Abul Wefa (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Abul Wefa played a major role in the development of sines and cosines as they apply to the field of trigonometry. These he used to correct astronomical calculations carried forward from classical into Islamic times.
Born in 940, during the reign of the ’Abbasid caliph al-Mutaqqi, Abul Wefa lived during a period of extraordinary cultural and intellectual productivity. His own fields of accomplishment, mathematics and astronomy, were already widely recognized as essential elements of high Islamic civilization. Very little seems to be known about Abul Wefa’s early life. Apparently, his early education in mathematics occurred under the tutelage of two uncles, one of whom (Abu Amr al-Mughazili) had received formal training from the famous geometricians Abu Yahya Al-Marwazi and Abu’l Ala ibn Karnib.
Whatever the possible source of patronage for the young man’s further education may have been, his decision to move to Baghdad at the age of nineteen (in 959) greatly benefited the ’Abbasid court. Baghdad at this time was politically troubled, following the seizure of de facto control by a military clique headed by the Persian Buyid emirs; thereafter, the Buyids dominated the house of the caliphs until their fall from power in 1055. The Buyids were inclined to favor talented Persians who were drawn toward scholarly circles in the center of the empire. It is reported, for...
(The entire section is 1590 words.)
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