Al-Bīrūnī (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: One of the greatest scholars of medieval Islam, al-Bīrūnī was both a singular compiler of the knowledge and scientific traditions of ancient cultures and a leading innovator in Islamic science.
Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī was of Iranian descent and spent most of his childhood and young adult years in his homeland of Khwarezm, south of the Aral Sea. (His sobriquet derives from birun— “suburb”—in reference to his birth in an outlying neighborhood of Khiva.) Little is known of al-Bīrūnī’s childhood except for the important matter of his education, which was directed by the best local mathematicians and other scholars; his exceptional intellectual powers must have become apparent very early. Al-Bīrūnī’s religious background was Shiʿite, although in later years he professed agnostic leanings. A precocious youth, while still a student in Khwarizm al-Bīrūnī entered into correspondence with Avicenna (Ibn Sina), one of the leading lights of Islamic medicine. Some of Avicenna’s replies are preserved in the British Museum.
Although he published some material as a young student, the scope of al-Bīrūnī’s intellectual powers only became apparent when he left Khwarizm to travel and learn...
(The entire section is 1956 words.)
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