Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (8th/9th cent)
جابر ابن حيان
The most well-known name amongst Islamic alchemists was that of Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, whom Europeans new as Geber, and the earliest Arabic writings on the subject are attributable to him. It is reported that Jābir was a polymath who wrote 300 books on philosophy, 1,300 books on mechanical devices and military machinery, and hundreds of books on alchemy. He is said to have been born in 721 (103 H), to have died about 815 (200 H), and to have been active as an alchemist at the court in Baghdad.
There has been much scholarly discussion as to the attribution to a single person of the numerous extant alchemical writings circulating under his name, and some have even questioned the existent of such a person. Paul Kraus, writing in 1943, argued that Jābir ibn Ḥayyān was a legendary figure and that the corpus of Jābirian alchemical writings were attributed to a group of Isma'ili scholars at the end of the 9th century. Fuat Sezgin, writing in 1971, rejected Kraus's conclusions and argued that all the writings under the name of Jābir are attributable to one historical personage named Jābir ibn Ḥayyān in the 8th century. Other scholars have suggested that some of the writings may be attributable to the historical figure of Jābir ibn Ḥayyān while others of the writings were composed by later writers over a period of a couple of centuries.
The writings preserved today under his name are voluminous, though many of them are in fact quite short tracts. The most comprehensive list of treatises attributed to Jābir, and their surviving manuscripts, was prepared by Paul Kraus in 1942 (see Kraus, Jabir), with extensive additions by Fuat Sezgin (see Sezgin, GAS IV, pp. 132-269).
For other discussions of Jābir and the Jābirian corpus of alchemical writings, see Syed Nomanul Haq, Names, Natures and Things: The Alchemist Jābir ibn Ḥayyān and his Kitab al-Ahjar (Book of Stones) [Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 158] (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994); Ullmann, Natur, pp. 198-207; and Donald R. Hill 'The Literature of Arabic Alchemy' in Religon, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid Period, ed. by M.J.L. Young, J.D. Latham, and R.B. Serjeant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) pp. 328-341, esp. pp. 333-5. See also, William Newman, 'New Light on the Identity of "Geber"', Sudhoffs Archiv, 1985, vol. 69, pp. 76-90.
Little is known of his life. He is known only through his very short epitome of the Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) that was written in Persian and titled Qānūnchah. It proved so popular as to become the subject of commentaries, and several attempts were made to set the Qānūnchah in verse. There is considerable testimony to its being used in schools for teaching medicine in the eastern provinces of the Islamic world. For a discussion of his popular epitome, the Qānūnchah, and the use made of it by subsequent generations of medical students, see Iskandar, "Wellcome", pp. 56-64.
There is disagreement as to when Jaghmīnī died. According to a marginal note in a manuscript now preserved in Gotha, Germany, he died in 1344-5/745 H (see Storey PL II,2, p. 219; and GAL vol. 1, p. 473 (625) and GAL-S vol. 1, p. 865). Others, on the other hand, have said only that he died sometime after 1221/618 H (see Ullmann, Medizin, p. 154 note 4). See also Richter-Bernburg, "UCLA", p. 28, where it is suggested that al-Jaghmīnī is not to be identified with the author of a treatise on astronomy (al-Mulakhkhas fī al-hay'ah) which, according to one manuscript copy, was completed in 1221/618, as was suggested in Storey PL II,1, p. 50 no. 88.
Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Iṣfahānī, who refers to himself as al-ṭabīb al-Iṣfahānī ("the physician of al-Iṣfahān"), composed an Arabic general treatise on therapeutics, arranged in order from head to foot. It was completed on 1 Jumadá II 1244 [= 9 December 1828]. The date of completion is given in another copy of the treatise now in Los Angeles, University of California at Los Angeles, Biomedical Library, Coll. 1062, MS Ar. 36 (see Iskandar, "UCLA", p. 41). NLM has one of three recorded copies of this treatise (MS A 9). There is also a Persian treatise titled Dastur-i Jalali by the same author, presumably a translation of the original Arabic.
Another Persian treatise on the preservation of health in the human body (Hifz-i ṣiḥḥat-i badan al-insānīyah) is presumably by the same author, but it is said to have been dedicated to the ruler Abū al-Muzaffar Abū al-Manṣūr Shah Sulaymān al-Safawi al-Musawi Bahadur Khān, who ruled from 1666 to 1694. (See Storey PL II,2, p. 263-4 no. 450). This 17th-century date conflicts with that found in the therapeutic treatise preserved in copies at UCLA and at NLM.
Al-Jaldakī was one of the last and one of the greatest of medieval Islamic alchemists. He was apparently born in Jaldak, a district of Khurasan about 15 kilometers from Mashhad in Iran. His name is often written as al-Jildakī, but it has been pointed out that since the town from which he originated was Jaldak, the correct form of his name should be al-Jaldakī.
In his writings he reveals that he spent seventeen years travelling through Iraq, Asia Minor, the Yemen, North Africa, and Syria, finally settling in Egypt where he composed many of his treatises. He was a prolific author of alchemical writings, of which the National Library of Medicine has three. His treatises, which reflect interests much broader than simply alchemy, preserve extensive quotations from earlier authors.
For this important figure in the history of alchemy, see Ullmann, Natur, pp. 237-42; GAL, vol. 2, p. 138-9 (173-5); G. Strohmaier, 'Djildaki' in EI (2nd ed.), Supplement, p. 270; Donald Hill, 'Alchemical Literature' in Religion, learning and science in the 'Abbasid period, ed. by M.J.L Young, J.D. Latham, and R.B. Serjeant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) pp. 328-41, esp. p. 339-40; and Georges C. Anawati, 'Arabic alchemy' in Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, ed. R. Rashed (London: Routledge, 1996), vol. 3, pp. 853-885, esp. p. 874.
Jāmī was a well-known Persian scholar, mystic, and poet, famous for his mastery of style and language. Numerous of his writings are preserved today, both prose and poetry, but it is mainly on his poetry that his reputation rests. He was born in 1414/817 near the town of Herat in modern Afghanistan, and died in that town seventy-eight years later.
For his life and writings, see C. Huart and H. Massé, 'Dhami' in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 2, pp. 421-2.
Jurjānī was a pupil of Ibn Abi Sadiq. He arrived at the court in the Persian province of Khvarazm in the year 1110/504 when he was already a septuagenarian. There he became a court physician to the governor of the province, Khvārazm’Shāh Qutb al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Nushtigin, who ruled from 1097 to 1127. It was to him that he dedicated his most comprehensive and influential work, the Persian-language compendium Zakhīrah-i Khvārazm’Shāhī. Jurjānī continued as court physcian to Khvārazm’Shāh Qutb al-Dīn's son and successor, ‘Ala’ al-Dīn Atsiz, until at some unspecified time he moved to the city of Marw, the capital of the rival Seljuq sultan Sanjar ibn Malikshah (ruled 1118-1157), where he died nearly 100 lunar years of age. Jurjānī composed a number of important medical and philosophical treatises, in both Persian and Arabic, most of them written after he moved to Khvārazm at the age of 70 lunar years.
For his life and writings, see B. Thierry de Crussol des Epesse, Discours sur l'oeil d'Esma`il Gorgani (Teheran: Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, 1998), pp. 7-13; Richter-Bernburg, "UCLA", pp. 208; Storey PL II,2, pp 207-211 no. 361; the article "Djurdjani" by J. Schacht in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 2, p. 603; and the article "Dakira-ye Kvarazmshahi" by ‘Ali-Akbar Sa‘idi Sirjani in EncIr, vol. 6 (1999) pp. 609-610.