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Omar Khayyam: Poet With Flair for Numbers

Khayyam was a Persian mathematician, poet, philosopher, astronomer. He was known for his work on cubic equations as well as his contribution to the parallel axiom.

Many people might have not heard of  Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but the fame of his poetry in the West has existed since 1839 when Edward Fitzgerald published an English translation of Khayyam’s Rubaiyat (“Quatrains”).

It has since become a classic of world literature and is largely responsible for influencing European ideas about Persian poetry and literature.

Prior to that, it was his brilliance as a scientist that made his reputation, and his legacy was a calendar more accurate than the one we currently use.

Ghiyath al-Din Abul Fatah Omar Ibn Ibrahim Al-Khayyam was born in Nishappin (now in Iran) in 1044.

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A literal translation of the name Al-Khayyam means ‘tent maker’. This may have been the trade of Ibrahim his father. Khayyam played on the meaning of his own name when he wrote:

Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science, has fallen in grief’s furnace and been suddenly burned. The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life. And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!

Avid Learner in Tumultuous Times

The political events of the 11th century played a major role in the course of Khayyam’s life. The Seljuk Turks, the tribes that invaded southwestern Asia in the 11th century, eventually founded an empire that included Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and most of Iran.

They occupied the grazing grounds of Khorasan and then, between 1038 and 1040, they conquered all of northeastern Iran.

The Seljuk ruler, Toghrïl Beg, proclaimed himself sultan at Nishapur in 1038 and entered Baghdad in 1055. It was in this difficult unstable military empire, which also had religious problems as it attempted to establish an orthodox Muslim state, in which Khayyam grew up.

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