Gerard of Cremona

Gerard of Cremona (Italian: Gerardo da Cremona; Latin: Gerardus Cremonensis; c. 11141187), was a Lombard translator of Arabic scientific works.

He was one of a small group of scholars who invigorated medieval Europe in the 12th century by transmitting Greek and Arab traditions in astronomy, medicine and other sciences, in the form of translations into Latin, which made them available to every literate person in the West. One of his most famous translations is of Ptolemy's Astronomy from Arabic texts found in Toledo, Spain. Gerard has been mistakenly credited as the translator of Avicenna's Canon of Medicine (see below).

Life

Gerard was born in Cremona. Dissatisfied with the meager philosophies of his Italian teachers, Gherardo followed his true passions and went to Toledo. There he learned Arabic, initially so that he could read Ptolemy's Almagest, which retained its traditional high reputation among scholars, even though no Latin translation existed. Although we do not have detailed information of the date when Gerard went to Castile, it was no later than 1144.

Toledo, which had been a provincial capital in the Caliphate of Cordoba and remained a seat of learning, was safely available to a Catholic like Gerard, since it had been conquered from the Moors by Alfonso VI of Castile. Toledo remained a multicultural capital. Its rulers protected the large Jewish colony, and kept their trophy city an important centre of Arab and Hebrew culture, one of the great scholars associated with Toledo being Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra, Gerard's contemporary. The Moorish and Jewish inhabitants of Toledo adopted the language and many customs of their conquerors, embodying Mozarabic culture. The city was full of libraries and manuscripts, the one place in Europe where a Christian could fully immerse himself in Arabic language and culture.

In Toledo Gerard devoted the remainder of his life to making Latin translations from the Arabic scientific literature.

Gerard's translations

Gerard of Cremona's Latin translation of an Arabic text was the only version of Ptolemy’s Almagest that was known in Western Europe for centuries, until George of Trebizond and then Johannes Regiomontanus translated it from the Greek originals in the fifteenth century. The Almagest formed the basis for a mathematical astronomy until it was eclipsed by the theories of Copernicus.

Gerard edited for Latin readers the Tables of Toledo, the most accurate compilation of astronomical data ever seen in Europe at the time. The Tables were partly the work of Al-Zarqali, known to the West as Arzachel, a mathematician and astronomer who flourished in Cordoba in the eleventh century.

Al-Farabi, the Islamic "second teacher" after Aristotle, wrote hundreds of treatises. His book on the sciences, Kitab al-lhsa al Ulum, discussed classification and fundamental principles of science in a unique and useful manner. Gerard rendered it as De scientiis (On the Sciences).

Gerard translated Euclid’s Geometry and Alfraganus's Elements of Astronomy.[1]

Gerard also composed original treatises on algebra, arithmetic and astrology. In the astrology text, longitudes are reckoned both from Cremona and Toledo.

In total, Gerard of Cremona[2] translated 87 books from Arabic,[3] including Ptolemy's Almagest, al-Khwarizmi's On Algebra and Almucabala, Archimedes' On the Measurement of the Circle, Aristotle's On the Heavens, Euclid's Elements of Geometry, Jabir ibn Aflah's Elementa astronomica,[4] the chemical and medical works of al-Razi (Rhazes),[5] the works of Thabit ibn Qurra and Hunayn ibn Ishaq,[6] and the works of al-Zarkali, Jabir ibn Aflah, the Banu Musa, Abu Kamil, Abu al-Qasim, al-Farabi, al-Kindi, and Ibn al-Haytham.[3]

A second Gerard Cremonensis

Some of the works credited to Gerard of Cremona are probably the work of a second Gerard Cremonensis, more precisely Gerard de Sabloneta (Sabbioneta) (thirteenth century). His best work translated Greek/Arabic medical texts, rather than astronomical ones, but the two translators have understandably been confused with one another. His translations from works of Avicenna are said to have been made by order of the emperor Frederick II.

Other treatises attributed to the "Second Gerard" include the Theoria or Theorica planetarum, and versions of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine— the basis of the numerous subsequent Latin editions of that well-known work — and of the Almansor of al-Razi ("Rhazes" in Latin-speaking Europe). The attribution of the Theorica to Gerard of Sabbionetta is not well supported by manuscript evidence and should not be regarded as certain.

See also

Notes

1. ^ For a list of Gerard of Cremona's translations see: Edward Grant (1974) A Source Book in Medieval Science, (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr.), pp. 35-8 or Charles Burnett, "The Coherence of the Arabic-Latin Translation Program in Toledo in the Twelfth Century," Science in Context, 14 (2001): at 249-288, at pp. 275-281.
2. ^ C. H. Haskins, Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, p. 287.
3. ^ Salah Zaimeche (2003). Aspects of the Islamic Influence on Science and Learning in the Christian West, p. 10. Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation.
4. ^ V. J. Katz, A History of Mathematics: An Introduction, p. 291.
5. ^ Jerome B. Bieber. Medieval Translation Table 2: Arabic Sources, Santa Fe Community College.
6. ^ D. Campbell, Arabian Medicine and Its Influence on the Middle Ages, p. 6.

References

  • Burnett, Charles. "The Coherence of the Arabic-Latin Translation Program in Toledo in the Twelfth Century," Science in Context, 14 (2001): 249-288.
  • Campbell, Donald (2001). Arabian Medicine and Its Influence on the Middle Ages. Routledge. (Reprint of the London, 1926 edition). ISBN 0415231884.
  • Haskins, Charles Homer. The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1927. See especially chapter 9, "The Translators from Greek and Arabic".
  • Katz, Victor J. (1998). A History of Mathematics: An Introduction. Addison Wesley. ISBN 0321016181.

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