Great Central Asian scholars
In the period from the 9th to 12th century – the era sometimes referred to as the Age of the Eastern Renaissance – Central Asia produced some of the most enlightened thinkers, who went on to make groundbreaking contributions in such fields as physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, geography, medicine and agriculture.
Muhammad al-Khwarazmi who lived in the 9th century, a mathematician born in the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, is known as the father of algebra, since it is his works which introduced the concepts of algebra into European mathematics. The title of one of his books gave the world the word “algebra,” while the word “algorithm” derives from the latinisation of the scholar’s name.
11th-century philosopher and scientist Abu Ali ibn Sina, better known in the West as Avicenna, a native of Bukhara, was regarded as the most prominent physician since Hippocrates. The Latin translation of his book “The Cannon of Medicine” was a staple text in the Western medical curriculum for several centuries.
The great Central Asian polymath Abu al-Rayhan al-Beruni, who also lived in the 11th century, is believed to be the first person to suggest that a landmass existed beyond Europe and Asia. Many centuries before the rest of the world, al-Beruni discussed the possibility of the Earth revolving around the Sun. He measured the earth’s circumference with incredible accuracy, erring from the exact value of 24,900 miles by a mere 200 miles, a remarkable achievement for someone who lived 1,000 years ago.
In the 15th century, under the rulership of the accomplished astronomer and mathematician Ulugh Beg, Samarkand, became the centre of the world’s most advanced studies in astronomy. This period has gone down in Central Asia’s history as an era of intellectual and cultural achievement.
Ulugh Beg, a great patron of science and art, built a monumental observatory from which he measured the year to within 25 seconds of its actual duration. Moreover, his calculation of the Earth’s axial tilt as 23.52 degrees is still the most accurate measurement to date.