Omar Khayyam: Have You Heard of This Famous Poet from Iran?

Omar Khayyam

Iran:  Though it is a stodgy theocracy with a failing economy now, it has a long and rich history. Once called Persia, it was rich and was the center of culture, education, and trade for centuries. Do you remember the Old Silk Road? Persia has produced many literary geniuses. One of them is Omar Khayyam. You are probably vaguely familiar with his name. Read this article to learn more about him!

Who exactly was Omar Khayyam?

He was a great literary figure, poet, and academician who lived in a part of the world that was educated and advanced at the time. He was born on May 18, 1048, and died on December 4, 1131. Though born in Nishabur which is presently in North-Eastern Iran, he spent most of his life as a scholar in the Karakhanid and Seljuk courts. Most people know him as a man who wrote great poems, but he did much more than that in his life. For example, he was a noted mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, and poet! He also lived long enough to see European armies try to ‘take back the Holy Land.” This occurred during the First Crusade. It was largely inspired by the Pope and European rulers and kings.

What did he do that made him so famous?

Omar Khayyam was first noticed for his brilliant work as a mathematician. He classified and solved many cubic equations. This essentially is why the Arabs are largely credited with discovering and creating Algebra. Algebra is the foundation for modern advanced mathematics. He also contributed to Euclid’s previous work on parallel axioms many centuries earlier.  This essentially advanced and expanded this field of mathematics.

Omar’s contribution to Astronomy

His contributions to world astronomy came in 1074-1075 when the then Sultan of Persia, Malik-Shah made him part of the team that he commissioned to build an observatory in what is now Ishaan. The objective was to obtain an accurate understanding of the behavior and positioning of the stars that would allow for appropriate reform of the Persian calendar. Khayyam managed eight scholars and supervised their work in the form of astronomical observations and compilations of corresponding tables. His work paid off and the new reformed calendar went into use in Persia on March 15, 1079.

Omar Khayyam scholarly work

Omar Khayyam studied and added to Archimedes’s work (mainly the Archimedes Principle.) This resulted in reformation and a greater understanding of what was then Persian alchemy. He discussed ways to more accurately measure gold by using water instead of air (which was the standard at the time.) He also made great strides in music theory by linking music to math theory by creating the musical scales which are still used in music education.

His contribution to poetry and philosophy

Omar Khayyam wrote many poems that studied and described the many quatrains present in the Koran. Also, he transformed philosophy because he was an avid scholar of Avicenna. He wrote six papers that discussed and explored the nature of human existence in relation to the universe.


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By Prita Kulkarni

Prita is a Natural Born Writer & consultant with 3 years of training in consulting, writing, and analytical work. Her strong points are in market research and analysis, social media and digital marketing, networking, and business development. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from UC Riverside and an MBA with an emphasis in business plan development from Baylor University.

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