Commentary as an Epistemic Genre: Making and Transmitting Knowledge in 15th ca. Islamic Astronomy

This abstract has open access
Abstract Summary
Ulugh Beg’s 15th c. Samarqand observatory and associated madrasa is one of the most famous Islamic scientific institutions, producing astronomical observations that were not equalled until Tycho Brahe. Less is known, however, about the process of research and education at Samarqand, but a number of commentaries produced by Samarqand scholars shed light on the intellectual life of the classroom and the role of patronage in scholars’ careers. In this paper, I explore the ways in which such commentaries reflect a critical engagement with problems in theoretical astronomy as well as the educational practices of Ulugh Beg’s madrasa. I argue that commentaries functioned as a means of making as well as transmitting astronomical knowledge, highlighting how commentaries served to fulfill both research and teaching goals within the context of an Islamic educational institution. I draw examples from the works of three scholars: Qadizade al-Rumi, observatory director and Ulugh Beg's personal tutor, who wrote a commentary on the Almagest and whose commentary on a popular elementary astronomy treatise became a widely-used intermediate textbook in Ottoman madrasas; Qadizade's student Fathallah al-Shirwani, who wrote a supercommentary on Qadizade's textbook in addition to his own commentary on Nasir al-Din al-Tusi’s famous work of theoretical astronomy; and Ali Qushji, a close companion of Ulugh Beg who later became head of the Ayasofya madrasa in Istanbul under Sultan Mehmed II, and who wrote commentaries on cutting-edge theoretical astronomy and philosophical theology in addition to his own works on mathematics.
Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Abstract Topic
Chronological Classification :
Self-Designated Keywords :
astronomy, mathematics, cosmology, commentary, Islamic science, science education, scientific genres

Similar Abstracts by Type

Abstract ID
Abstract Title
Abstract Topic
Submission Type
Primary Author
"Measuring Instruments" for Language History: Rhetoric and Reality of a Nineteenth-Century Latinist
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Contributed Paper
Christian Flow
"More French Than the French": John Herschel and Musical Standardization in Nineteenth-Century France and Britain
Physical Sciences
Contributed Paper
Dr. Edward Gillin
"Science is the Antichrist": Popular Science, Radicalism, and Irreligion in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Contributed Paper
Mr. Eoin Carter
"The Easy Transmutableness of Water": The Alchemy of Seed Steeps and "Fructifying Waters" in Seventeenth-Century English Agriculture
Contributed Paper
Dr. Justin Niermeier-Dohoney
A Global Rumor and the History of Science: The Case of a Fake Snakebite Prize That Connected Brazil, the French, and the British Empires (1880-1914)
Medicine and Health
Contributed Paper
Mr. Matheus Alves Duarte Da Silva
A Musical Story of Time ♬
Tools for Historians of Science
Contributed Paper
Susanna Bloem
A Science without Nature in China: Heaven (Tian), Morality, and Darwinian Competition from 1890 to 1923
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Contributed Paper
Dr. Sean Hsiang-lin Lei
A Variety of Futurologists: "Feminist" Speculative Fictions in the Wake of the Pill
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Contributed Paper
Jiemin Tina Wei
A Web of One’s Own: Female Entomologists' Scientific Networks in Late 19th Century and Early 20th Century Britain
Contributed Paper
Ms. L. Joanne Green