Persian genius whose mathematics, science and verse conquered the world

For centuries, the historic Silk Road town of Nishapur in eastern Iran has been renowned for its art, mysticism, and philosophy.

Today, he is perhaps best known thanks to the medieval master of arts and sciences Omar Khayyam Nishapuri, or Omar Khayyam, as most Westerners know him.

Inside a huge garden, a white marble monument to the great 11th-century mathematician with inscriptions from his diamond poems, is one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

Nader Moradi, 30, is a frequent visitor and part-time tour guide. He called Khayyam’s garden a “second home” for him and other locals, where they gather, celebrate, cry, play music or recite poetry.

“It is like a spiritual retreat,” he told Anadolu Agency, recounting Khayyam’s famous prophecy that he would rest where “the flowers in spring spread their petals on his dust.”

“Khayyam is an integral part of this city, its history, its ethics and our very identity,” said Moradi, who lives a few blocks from the garden, which also houses the mausoleums of Persian mystical poet Attar Nishapuri and Imamzadeh. Mahruq, believed to be among the descendants of the Muslim prophet Mohammad.

The Garden Mausoleum, which represents the fusion of modern and traditional art, comes to life on special occasions, including the Iranian New Year, or Nowruz, as well as Khayyam’s birthday and the anniversary of his death.

-Popularity in Iran

The famous Persian, who lived in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, became known at home and abroad as a genius mathematician, astronomer and philosopher.

But in the West, his main claim to fame and fame was his poetry, thanks to the English translation of his Rubaiyat (quatrains).

Khayyam’s groundbreaking work in mathematics and astronomy, according to eminent historian and social scientist Abui Mehrizi Khormizi, catapulted him to an exalted place among his contemporaries in both East and West.

“Khayyam Nishapuri made stellar contributions to algebra and geometry, with foundational works to his name such as Problems of Arithmetic as well as the Treatise on the Proof of Algebra Problems,” Khormizi told the ‘Anadolu agency.

Persian mathematicians like Isa Mahani in the 9th century and Mansur Khazini in the 11th century had previously turned geometric problems into algebraic equations, but Khayyam broke new ground with his treatise on cubic equations.

“He was also the first to give the concept of the Khayyam-Saccheri quadrilaterals, more than six centuries before (priest and mathematician) Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri published it in his book” in the early 1700s, Khormizi said.

There was no stopping his genius. Khayyam then discovered what is known in Iran as the Khayyam triangle – a reworked model of the triangle by French mathematician Blaise Pascal – and even published a work on non-Euclidean geometry, Khormizi added.

As an astronomer, his main achievement was the invention of the Jalali calendar, commissioned by the Seljuk ruler Jalal Al Din Malek Shah, which apparently proved to be more accurate than the Gregorian calendar developed at the end of the 16th century.

“Most of his ideas related to astronomy took shape during his stay in Isfahan, the capital of the Seljuk rulers at that time,” said Reza Wahedi, a researcher at Shaheed Beheshti University in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

“In Isfahan, Khayyam led a team of astronomers in an observatory which produced the Jalali calendar and made key planetary observations which are mentioned in his book Astronomical Handbook.”

-A dizzying fame abroad

While German literary giant Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan, a magnum opus linking European and Persian traditions, was inspired by Persian poet Hafez (Shirazi), English poet Edward Fitzgerald found inspiration in Khayyam when he translated his poetry into English in 1859.

It was Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam that introduced the great Persian “astronomer-poet” to the Western world, prompting the Victorian poet and critic John Ruskin to say in 1863 that he had “never read anything about it.” ‘so glorious’.

“Despite the slow response to begin with, the book subsequently caught the imagination of everyone in the West, providing insight into Khayyam the poet,” said Wahedi, who considers himself an ‘admirer’ of Khayyam. .

Over the following decades, he noted, Khayyam’s literary fan clubs emerged in major European cities and his Rubaiyat was listed in the Oxford Book of Quotations.

“Khayyam’s poetry, written in quatrains, revolves around the idea of ​​’living in the moment’ and ‘living to the fullest’, which perhaps appeals to Western audiences,” said Qadir Hassan Asraar, researcher in Persian literature. “His poetry in Persian has remained unmatched for many centuries.”

Khayyam’s poetry also incorporates elements of philosophy, with a deep emphasis on feelings like hope, desire, fear, anxieties and pleasure, Asraar said.

Almost 10 centuries after his death, the life and works of Khayyam Nishapuri continue to resonate widely.

One example is a 1957 Hollywood biopic directed by William Dieterle named after the poet and telling his life story.

“Khayyam’s life and legacy inspires and gives hope even in these dark times,” Moradi said. “That’s why he would like to be remembered.”