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Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam Omar Khayyam[1†]

Omar Khayyám, also known as Ghiyāth al-Dīn Abū al-Fatḥ ʿUmar ibn Ibrāhīm Nīsābūrī[1†][2†], was a polymath born on May 18, 1048, in Nishapur, Khorasan, Persia[1†][2†]. He is renowned for his significant contributions to various fields such as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and poetry[1†][2†][3†][4†].

Early Years and Education

Omar Khayyám was born Ghiyath al-Din Abu’l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami on May 18, 1048, in Nishapur, a metropolis located at the foot of Binalud Mountain in northeastern Iran[6†][1†]. Nishapur was a great trading post and served as the capital city of the Seljuq dynasty at the time of his birth[6†][1†].

Little is known about his family background. Based on the family title ‘Khayyami,’ it is generally assumed that he was born into a family of Muslim tentmakers[6†][1†]. His father, Ibrahim Khayyami, might have pursued the family trade, but some biographers believe that he was an established physician[6†]. However, it is certain that he was aware of the importance of education and was religiously very unorthodox[6†].

Omar Khayyam received comprehensive education. One of his teachers, a Zoroastrian mathematician named Bahmanyar bin Marzban, taught him science, philosophy, and mathematics[6†]. Concurrently, he studied astronomy under Khawjah al-Anbari[6†]. He also studied scripture with Imam Muwaffaq of Naishápúr[6†][1†]. His gifts were recognized by his early tutors who sent him to study under Imam Muwaffaq Nishaburi, the greatest teacher of the Khorasan region who tutored the children of the highest nobility[6†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Omar Khayyám’s career was marked by significant contributions to various fields, including mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy[1†][2†][5†][6†][7†].

As a mathematician, Khayyám is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations[1†][5†][7†]. He provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics[1†][5†][7†]. His mathematical reputation principally rests on his algebra treatise, Risālah fiʾl-barāhīn ʿalā masāʾil al-jabr waʾl-muqābalah (“Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra”), where he gave a systematic discussion of the solution of cubic equations by means of intersecting conic sections[1†][2†][6†]. Perhaps it was in the context of this work that he discovered how to extend Abu al-Wafā’s results on the extraction of cube and fourth roots to the extraction of n^th roots of numbers for arbitrary whole numbers n[1†][2†].

Khayyám also contributed to the understanding of the parallel axiom[1†]. He constructed the quadrilateral shown in an effort to prove that Euclid’s fifth postulate, concerning parallel lines, is superfluous[1†][2†]. He began by constructing line segments of equal length perpendicular to the line segment. Although Khayyám showed that the internal angles at the top are equal, he could not prove that they are right angles[1†][2†].

As an astronomer, Khayyám calculated the duration of the solar year with remarkable precision and accuracy[1†][7†]. He designed the Jalali calendar, a solar calendar with a very precise 33-year intercalation cycle[1†][7†]. This calendar provided the basis for the Persian calendar that is still in use after nearly a millennium[1†][7†]. Omar and his two collaborators generated astronomical tables namely Al-zij al-Malikshahi[1†][7†].

His work as an outstanding mathematician and astronomer led to the reform of the ancient Muslim calendar[1†][6†]. He made such a name for himself that the Seljuq sultan Malik-Shāh invited him to Eṣfahān to undertake the astronomical observations necessary for the reform of the calendar[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Omar Khayyám’s works span across various fields, including mathematics, astronomy, and poetry[1†][8†][9†].

In mathematics, Khayyám is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics[1†][8†]. He also contributed to the understanding of the parallel axiom[1†][8†].

In astronomy, he calculated the duration of the solar year with remarkable precision and accuracy, and designed the Jalali calendar, a solar calendar with a very precise 33-year intercalation cycle[1†]. This calendar provided the basis for the Persian calendar that is still in use after nearly a millennium[1†]. He is also believed to have built models illustrating the theory of the earth’s revolution on its axis[1†][9†].

In poetry, Omar Khayyám is known for his quatrains (rubāʿiyāt رباعیات)[1†]. His poetry became widely known to the English-reading world in a translation by Edward FitzGerald (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859), which enjoyed great success in the Orientalism of the fin de siècle[1†].

Here are some of his main works:

Analysis and Evaluation

Omar Khayyám’s work, particularly his poetry, has been subject to extensive analysis and evaluation[10†][11†]. His quatrains, known as the Rubáiyát, were translated into English by Edward FitzGerald and have since become a significant part of English literature[10†][11†].

