1st Edition

Reflections on Observational Astronomy in the Medieval Islamic Period

By S. Mohammad Mozaffari Copyright 2025
    368 Pages 49 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume presents comprehensive investigations into various facets of observational astronomy during the medieval Islamic period, spanning from the ninth to the seventeenth centuries. The articles compiled here, originally published between 2012 and 2018, have undergone significant revisions to enhance their accuracy and explore a broad spectrum of topics organized into five main sections.

    Reflections on Observational Astronomy in the Medieval Islamic Period begins with solar astronomy, providing a detailed evaluation of Islamic astronomers’ determinations of fundamental solar parameters. In the realm of lunar astronomy, it examines the gradual endorsement and rationalization of annular solar eclipses, along with an exclusive historical account of predicting and observing such an event in 1283 CE. The section on planetary astronomy scrutinizes empirical discoveries that distinguish between the precession of equinoxes and the motion of apogees, as well as significant enhancements to Ptolemy’s parameters for planetary latitudes. Stellar astronomy is explored through a non-Ptolemaic star table that encompasses observations from ninth-century Baghdad to thirteenth-century Maragha. The final section examines observational instruments, focusing on those constructed during the second period of activities at the Maragha observatory. A critical analysis of astronomical observations conducted at the Maragha and Istanbul observatories is a key focus of this work.

    This book will be invaluable to those interested in the historical progression of exact sciences, the scope, distinctive aspects, and caliber of experimental activities in medieval times, and the interplay between theory and observation throughout history. It is intended for historians, scientists (including astronomers and physicists), and particularly historians of astronomy.



    Part I. Solar Astronomy


    Chapter 1. Limitations of Methods: The Accuracy of the Values Measured for the Earth’s/Sun’s Orbital Elements in the Middle East, 800–1500 ce


    Part II. Lunar Astronomy and Theory of Eclipses


    Chapter 2. How Natural Phenomena Were Justified in Medieval Science: The Situation of Annular Eclipses in Medieval Astronomy


    Chapter 3. Wābkanawī’s Observation and Calculations of the Annular Solar Eclipse of 30 January 1283


    Chapter 4. Bīrūnī’s Examination of the Path of the Centre of the Epicycle in Ptolemy’s Lunar Model


    Chapter 5. Solar and Lunar Observations at Istanbul in the 1570s


    Part III. Planetary Astronomy


    Chapter 6. Four-Point Method for Determining the Eccentricity and the Direction of the Apsidal Lines of the Sun and Superior Planets


    Chapter 7. Planetary Latitudes in Medieval Islamic Astronomy: An Analysis of the Non-Ptolemaic Latitude Parameter Values in the Maragha and Samarqand Astronomical Traditions


    Chapter 8. Holding or Breaking with Ptolemy’s Generalization: Considerations about the Motion of the Planetary Apsidal Lines in Medieval Islamic Astronomy


    Chapter 9. Astronomical Observations at the Maragha Observatory in the 1260s–70s


    Part IV. Stellar Astronomy


    Chapter 10. A Medieval Bright Star Table: The Non-Ptolemaic Star Table in the Īlkhānī Zīj


    Part V. Observational Instrumentation


    Chapter 11. Ghāzān Khān’s Astronomical Innovations at Marāgha Observatory


    S. Mohammad Mozaffari is an Iranian historian of medieval astronomy, currently serving at the Research Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics of Maragha (RIAAM), at the University of Maragheh, in Iran. He is also a research associate in the project of the Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Munich). His primary research focus lies in the growth and development of observational astronomy, particularly its interplay with theoretical astronomy, during the medieval Islamic period. He is an active member of the International Astronomical Union and holds editorial roles as an Advisory Editor for the Journal for the History of Astronomy, an Associate Editor for SCIAMVS (Sources and Commentaries in the Exact Sciences), and an Associate Editor for the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage.