Astronomy in the Islamic World

  • David A. King
Reference work entry

From the ninth to the fifteenth century, Muslim scholars excelled in every branch of scientific knowledge; their contributions in astronomy and mathematics are particularly impressive. Even though there are an estimated 10,000 Islamic astronomical manuscripts and close to 1,000 Islamic astronomical instruments preserved in libraries and museums, and even if all of them were properly catalogued and indexed, the picture that we could reconstruct of Islamic astronomy, especially for the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, would still be quite deficient. Most of the available manuscripts and instruments date from the later period of Islamic astronomy, i.e., from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, and although some of these are based or modeled on earlier works, many of the early works are extant in unique copies and others have been lost almost without trace; i.e., we know only of their titles. The thirteenth century Syrian scientific biographer Ibn al‐Qifṭī relates that the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Berggren, J. L. Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam. Berlin: Springer, 1986.Google Scholar
  2. van Dalen, Benno. Ancient and Mediaeval Astronomical Tables – Mathematical Structure and Parameter Values. Utrecht: Utrecht University, 1993.Google Scholar
  3. Goldstein, Bernard R. Theory and Observation in Ancient and Medieval Astronomy. London: Variorum, 1985.Google Scholar
  4. Heinen, Anton. Islamic Cosmology. Beirut: Franz Steiner, 1982.Google Scholar
  5. Kennedy, Edward S. A Survey of Islamic Astronomical Tables. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 46.2 (1956): 121–77.Google Scholar
  6. Kennedy, Edward S., et al. Studies in the Islamic Exact Sciences. Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  7. King, David A. A Survey of the Scientific Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1986.Google Scholar
  8. ‐‐‐. Some Remarks on Islamic Scientific Manuscripts and Instruments and Past, Present and Future Research. The Significance of Islamic Manuscripts. Ed. John Cooper.London: Al‐Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1992. 115–44.Google Scholar
  9. ‐‐‐. Islamic Mathematical Astronomy. London: Variorum, 1986. 2nd rev. ed. Aldershot: Variorum, 1993a.Google Scholar
  10. ‐‐‐. Astronomy in the Service of Islam. Aldershot: Variorum, 1993b.Google Scholar
  11. ‐‐‐. Islamic Astronomy. Astronomy Before the Telescope. Ed. Christopher Walker. London: British Museum, 1996. 143–74.Google Scholar
  12. ‐‐‐. World‐Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science. Leiden: Brill, 1999.Google Scholar
  13. ‐‐‐. Synchrony with the Heavens: Studies in Astronomical Timekeeping and Instrumentation in Medieval Islamic Civilization. Vol. 1. The Call of the Muezzin (Studies I–IX). Leiden: Brill, 2004; Vol. 2. Instruments of Mass Calculation (Studies X–XVIII). Leiden: Brill, 2005.Google Scholar
  14. King, David A. and George Saliba eds. From Deferent to Equant: Studies in the History of Science in the Ancient and Medieval Near East in Honor of E. S. Kennedy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1986.Google Scholar
  15. King, David A. and Julio Samsó. With a contribution by Bernard R. Goldstein. Astronomical Handbooks and Tables from the Islamic World (750–1900): An Interim Report. Suhayl – Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic Civilisation (Barcelona) 2 (2001): 9–105.Google Scholar
  16. Kunitzsch, Paul. Untersuchungen zur Sternnomenklatur der Araber. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1961.Google Scholar
  17. ‐‐‐. The Arabs and the Stars. Northampton: Variorum, 1989.Google Scholar
  18. Lorch, Richard P. Arabic Mathematical Sciences. Instruments, Texts, Transmission. Aldershot: Variorum, 1995.Google Scholar
  19. Ragep, F. J. Naṣīr al‐Dīn al‐Ṭūsī's Memoir on Astronomy (al‐Tadhkira fī ˓ilm al‐hay˒a). 2 vols. Berlin: Springer, 1993.Google Scholar
  20. Sabra, Abdelhamid I. The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam. History of Science 25 (1987): 223–43.Google Scholar
  21. Saliba, George. The Astronomical Tradition of Maragha: A Historical Survey and Prospects for Future Research. Arabic Science and Philosophy 1 (1991): 67–99.Google Scholar
  22. ‐‐‐. A History of Islamic Astronomy. Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam. New York: New York University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  23. Samsó, Julio. Las ciencias de los antiguos en al Andalus. Madrid: Mapfre, 1992.Google Scholar
  24. ‐‐‐. Islamic Astronomy and Medieval Spain. Aldershot: Variorum, 1994.Google Scholar
  25. Sayili, Aydln. The Observatory in Islam. Ankara: Turkish Historical Society, 1960. Rpt. in New York: Arno Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  26. Sezgin, Fuat. Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. V: Mathematik, VI: Astronomie, VII: Astrologie, Meteorologie und Verwandtes. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974, 1978, and 1979.Google Scholar
  27. Suter, Heinrich. Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke. Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der mathematischen Wissenschaften 10 (1900), and 14 (1902): 157–85. Both Rpt. in Amsterdam: Oriental, 1982.Google Scholar
  28. Varisco, Daniel M. Medieval Agriculture and Islamic Science – The Almanac of a Yemeni Sultan. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  29. Wright, Ramsey R. The Book of Instruction in the Elements of Astrology by al‐Bīrūnī. London: Luzac, 1934.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. King

There are no affiliations available