The Rubáiyát presents a compelling narrative filled with heavy symbolism and a not-so-obvious theme[10†][11†]. The poem provides a surface story, but a second look reveals a rich collection of separate meanings hidden in the poem’s objective descriptions and sprawling narrative[10†][11†]. The poem is often seen as advocating for making the most of life through intense sensual living within a world of moral ambiguity and religious doubt[10†].

Khayyám’s constant use of the image of wine is linked with themes of escape and celebration, earning him a reputation as a hedonist and religious skeptic[10†]. However, these seemingly transparent references to drinking beg for a deeper analysis[10†][11†]. The symbol of the “Cup” or “Bowl” and the “Wine” that the narrator seems to be drawing out of it on every occasion could be seen as synonymous with some sort of prize or contest[10†][11†].

FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubáiyát was not intended to be a scholarly or literal translation, but rather to achieve literary excellence[10†]. He produced a volume of poetry which exerted a powerful influence on artistic circles of the late 19th century and helped to reinforce the vogue for Orientalism in both English and American society of the period[10†].

In the field of mathematics and astronomy, Khayyám’s work on the classification and solution of cubic equations and the calculation of the solar year’s duration has been recognized for its precision and accuracy[10†][12†][13†].

Personal Life

Omar Khayyám’s personal life is somewhat enigmatic, with different sources providing varying accounts[14†][7†]. It is generally believed that he was married and had two children, a son and a daughter[14†][7†]. He was a Sufi Muslim and greatly revered Prophet Muhammad[14†][7†]. In his philosophical work ‘al-Risālah fil-wujūd’ (Treatise on Being), he wrote that all things come from God[14†][7†].

However, some sources suggest that Khayyám never experienced the joy of married life[14†]. He could not afford to start a family, as he constantly worked under the threat of persecution[14†]. Perhaps that is why the freethinker lived alone all his life[14†].

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his personal life, it is clear that Khayyám was a man of profound intellect and curiosity, whose contributions to various fields have left a lasting legacy[14†][1†][14†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Omar Khayyám’s legacy is vast and enduring, transcending the boundaries of his native Persia and extending far beyond our planet[15†]. His contributions to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and poetry have left a lasting impact on the world[15†][2†][1†].

As a mathematician, he is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics[15†][2†][1†]. He also made a major contribution to the development of non-Euclidean geometry and especially the parallel postulate[15†][16†].

As an astronomer, he calculated the duration of the solar year with remarkable precision and accuracy[15†][2†][1†]. He designed the Jalali calendar, a solar calendar with a very precise 33-year intercalation cycle[15†][2†][1†], which provided the basis for the Persian calendar that is still in use after nearly a millennium[15†][2†][1†].

His poetry, written in the form of quatrains (rubāʿiyāt), became widely known to the English-reading world in a translation by Edward FitzGerald (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859), which enjoyed great success in the Orientalism of the fin de siècle[15†][2†][1†].

His name has been embraced in various earthly domains[15†]. One of the craters on the moon has been named after him[15†]. Also, in 1980, The asteroid 3095 was named after Khayyam, symbolizing his lasting impact[15†].

Omar Khayyám’s acumen transcended his mathematical genius. He was also a renowned astronomer (and astrologer), philosopher and poet[15†]. He left a lasting creative legacy that is deeply rooted in the familiar struggles of human existence[15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Omar Khayyam [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Omar Khayyam: Persian poet and astronomer [website] - link
  3. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Omar Khayyam [website] - link
  4. New World Encyclopedia - Omar Khayyam [website] - link
  5. MacTutor History of Mathematics - Omar Khayyam (1048 - 1131) - Biography [website] - link
  6. The Famous People - Omar Khayyám Biography [website] - link
  7. JagranJosh.com - Omar Khayyam Biography: Famous Mathematician, Poet and Astronomer [website] - link
  8. University of Montana - ScholarWorks - "The Works of Omar Khayyam in the History of Mathematics" by Thomas Bisom [website] - link
  9. Poetry Foundation - Omar Khayaam [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám Analysis [website] - link
  11. SchoolWorkHelper - The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Summary & Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám Critical Essays [website] - link
  13. Cambridge University Press - FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám - Chapter: Edward FitzGerald, Omar Khayyám and the Tradition of Verse Translation into English (Chapter 1) [website] - link
  14. Famous Scientists - Omar Khayyam - Biography, Facts and Pictures [website] - link
  15. CyrusCrafts - Omar Khayyam - A Persian Poet, Mathematician, and An Astronomer [website] - link
  16. Totallyhistory.com - Omar Khayyam Biography - Life of Persian Mathematician [website] - link
  17. Famous Mathematicians - Omar Khayyám Facts & Biography [website] - link
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