You are currently viewing Al Battani

Al Battani

Author: Rizwana Masood

Editor: Hira Islam

Introduction & Early Life

Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Jābir ibn Sinān al-Raqqī al-Ḥarrānī aṣ-Ṣābiʾ al-Battānī, Latinized as Albategnius, Albategni or Albatenius (858 – 929) was a Syrian Arab astronomer, and mathematician. He introduced several trigonometric relations, and his Kitāb az-Zīj was frequently quoted by many medieval astronomers, including Copernicus. Often called the “Ptolemy of the Arabs,” al-Battani is perhaps the greatest and best-known astronomer of the medieval Islamic world.

Little of al-Battānī’s life is known other than his birthplace in Harran near Urfa, in Upper Mesopotamia (today in Turkey) and his father’s fame as a maker of scientific instruments. Jabir ibn Sinan al-Harrani was likely this famous instrument maker, although this is not something that has been proven. Ibn Khallikaniaani expresses ignorance on the question of his Muslim faith and points out that his epithet aṣ-Ṣabi’ suggests possible Sabian-sect ancestry. Although his ancestors were Sabi, Al-Battani was a Muslim by faith. The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition stated that he had noble origins as an Arab prince, but traditional Arabic biographers did notmention this.Between 877 and 918/19, over forty years, he lived in the ancient city of Raqqa, in north central Syria, recording his astronomical observations. He died at Qasr al-Jiss, which is located near Samarra, Iraq. He was returning from Baghdad to al-Raqqa after resolving a dispute on behalf of the people of al-Raqqa.

Achievements & Innovations

  • He cataloged 489 stars.
  • One of al-Battānī’s best-known achievements in astronomy was the determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is only 2 minutes and 22 seconds off.
  • Another of al-Battānī’s accomplishments is that he concluded how an annular solar eclipse occurs. He did this by observing that the radius between the Earth and the Sun changes throughout the year. His observations led him to conclude that when the Sun is farthest from the Earth, an annular solar eclipse occurs. He was the first to make this observation and inference.
  • The twelfth-century Egyptian encyclopedist al-Qifṭī, in his biographical history Ta’rīkh al-Ḥukamā’, mentions al-Battānī’s contribution to advances in astronomical observation and calculations based on Ptolemy’s Almagest.
  • Al-Battānī amended some of Ptolemy’s results and compiled new tables of the Sun and Moon, long accepted as authoritative. Some of his measurements were more accurate than those taken by Copernicus many centuries later. Some ascribe this phenomenon to al-Battānī’s location lying closer to the equator. The ecliptic and the Sun, being higher in the sky, are less susceptible to atmospheric refraction. Al-Battānī observed that the direction of the Sun’s apogee, as recorded by Ptolemy, was changing.
  • Al-Battānī’s work was instrumental in the development of science and astronomy. Copernicus, in his book, the De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (which initiated the Copernican Revolution), quotes al-Battānī’’s name no fewer than 23 times and also mentions him in the Commentariolus. Tycho Brahe, Riccioli, Kepler, Galileo and others frequently cited him or his observations.He also influenced Jewish rabbis and philosophers such as Abraham ibn Ezra, Abraham bar Hiyya, and Maimonides. His data is still used in geophysics. The major lunar crater Albategnius is named in his honour.
  • Introduction of the use of sines in calculation and partially that of tangents.
  • Calculation of the values for the precession of the equinoxes (54.5″ per year, or 1° in 66 years) and the obliquity of the ecliptic (23° 35′).
  • Use ibna uniform rate for precession in his tables, choosing not to adopt the theory of trepidation attributed to his colleague Thabit ibn Qurra

Al-Battānī was the best known of Arab astronomers in Europe during the Middle Ages. His principal written work, a compendium of astronomical tables, was translated into Latin in about 1116 and Spanish in the 13th century. Under the title De motu stellarum (“On Stellar Motion”), a printed edition was published in 1537.


Al–Battani was active as an astronomer until about the year 918. In 929, he accompanied a group of townspeople from al–Raqqa, who may have included some of his descendants, to Baghdad as part of what was likely a tax protest. The ageing astronomer survived to plead his cause but died on the journey home at Qasr al–Jiss, near the present-day Iraqi city of Samarra.

Historians all agree that Al-Battani passed away in 317 H. /929 A.D., near the city of Moussul in Iraq.

He was regarded as one of the most famous Arab astronomers. He dedicated all his life until he died the observation of planets and stars.

After his death, al–Battani’s influence was magnified. The praise of the bookseller Ibn an–Nadim cited above attests to his fame in the Arab world. During the later medieval era in Europe, Western scholars turned to the Islamic world to reconstruct the foundations of sciences buried since the decline of the Roman Empire centuries before. Besides astronomy and mathematics, music, medicine, history, and linguistic studies in the West bear strong Arabic imprints at their deepest levels. Al–Battani’s Zij was twice translated into Latin in the twelfth century. Still, only one translation, made by Plato of Tivoli in 1116 under the title De motu stellarum (On the Motion of the Stars), survived. The lost translation was by one Robert Retinensis, probably Robert of Chester, the first scholar to translate the Koran into Latin. King Alfonso X of Spain ordered another translation made in the thirteenth century, this one into Spanish. Al–Battani’s original manuscript also survives today, housed in the Vatican Library.


Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Al-Battānī. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from (2021, September 28). .” encyclopedia of world biography. . 22 Sep. 2021 . Retrieved September 28, 2021, from 

Home. Famous Scientists. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, August 4). Al-Battani. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from

Leave a Reply