From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, p. 578 |
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Isḥāq ibn
Ḥunayn: Abū Yaʿqūb Isḥāq ibn Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al‐ʿIbādī
Glen M. Cooper
Born circa 830
Died Baghdad, (Iraq),
910/911
Isḥāq
ibn Ḥunayn was one of the most important translators
of Greek scientific and mathematical works into Arabic. He lived in the ʿAbbāsid capital
of Baghdad during the vibrant period of the Graeco–Arabic translation movement,
when nearly everything of philosophical or scientific interest from the ancient
Greek corpus was translated into Arabic.
Isḥāq
came from a family noted for its translations. He was the son of the most
renowned translator of the period, Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq, who hailed from a Nestorian
Christian Arab tribe of al‐Ḥīra,
Iraq. Ḥunayn set the standard of excellence,
professionalism, and method for Graeco–Arabic translation, which he passed
on to his son. Like his father, Isḥāq was a physician and wrote an important history of
physicians that supplements our information on that subject derived from classical
sources. Ḥunayn reports
in the epistle in which he describes the 129 works of Galen he translated
or revised that he translated several books of Galen specifically for the
use of his son Isḥāq,
perhaps for him to study as part of his education as a physician.
Although Isḥāq
was a physician, he understood mathematics and astronomy in order to be able
to grasp the sophisticated arguments of Euclid's Elements and Ptolemy's
Almagest, both of which he translated from Greek into Arabic. These
two works, which were of immense importance for the subsequent development
of Greek mathematical astronomy into the Islamic world, were Isḥāq's primary contribution
to astronomy. The Elements were useful not only for instruction in
geometry but also as a model for presenting scientific theory systematically
and deductively; it was considered by many ancient scholars the foremost example
of the methods expounded by Aristotle
in his Posterior Analytics. The Almagest was a comprehensive
approach to mathematical astronomy from which a long tradition of practice,
criticism, and improvement evolved in the Islamic world. Isḥāq's translation of the Almagest was emended
by the practicing astronomer, Thābit
ibn Qurra, who perhaps refined the mathematical details. Though the
Elements and the Almagest were translated multiple times in
the 9th century, which is an indication of the ʿAbbāsid interest in the ancient Greek scientific heritage and
the substantial financial support provided for translation into Arabic, it
is important to note that the Isḥāq/Thābit
translation became standard for both the Elements and the Almagest.
Isḥāq
translated a number of other works from Greek. These included Euclid's Optics;
the Spherics of Menelaus;
On the Moving Sphere by Autolycus;
several Platonic dialogues; and works of Aristotle, including On the Soul
and the Physics.
Brentjes, Sonja (1996). “The Relevance of Non‐primary
Sources for the Recovery of the Primary Transmission of Euclid's Elements
into Arabic.” In Tradition, Transmission, Transformation: Proceedings of
Two Conferences on Pre‐modern Science Held at the University of Oklahoma,
edited by F. Jamil Ragep and Sally P. Ragep, with Steven Livesey, pp. 201–225.
Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Frank, Richard M.
(1958–1959). “Some Fragments of Ishāq's Translation of the De Anima.”
Cahiers de Byrsa 8: 231–252.
Gutas,
Dimitri (1998). Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco–Arabic Translation
Movement in Baghdad and Early ʿAbbāsid
Society (2nd–4th/8th–10th centuries). London: Routledge.
Ibn al‐Nadīm (1970). The Fihrist of al‐Nadīm:
A Tenth‐Century Survey of Muslim Culture, edited and translated
by Bayard Dodge. 2 Vols. New York: Columbia University Press.
Kunitzsch, Paul (1974). Der Almagest: Die Syntaxis
Mathematica des Claudius Ptolemäus in arabisch–lateinischer Überlieferung.
Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
Rashed, Roshdi (1989). “Problems of the Transmission of Greek
Scientific Thought into Arabic: Examples from Mathematics and Optics.” History
of Science 27: 199–209.
Rosenthal, Franz (1954). “Ishāq b. Ḥunayn's Taʾrīf al‐Aṭibbāʾ.” Oriens 7: 55–80.