|Specialty||Philosophy, mathematics, medicine, music|
|Died||c. 873 (at age 72)
Al-Kindi is often called the “father or Arab and Islamic philosophy.” This may be true and it is also necessary to mention he was a very accomplished mathematician and astronomer. The philosophy that he promoted has its origins in the world of ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was also the world in which a tremendous amount of knowledge surrounding math and the sciences emerged. Al-Kindi continued the grand tradition of ancient Greek thinkers into his culture.
Early Years of Al-Kindi
Al-Kindi was born in 801 A.D. in Basra, Iraq. He was a member of the Kinda tribe and he was a member of the aristocracy. His father was a local governor and this likely contributed to the early education that set the stage for his later learning. As he grew older, he would go to Baghdad where he continued his studies.
He excelled so well in his education that he was sent to a centre known as the House of Wisdom, which was an established centre designed to help with the translation of texts containing Greek philosophy. Al-Kindi was also tasked with translating old scientific Greek texts. This likely had an influence on his interest in astronomy and math.
Becoming a Philosopher
Al-Kindi was not a man who was skilled solely in one area of learning or thought. He would gain great acclaim as a philosopher and his work was reflected in well over 250 books that he had written. Twelve of his books dealt with physics and 32 books dealt with geometry. Other books covered topics of medicine, philosophy, and logic.
However, many of the works of Al-Kindi and others during his era were lost. So amazing is the work reflected in the texts he completed that Geralomo Cardano, a great scholar from the Renaissance, called Al-Kindi one of the greatest minds of his era.
Well into the 20th century, 24 of the lost books written by Al-Kindi were actually found in the archives of a library in Turkey. While it is not necessarily likely more lost books will be discovered, the possibility does exist copies might be found somewhere.
Contributions to Astronomy
Since he is mostly known for his work in philosophy, some of his accomplishments in the field of astronomy are overlooked. There are eight known texts he had written on the subject of astronomy. Several epistles on the subject were also written. Of course, there is also the possibility some of his works that dealt with subjects related to astronomy are among the lost texts. Of the works that do exist, the topics range from the movement of the planets, what stellar rays are, the revolutions of the year, and even the spiritual nature of the planets.
From the works that exist, it is clear that Al-Kindi was a follower of the beliefs of Ptolemy. This means he looked at the solar system from the perspective that the earth was found in the center of various planets and stars. He connected all of their movements and activities as being connected to the divine will of God. The various celestial bodies moved in the way they did based on their acknowledgement of the existence of a God and followed along with God’s directives to move in a set way.
He also made the case that the seasons were relative to the position and arrangement of the sun at different times of the year. He promoted the notion the difference in skin tone of the people of the earth were based on the arrangement of celestial bodies over their home country.
Al-Kindi also delved into the subject of how the celestial bodies contributed to the behavior of the elements (earth, wind, fire, and air) on the earth. His work in this area is a bit ambiguous which, truthfully, means it might not be his most fully thought out material.
Legacy and Death
Al-Kindi died in Baghdad, Iraq, in 873 A.D. He was 72 years old at the time of his passing. He left the world with a legacy or work and contributins as he was a major figure who helped spread Greek philosophy and theories of astronomy throughout the Islamic world and beyond.