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Ṯābit B. Qurra and Arab Astronomy in the 9th Century*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Régis Morelon
Affiliation:
Équipe R.E.H.S.E.I.S., C.N.R.S., 27 rue Damesme, 75013 Paris, France

Abstract

Ṯābit b. Qurra is especially known as a mathematician, but his work in astronomy is also important. This article reviews his eight surviving astronomical treatises, as well as relevant fragments of his lost works cited by later authors in Arabic and Latin. We conclude that, as an active participant in the scientific movement of 9th-century Baghdad, Ṯābit played a crucial role in the establishment of astronomy as an exact science. The argument is based on an assessment of his contribution in three areas: the relationship between observation and theory, the “mathematization” of astronomy, and the relationship between “mathematical” astronomy and “physical” astronomy.

Ṯābit b. Qurra est surtout connu comme mathématicien, mais son œuvre d'astronomie était importante, nous avons accès environ au quart de celle-ci. Cet article présente un essai de synthèse sur ce qui a été transmis de cet auteur dans cette dernière discipline: ses huit traités complets maintenant édités, dont le contenu est rappelé brièvement, et quelques fragments d'œuvres perdues eitées par des auteurs postérieurs, en arabe ou en traduction latine, dont le regroupement n'avait pas encore été fait. Lorsque nous replaçons cette œuvre dans le contexte du commencement du mouvement scientifique à Bagdad au IXe siècle, nous voyons que Ṯābit a joué un rôle très important dans l'établissement du statut de l'astronomie comme science exacte (méthode, thèmes et programme), ce qui est développé sur trois points: la théorisation de la relation entre observation et théorie, la “mathématisation” de l'astronomie, et le rapport conflictuel entre astronomie “mathématique” et astronomie “physique.”

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1994

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