Jābir ibn Hayyān


Jābir ibn Hayyān : biography

721 – 815

Max Meyerhoff states the following on Jabir ibn Hayyan: "His influence may be traced throughout the whole historic course of European alchemy and chemistry."Ḥusain, Muẓaffar. Islam’s Contribution to Science. Page 94.

The historian of chemistry Erick John Holmyard gives credit to Jābir for developing alchemy into an experimental science and he writes that Jābir’s importance to the history of chemistry is equal to that of Robert Boyle and Antoine Lavoisier. The historian Paul Kraus, who had studied most of Jābir’s extant works in Arabic and Latin, summarized the importance of Jābir to the history of chemistry by comparing his experimental and systematic works in chemistry with that of the allegorical and unintelligible works of the ancient Greek alchemists.Kraus, Paul, Jâbir ibn Hayyân, Contribution à l’histoire des idées scientifiques dans l’Islam. I. Le corpus des écrits jâbiriens. II. Jâbir et la science grecque,. Cairo (1942–1943). Repr. By Fuat Sezgin, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 67–68), Frankfurt. 2002 The word gibberish is theorized to be derived from the Latinised version off Jābir’s name,, Grose 1811 Dictionary in reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon often used by alchemists, the most famous of whom was Jābir. Other sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary suggest the term stems from gibber; however, the first known recorded use of the term "gibberish" was before the first known recorded use of the word "gibber" (see Gibberish).


  • "My wealth let sons and brethren part. Some things they cannot share: my work well done, my noble heart — these are mine own to wear."Holmyard, Eric John. Alchemy. Page 82

The Geber problem

The identity of the author of works attributed to Jabir has long been discussed. According to a famous controversy,Arthur John Hopkins, Alchemy Child of Greek Philosophy, Published by Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007, ISBN 0-548-13547-9, p. 140 pseudo-Geber has been considered as the unknown author of several books in Alchemy. This was first independently suggested, on textual and other grounds, by the 19th-century historians Hermann Kopp and Marcellin Berthelot.Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance By Pamela O. Long Edition: illustrated Published by JHU Press, 2001 ISBN 0-8018-6606-5, ISBN 978-0-8018-6606-7 Jabir, by reputation the greatest chemist of Islam, has long been familiar to western readers under the name of Geber, which is the medieval rendering of the Arabic Jabir, the Geber of the Middle Ages., Retrieved on 14 February 2009. The works in Latin corpus were considered to be translations until the studies of Kopp, Hoefer, Berthelot, and Lippman. Although they reflect earlier Arabic alchemy they are not direct translations of "Jabir" but are the work of a 13th-century Latin alchemist. Eric Holmyard says in his book Makers of Chemistry Clarendon press.(1931).

There are, however, certain other Latin works, entitled The Sum of Perfection, The Investigation of Perfection, The Invention of Verity, The Book of Furnaces, and The Testament, which pass under his name but of which no Arabic original is known. A problem which historians of chemistry have not yet succeeded in solving is whether these works are genuine or not.

However by 1957 AD when he (Holmyard) wrote Alchemy. Courier Dover Publications. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-486-26298-7. Holmyard had abandoned the idea of an Arabic original. (although they are based on "Islamic" alchemical theories)

The question of Geber’s identity, whether he is the original Jābir or a "pseudo-Geber" adopting his name, is still in dispute(1962).P. Crosland, Maurice, Historical Studies in the Language of Chemistry, Courier Dover Publications, 2004 1962, ISBN 0-486-43802-3, ISBN 978-0-486-43802-3, p. 15 It is said that Geber, the Latinized form of "Jābir," was adopted presumably because of the great reputation of a supposed 8th-century alchemist by the name of Jābir ibn Hayyān. About this historical figure, however, there was considerable uncertainty a century ago, and the uncertainty continues today.An authoritative summary and analysis of current scholarship on this question may be found in Lawrence M. Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy, University of Chicago Press, 2013, pp. 33-45 and 54-58. This is sometimes called the "Geber-Jābir problem".Thomas F. Glick, Steven John Livesey, Faith Wallis, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0-415-96930-1, ISBN 978-0-415-96930-7, p. 279-300 It is possible that some of the facts mentioned in the Latin works, ascribed to Geber and dating from the 12th century and later, must also be placed to Jabir’s credit. It is important to consider that it is impossible to reach definite conclusions until all the Arabic writings ascribed to Jābir have been properly edited and discussed., Retrieved on 14 February 2009.|citing holmyard