Building peace in the minds of men and women

Al-Biruni, a universal genius in Central Asia a thousand years ago: astronomer, historian, botanist, pharmacologist, geologist, poet, philosopher, mathematician, geographer, humanist

Few periods in man's history can boast the existence of one of those rare intellectual giants whose genius not only embraces the knowledge of his time but reaches out to uncharted, unknown frontiers. Such a man was al-Biruni, born a thousand years ago, who ranks among the greatest scholars of the Islamic world: Astronomer, mathematician, physicist, geographer, historian, linguist, ethnologist, pharmacologist as well as poet, novelist and philosopher al-Biruni's contribution to human learning was unique.

Despite the political upheavals which interrupted his work, his sheer output was prodigious. He had a scientific spirit in the full sense of the term and displayed a spirit of understanding and respect for other cultures remarkable for his time. His contribution was such that many scholars put him on a par with or even higher than the great Avicenna. Yet unlike Avicenna, al-Biruni is virtually unknown except to the rare specialist.

The Unesco Courier hopes that this special number will provide a small insight into the extraordinary genius of this universal scholar and man of science.

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June 1974