Omar Khayyám was an extremely talented and famous Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet. It is believed that Omar adopted the name ‘Khayyám’, as a mark of showering respect to his father’s occupation. His work as an outstanding mathematician and astronomer had led to the reform of the ancient Muslim calendar. Also, the theorems given by him are still applied in mathematics. Despite of his works in these fields, Khayyam is best known for his poems, especially as the author of his collection of quatrains, the “Rubaiyat”. Khayyam works include a great collection of treatises, based on mechanics, geography, and music. Unlike his poetic and scientific works, Khayyam did not receive same popularity and praise for his philosophical works. This birthplace Nishapur, houses his mausoleum which is considered as a masterpiece of Iranian architecture. Also today, it has become one of the most famous tourist places.
Omar Khayyám Childhood & Early Life
The full name of Khayyam was Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nishapuri al-Khayyami. Omar Khayyam was born on May 18, 1048 in Nishapur, Iran, then a Seljuk capital in Khorasan (currently Northeast Iran), which in that times rivaled Cairo or Baghdad in terms of cultural prominence. He is believed to have been born into a tent maker’s family. He resided for specific time of his childhood in Balkh, a town currently in northern Afghanistan. Staying there, he got educated under the famous scholar “Sheikh Muhammad Mansuri.” Later, he was taught by “Imam Mowaffaq Nishapuri,” who was regarded as one of the greatest teachers of the Khorassan region. When he was quite young, he shifted to Samarkand and opted to get education there. However, after some time, he shifted to Bukhara. While staying in Bukhara, he became accredited as one of the chief mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period. He was well known as the author of his one of the very crucial treatises on algebra prior to the modern times as shown in his “Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra” suggesting a geometric method to resolve cubic equations with the help of intersection a hyperbola with a circle. Zamakhshari, another famous Muslim scholar of Iranian origin, mentioned Khayyam as “the philosopher of the world”. Many sources indicate that Khayyam was a teacher and taught the philosophy of Ibn Sina in Nishapur. In the non-Iran and Persian speaking countries, he established his influence on literature and societies with the help of translations of his works and publicized by various scholars. The famous English scholar “Thomas Hyde” became the first non-Persian to heed and study his works and for the same reason, his works also had a considerable impact in English-speaking countries. But the most powerful contribution was of Edward FitzGerald, as he established Khayyam amongst the most popular poets of the East in the West, using his prominent translations and adaptations of Khayyám's, rather few numbers of quatrains in “Rubáiyát” of Omar Khayyám.
As A Mathematician
During that era, Khayyam was quite popular as a mathematician. He authored the very famous and influential “Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra” (1070), which designed the principles of algebra, portion of the body of Persian Mathematics that was by the course of time forwarded to Europe. Specifically, he developed common methods for solving cubic equations and also many upper orders. In his treatise, he worked on the triangular array of binomial coefficients called as “Pascal's triangle”. In 1077, he finished writing “Sharh ma ashkala min musadarat kitab Uqlidis.” This work got published in English by the title “On the Difficulties of Euclid's Definitions”. The work also attracted the eyeballs of many, such as Thabit ibn Qurra. Apart from this, Khayyam also came out with appreciable works in geometry, particularly on the theory of proportions.
As An Astronomer
Khayyam was a popular and eminent astronomer too. The Seljuk Sultan Sultan Jalal al-Din Malekshah Saljuqi sent an invitation to Khayyam in 1073 to construct an observatory accompanied by several other admired scientists. Believing to some sources, the version of Iranian calendar of the medieval times in which compilation of 2,820 solar years cover 1,029,983 days was grounded on the measurements of Khayyám and his co-scientists. Also, some others suggest that Khayyam’s calendar merely included eight leap years for every thirty-three years. Thus, his calendar was more proper and authentic to the mean tropical year in comparison with the Gregorian calendar of 500 years later. Eventually, due to the accuracy and authenticity of his calendar, the modern Iranian calendar was built on Khayyam’s calculation only.
As A Poet
The poetic works of Khayyam has surpassed his popularity as a mathematician and scientist. It is said that he wrote around a thousand four-line verses or “Rubaiyat” (quatrains). In the English-speaking countries, he was introduced with the Rubáiyáts of Omar Khayyám, which are rather impartial translations, done by Edward FitzGerald. Some other translations of portions of the “Rubáiyát” are also present, but the ones done by FitzGerald are extremely popular. Apart from English, the translations of his works are also done in other languages too. It is also noticeable that ironically, the translations done by FitzGerald re-introduced Khayyam to Iranians.
As A Philosopher
Khayyam never accepted himself with the title“falsafi” in the sense of Aristotelian one. He was marked as the one “detached from divine blessings”, by his contemporaries. Apparently, he was quite influenced by the Epicurus’s philosophy. Also, he taught the philosophy of Avicena for a large number of years, particularly “the Book of Healing” in his native town Nishapur until his death. The philosopher, Khayyam can be apprehended from two different sources; first is the “Rubaiyat” and next is his other works focusing on the intellectual and social conditions of his time.
The date and reason of his death is still unspecific, but it is said Khayyam died in 1131 and got buried in Nishapur, Iran.