Jabir ibn Hayyan
Jabir Ibn Hayyan (born in 721 (?) with All in Iran - died in 815 with Koufa in Iraq), of its complete name Musa Abu Jabir Ibn Hayyan Al-Azdi (أبوموسىجابربنحيانالأزدي), was a alchemist of origin Arab Perse or according to the sources. He is also known in the Latinized form of his name: Geber . He is regarded as one of the precursors of the Chimie to be the first to have practiced it the scientific alchemy of manner.
Jabir was born around 721 with All in the province from the Khorassan. He is the son of an apothecary of the tribe of the Azd which was carried out to have conspired against the Califat of the Omeyyades. Young man, Jabir was sent in Arabia to study the Coran and the Mathématiques. He becomes then the disciple of famous the sixème Imam Shiite Jafar have-Sadiq. He lived to it quasi totality of his life with Koufa in Iraq. In spite of its inclinations with the Mysticism (it was called Al-Sufa) and with the superstition, it recognized clearly and proclaimed the importance of the Expérimentation: " The first essential thing in alchemy, it is that you must carry out work applied and experiments, because that which does not carry out work applied and of experiment will never reach more the high degrees of the connaissance". Its work constituted signification advances at the same time on the theoretical and experimental levels.
Its books influenced clearly the European alchemists and justified their search of the Philosopher's stone, Lapis Philosophicus . One allots to him the paternity of a great number of equipments laboratory of chemistry and now current processes as well as the chemical substance discovery, such as the Hydrochloric acid and the nitric Acid , the Distillation and the crystallization, which became the bases of the Chimie and the Chemical engineering modern.
Geber was also the pen name of an anonymous European alchemist of XIVe century, author in particular of the treaty Summa Perfectione : to see Pseudo-Geber
Jabir wrote more than one hundred treaties on varied subjects, of which 22 relate to the Alchimie. Firmly built on experimental observations, its books give a systematization of the fundamental chemical processes used by the alchemists, such as the crystallization, the Distillation, the Calcination, the sublimation and the evaporation. They thus constitute a great step in the transformation of the chemistry of an art occults in a scientific discipline. In particular, Jabir guesses that finished quantities of various substances are implemented during the chemical reactions, preceding thus almost millenium the principles of modern chemistry and in particular of the law of the definite proportions discovered by Joseph Louis Proust in 1794.
One also allots the invention and the development of several laboratory equipments to him always of use at present, such as the Alambic, which made it possible to carry out Distillation in a surer way, easier and more effective. By distilling salt S in the presence of Acid sulphuric, Jabir discovered the Hydrochloric acid (starting from Sodium chloride) and the nitric Acid (starting from Salpêtre). By mixing both, he invented the Eau levels, which is one of the only chemical reagents which makes it possible to dissolve the Or. Beyond its applications for the extraction and the purification of gold, this invention made at the same time the happiness and the despair of the alchemists during the next millenium. One also allots to him the discovery of the citric Acid (at the base of the acidity of the Citron), of the acetic Acid (starting from Vinaigre) and of the tartaric Acid (starting from residues of wine making).
Jabir applied its knowledge to the improvement of many manufactoring processes, among which the manufacture of the Acier and of various metals, prevention of the rust, the gilding, the Teinture of clothing, tanning of the Cuir, as well as the analyzes Pigment S. It developed the use of the Dioxyde of manganese (mn O2 in the manufacture of the Verre in order to compensate for the green colors produced by the Fer, still proceeded employed nowadays. He noticed that the boiling of the Vin produces a flammable vapor, thus opening the way with discovered ethanol by Al-Razi.
He also proposed a nomenclature of the substances, which can be seen like posing the bases of the modern classification of the elements. He proposed to separate the substances in three categories: " esprits" , which vaporizes under the effect of heat like the Camphre, the Arsenic or the Chlorure of ammonium; " métaux" like the Gold, the Lead, the Copper and the Iron; and " pierres" who can be crushed in the form of powder.
During the the Middle Ages, its treaties of alchemy were translated into Latin and became the texts of reference of the European alchemists. Among those one can quote the Kitab Al-Kimya (" Deliver composition of the alchimie"), translated by Robert off Chester into 1144, and the Kitab Al-Sab' een (" 70 livres"), translated by Gerard de Crémone (before 1187). Berthelot translated some of its books known under the titles of " Deliver of Royaume" , " Deliver of Equilibre" , " Deliver Oriental" Mercury;. Certain technical terms introduced by Jabir passed in the European languages and became current words of the scientific vocabulary, such as for example " Alkali" (alkaline).
Jabir became alchemist at the court of the caliph Haroun Al-Rashid. Its interest for alchemy was most probably inspired by its Master Ja' far Al-Sadiq, who was a very educated man, a Soufi and one of the more high ranking authorities in the field of esoteric sciences. Jabir was called " Al-Sufa" , which indicates that it belonged to a mystical and ascetic branch of the Islam. He wrote the Kitab Al-Zuhra (" Deliver of Vénus" , noble art of alchemy) for Haroun Al-Rashid. He writes in his " Deliver of Pierres" that " the goal is of désarçonner and to induce in error all except those liked of God and that it intends for the savoir". Its work was deliberately written according to a code esoteric, so that only those having been initiated in its school of alchemy can include/understand them. It is thus very difficult for the modern reader to distinguish which aspects of its writings must be included/understood like symbols (and to disentangle the significance of it) and which can be included/understood literally.
The ultimate goal of alchemical work of Jabir related to the artificial creation of the life. Its research was theoretically founded on a Numérologie elaborate related to the systems pythagorician and neoplatonician. The nature and the properties of the elements were defined through numbers assigned according to the Arab consonants present in their names.
Jabir added four properties to the physics of Aristote: heat, cold, dryness and the wet one. Each element of the physics of Aristote was characterized by these properties: fire was hot and dry, the Cool water and wet, the Earth cold and dry and the Hot air and wet. In metals, two of these properties were interior and two external. For example, lead was cold and dry, and hot and wet gold. According to the theory of Jabir, it should be possible by rearranging the properties of a metal to create new. This theory was at the origin of the research of Al-iksir , the elixir indefinable which would have made this transformation possible, equivalent of the Philosopher's stone in European alchemy.
Work of Jabir also related to medicine and astronomy. Unfortunately, a small number only of its books were published and published, and little are always available for the translation.
Books of Jabir
The writings of Jabir can be classified in four categories:
112 Pounds dedicated to the viziers and to caliph Haroun Al Rashid, descendants of the Afghan priests guards of the Buddhist holy places. They include the Arab version of famous the " Table of emerald " ( Tabula Smaragdina ), an old hermetic text pertaining to alchemy " spirituelle". This text was translated into Latin and was published a great number of times at the Moyen-âge.
- 70 Books , whose majority were translated into Latin during the Middle Ages.
- 10 Books of Correction , which contain the biography d'" alchimistes" among which Pythagore, Socrate, Plato and Aristote.
- the 4th group, of which in particular the Livres of Balance , which contain its theory on balance in nature. It is difficult to determine exactly which were written by Jabir and which were by its students, but it is certain that they originate in all his school of alchemy.
Represented work of Jabir
Holmyard, E.J. (ED.) “The Arabic Works off Jabir ibn Hayyan”, 2 vol. (Paris. P. Geuther)
- Islamic Sciences and technology
- on the site of Chemical Heritage Foundation
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