In Iran, they say, there are two books in every household – the Koran and Hafez. One is read, the other is not. To understand this joke you need do no more than join the millions who regularly throng the tomb of Hafez, 14th century poet of Shiraz and Iran’s national hero, as I did […]
Omar Khayyam was a poet. Almost everyone knows this. What is less known is that he was an outstanding mathematician, and as was fairly typical at the time for mathematicians, a noted astronomer. His ability to study mathematics was severely curtailed by the murder of his patron by the Assassins, nearly 1000 years ago. (Yes, the fanatic religious sect which gives us that name, were some of the earliest terrorists.)
The Moving Finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
“I was unable to devote myself to the learning of this algebra and the continued concentration upon it, because of obstacles in the vagaries of time which hindered me; for we have been deprived of all the people of knowledge save for a group, small in number, with many troubles, whose concern in life is to snatch the opportunity, when time is asleep, to devote themselves meanwhile to the investigation and perfection of a science; for the majority of people who imitate philosophers confuse the true with the false, and they do nothing but deceive and pretend knowledge, and they do not use what they know of the sciences except for base and material purposes; and if they see a certain person seeking for the right and preferring the truth, doing his best to refute the false and untrue and leaving aside hypocrisy and deceit, they make a fool of him and mock him.”
Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra (1070)