generally known
as a Persian. However, it has been suggested that his
ancestors (from the Arab Khayyami tribe) migrated and
settled in Persia. Omar Khayyam was educated at Nishapur.
He also traveled to several reputed institutions of
learning, including those at Bukhara, Balkh, Samarqand
and Isphahan. He lived in Nishapur and Samarqand (Central
Asia) for most of his life. Omar Khayyam was a contemporary
of Nizam alMulk Tusi. He died in 1123 C.E. in Nishapur.
AlKhayyam made major contributions in Mathematics,
particularly in Algebra. His book ‘Maqalat fi alJabr
wa alMuqabila’ on Algebra provided great advancement
in the field. He classified many algebraic equations
based on their complexity and recognized thirteen different
forms of cubic equation. Omar Khayyam developed a geometrical
approach to solving equations, which involved an ingenious
selection of proper conics. He solved cubic equations
by intersecting a parabola with a circle. Omar Khayyam
was the first to develop the binomial theorem and determine
binomial coefficients. He developed the binomial expansion
for the case when the exponent is a positive integer.
Omar Khayyam refers in his Algebra book to another work
on what we now know as Pascal's triangle. This work
is now lost. He extended Euclid's work giving a new
definition of ratios and included the multiplication
of ratios. He contributed to the theory of parallel
lines.
Omar AlKhayyam is famous for another work which he
contributed when he worked for Saljuq Sultan, Malikshah
Jalal alDin. He was asked to develop an accurate solar
calendar to be used for revenue collections and various
administrative matters. To accomplish this task, Omar
Khayyam began his work at the new observatory at Ray
in 1074 C.E. His calendar ‘AlTarikhalJalali’
is superior to the Gregorian calendar and is accurate
to within one day in 3770 years. Specifically, he measured
the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days. It shows
that he recognized the importance of accuracy by giving
his result to eleven decimal places. As a comparison,
the length of the year in our time is 365.242190 days.
This number changes slightly in the sixth decimal place,
e.g., in the nineteenth century it was 365.242196 days.
AlKhayyam contributed also to other fields of science.
He developed a method for accurate determination of
the specific gravity. He wrote two books in metaphysics,
‘Risala Dar Wujud’ and ‘Nauruz Namah’.
As a poet, Omar Khayyam is well known for his Rubaiyat
(quatrains). His themes involved complex mystical and
philosophical thoughts.
Omar AlKhayyam’s ten books and thirty monographs
have survived. These include four books on mathematics,
one on algebra, one on geometry, three on physics, and
three books on metaphysics. He made great contributions
in the development of mathematics and analytical geometry,
which benefitted Europe several centuries later.
