Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Google celebrates polymath Tusi

Nasir al-Din Tusi

Yesterday, Google celebrated another renowned scientist from the Islamic Golden Age of Science with his own doodle, though this time it was only available in Arab countries Google portals instead of internationally.

Nasir al-Din Tusi is one of the most famous Persian scientists, dwelling on matters ranging from astronomy and mathematics to biology, chemistry, physics and medicine.

Born on the 18th of February, 1201, in what is now modern-day Iran, Tusi lived for 73 years and wrote over 150 book on the different subjects he studied such as trigonometry, astronomy, philosophy and even mysticism. He died in 1274 in Baghdad.

Tusi is most known for his contribution to astronomy, after convincing Hulegu, the Mongol chief responsible for sacking Baghdad whom he had to join after he won, to build an observatory to study the stars. This was probably the most advanced observatory of its time, and Tusi used it to create the most accurate tables to calculate planetary movements back then and determine the position of stars and planets in the sky.

His model is often agreed to be the best since Ptolemy’s model, and was employed until Copernicus developed his heliocentric model some 250 years later.

Additionally, Tusi is credited with establishing the science of trigonometry as an independent line of mathematics away from astronomy, after the two have been attached for so long.

Biology

In biology, Tusi seems to have been one of the earliest supporters of the theory of evolution many years before Darwin’s model. he proposed that the universe was created with equal and similar elements, but these started to develop at different rates, and evolved into minerals, plants, animals and humans.

In his book “Akhlaq-i-Nasri”, he argues that heredity and variability played an important role in driving forth evolution, saying that “the organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.”

Interestingly, he did not shy away from human evolution – which remains taboo in many places of the Arab world today. He argued in the same book that humans evolved from other primates from Africa.

Tusi was famous during his time, and many of his pupils went on to become prominent scientists as well. He is often credited with reviving science in the eastern Islamic states through his work and his observatory. Today, a 60-km wide crater on the moon, Nasireddin, is named after him.

Comments

There are currently no comments.