Jābir ibn Hayyān

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Jābir ibn Hayyān : biography

721 – 815

The Pseudo-Geber corpus

The Latin corpus consists of books with an author named "Geber" for which researchers have failed to find a text in Arabic. Although these books are heavily influenced by Arabic books written by Jābir, the "real" Geber, and by Al Razi and others, they were never written in Arabic. They are in Latin only, they date from about the year 1310, and their author is called Pseudo-Geber:

  • Summa perfectionis magisterii ("The Height of the Perfection of Mastery").William R. Newman, The Summa Perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber. A Critical Edition, Translation and Study, Leyde: E. J. Brill, 1991 (Collection de travaux de l’Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, 35).
  • Liber fornacum ("Book of Stills"),
  • De investigatione perfectionis ("On the Investigation of Perfection"), and
  • De inventione veritatis ("On the Discovery of Truth").
  • Testamentum gerberi

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th books listed above "are merely extracts from or summaries of the Summa Perfectionis Magisterii with later additions."Quote from Marcellin Berthelot at .

English translations of Jābir and the pseudo-Geber

  • Syed Nomanul Haq, Names, Natures and Things: The Alchemists Jabir ibn Hayyan and his Kitab al-Ahjar (Book of Stones), [Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science p. 158] (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994), ISBN 0-7923-3254-7.
  • Donald Routledge Hill, ‘The Literature of Arabic Alchemy’ in Religion: Learning and Science in the Abbasid Period, ed. by M.J.L. Young, J.D. Latham and R.B. Serjeant (Cambridge University Press, 1990) pp. 328–341, esp. pp 333–5.
  • E. J. Holmyard (ed.) The Arabic Works of Jabir ibn Hayyan, translated by Richard Russel in 1678. New York, E. P. Dutton (1928); Also Paris, P. Geuther.
  • Geber and William R. Newman, The Summa Perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber: A Critical Edition, Translation and Study ISBN 90-04-09466-4.
  • William R. Newman, New Light on the Identity of Geber, Sudhoffs Archiv, 1985, Vol.69, pp. 76–90.

Popular culture

  • Geber is mentioned in Paulo Coelho’s 1993 bestseller, The Alchemist.Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. ISBN 006112416, p. 82.
  • Jabbir is said to be the creator of a (fictional) mystical chess set in Katherine Neville’s novels The Eight and The Fire.
  • In S.H.I.E.L.D, Jabir appears as the 8th century leader of the organization.
  • Jabir is mentioned in the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory, in the episode "The Guitarist Amplification".
  • Jabir Ibn Hayyan is mentioned in the graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson, p. 253-254.
  • In the DC comic book title Demon Knights, the 11th century engineer Al-Jabr appears to be based on Jabir Ibn Hayyan.

Biography

Early references

In 988 Ibn al-Nadim compiled the Kitab al-Fihrist which mentions Jabir as a spiritual follower and as a companion to Jafar as-Sadiq . In another reference al-Nadim reports that a group of philosophers claimed Jabir was one of their own members. Another group, reported by al-Nadim, says only The Large Book of Mercy is genuine and that the rest are pseudographical. Their assertions are rejected by al-Nadim. Joining al-Nadim in asserting a real Jabir; Ibn-Wahshiyya ("Jaber ibn Hayyn al-Sufi …book on poison is a great work..") Rejecting a real Jabir; (the philosopher c.970) Abu Sulayman al-Mantiqi claims the real author is one al-Hasan ibn al-Nakad al-Mawili. 14th century critic of Arabic literature, Jamal al-Din ibn Nubata al-Misri declares all the writings attributed to Jabir doubtful.

Life and background

Jabir was a Natural Philosopher who lived mostly in the 8th century; he was born in Tus, Khorasan, in Iran (Persia), then ruled by the Umayyad Caliphate. Jabir in the classical sources has been entitled differently as al-Azdi al-Barigi or al-Kufi or al-Tusi or al-Sufi. There is a difference of opinion as to whether he was a Persian from Khorasan who later went to Kufa or whether he was, as some have suggested, of Syrian origin and later lived in Persia and Iraq. His ethnic background is not clear,S.N. Nasr, "Life Sciences, Alchemy and Medicine", The Cambridge History of Iran, Cambridge, Volume 4, 1975, p. 412: "Jabir is entitled in the traditional sources as al-Azdi, al-Kufi, al-Tusi, al-Sufi. There is a debate as to whether he was a Persian from Khorasan who later went to Kufa or whether he was, as some have suggested, of Syrian origin and later lived in Iran". and sources reference him as an Iranian.