In this article, Professor David A. King explores the authenticity of the statement that tenth-century Egyptian astronomer Ibn Yūnus was the first person to use a pendulum to measure time. After examining evidence originating from medieval sources along with a series of statements made by historians and orientalists, Professor David A. King challenges common misconceptions and reveals that the association of the pendulum with Ibn Yūnus is a history of errors.
Ibn Yunus and The Pendulum: A History of Errors
This revelation by no means lessens the scientific contribution of Ibn Yūnus, who was perhaps the greatest astronomer in Islamic history. In 1970, whilst preparing his doctoral dissertation on the astronomical handbook of Ibn Yūnus, the Hākimī Zīj, Prof. King discovered the corpus of 200 pages of tables for astronomical timekeeping by the sun and regulating the times of Muslim prayer for Cairo associated with the Egyptian astronomer; these were described in a study published in 1973. In Professor King’s Magnum Opus, entitled In Synchrony with the Heavens and published in 2004, he describes dozens of such tables for different localities all over the Islamic world, based on hundreds of previously unstudied medieval manuscripts. Ibn Yūnus was largely responsible for this remarkable development in Islamic astronomy.
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