From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, pp. 792-793

Courtesy of

Mizzī: Zayn al‐Dīn [Shams al‐Din] Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muammad ibn Amad ibn ʿAbd al‐Raīm al‐Mizzī al‐anafī

François Charette

Bornprobably al‐Mizza near Damascus, (Syria), 1291

DiedDamascus, (Syria), 1349

Mizzī was a muwaqqit (i. e., an astronomer appointed to a mosque who is responsible for regulating the times of prayer), an instrument maker, and the author of numerous treatises on astronomical instruments. He studied in Cairo under the well known physician and encyclopedist Ibn al‐Akfānī. He was first appointed as a muwaqqit in al‐Rabwa, a quiet locality near Damascus, and then at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, a position he held until his death. Mizzī authored treatises on the use of the astrolabe, the astrolabic quadrant, and the sine quadrant. In particular his treatises al‐Rawāt al‐muzhirāt fī al‐ʿamal bi‐rubʿ al‐muqanarāt (On the astrolabic quadrant) and Kashf al‐rayb fī al‐ʿamal bi‐ʾl‐jayb (On the sine quadrant) were popular. He also wrote on the use of less common instruments, such as the musattar (concealed) and the mujanna (winged) quadrants.

Although he made few original contributions to instrument making in particular or to astronomy in general, Mizzī was nevertheless an important and influential authority in the field, whose didactic treatises were appreciated by students of applied astronomy dealing with timekeeping (ʿilm al‐mīqāt). The instruments he made were highly praised as being the best of his times and sold for considerable prices, namely 200 dirhams or more for an astrolabe, and at least 50 dirhams for a quadrant. Some five quadrants of his fabrication are extant, dated between the years 1326/1327 and 1333/1334. According to the 15th‐century astronomer Ibn al‐ʿAṭṭār, he also made astrolabes with mixed projections (i. e., with markings obtained by a combination of stereographical projections about the North Pole and South Pole, respectively). According to his biographer al‐afadī, Mizzī also excelled in oiling bows (baraʿa fī dahn al‐qisī) and impressed his contemporaries by constructing mechanical devices such as those of Banū Mūsā.

Selected References

Al‐Safadī. (1911). Nakt al‐himyān fī nukat al‐ʿumyān. Cairo, p. 244.

Brockelmann, Carl (1938). Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 2nd ed. Vol. 2 (1949): 155–156; Suppl. 2: 156, 1018. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Charette, François (2003). Mathematical Instrumentation in Fourteenth‐Century Egypt and Syria: The Illustrated Treatise of Najm Al‐Dīn Al‐Miṣrī. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Combe, étienne (1930). “Cinq cuivres musulmans datés des XIIIe, XIVe, et XVe siècles, de la Collection Benaki.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 30: 49–58, esp. p. 56.

Dorn, B. (1865). “Drei in der Kaiserlichen öffentlichen Bibliothek zu St. Petersburg befindliche astronomische Instrumente mit arabischen Inschriften.” Mémoires de l'Académie impériale des sciences de St. Pétersbourg, 7th ser., 9: 1–150, esp. pp. 16–26 and plates.

Féhérvari, Géza (1973). “An Eighth/Fourteenth‐Century Quadrant of the Astrolabist al‐Mizzī.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 36: 115–117 and two plates.

Ibn Hajar (1966–67). Durar al‐kāmina fī aʿyān al‐miʾa al‐thāmina. 5 Vols. Vol. 3, p. 410, no. 3392. Cairo: Dār al‐Kutub al‐Hadītha.

King, David A. (1986). A Survey of the Scientific Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, no. C34.

——— (1993). “L'astronomie en Syrie à l'époque islamique.” In Syrie, mémoire et civilization (exhibition catalogue), edited by Sophie Cluzan, Eric Delpont, and Jeanne Mouliérac, pp. 386–395, with descriptions of related objects on pp. 432–443. Paris: Institut du monde arabe and Flammarion. (On Mizzī see esp. pp. 391, 438.)

Suter, Heinrich (1990). “Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke.” Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der mathematischen Wissenschaften 10: 165.