Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jābir ibn Hayyān(817-721 A.D.)

Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān also known as Geber was the first practical Chemist and the most famous muslim scientist the history ever known.

Jabir belonged to "Banwazd" Tribe who lived in southern part of Yemen.The people from this tribe started living in Kufa. There his father Ahmed Hayyan opened a pharmacy. This was the time when Banu Ummayah's thrown was under great threat. Jabir's father joined forces with the people who were against Banu Ummayah. He left Kufa and went to live in Taus - a city in Khurasaan. There his son Jabir was born in 721 A.D. His father was hanged to death due to his activities against the government. At that time Jabir was very young.

His mother went to Yemen and started living with her tribe Banwazd, thus Jabir spent his early life with his maternal family. There he got the chance to become a student of Harbi alhamyaari - a great scholar. He taught him Holy Koran. Also he taught him maths and other subjects. When Jaber was tentry six years old Banu Abbas got the throne of caliphate after a great struggle against Banu Ummayah.

Jaber afterwards left his city and settled in Madina Munawarah where he took Bait (oath) at the hands of Imaam Jaffer Sadiq. Jaber left Madina when Imaam Jaffer Sadiq died in 657 A.D.(148 A.H.) and settled in Kufa. There in Baab-ash-Shaam street he set up his laboratory. 

After two hundered years i.e. in 11 Century , the remains of this laboratory were found in the debris of Kufa. Even the laboratory instruments used by jaber were also found.

Jaber was a very knowledgable man. He was expert in Greek Language. He was one of few scholars who translated books from Greek Language to Arabic.

Although Jaber was much interested in Chemistry but he also wrote books on other subjests. He wrote a book on Logic , one on Poetry and also one on Reflection of Light.

At the time of Jabir people alchemy was limited to transmutation - the process of converting base metal into gold. In arabic this process is known as Mahoosi and the people who were expert in it were called Mahoos. Althought Jaber knew about this process but he did not indulge himself in such an impossible process but he expanded his searches on other chemical processes. He was well aware of different processes of alchemy like Desolation , Filtration , Extraction, Sublimation and Crystallization. Due to his great knowledge about all theses processes Jabir is said to be a great scientist.

In his book Jabir writes:

"In alchemy ,experiment is the main element. Any person who does not performs experiment , always commits mistake. So if you want to learn Alchemy you must rely on experiments. And take only the knowledge that comes from experiments. A chemist is the one who proves his findings from experiments rather that by his study."
According to Jabir " All elements are made of mercury and Sulphur . Whne these two metals in their pure form chemically react with each other produce gold. But if there is some impurities in any of the two other metals like silver,lead,copper and iron are produced."

Keeping in view this theorem of Jaber many peorple tried to find the purest form of Sulphur. Although Jaber was the one who put up this theory but he himself did not put it to experiment because by his early findings he found that it is impossible due to some unknown reasons.

Oxidation is a process in which the metal is heated to produce its oxide (in some other cases other metals). Jaber was well aware of this process and he composed a book on it explaining oxidation of different metals and production of other metals.

Jaber in his book has explained in details the process of production of iron, tanning leather,purification of metals, production of hair-dye, methods to protect iron from rust by varnishing and like more. These methods and processes were difficult to perform at that time and clearly showed how genious and intellignet Jaber was. It is also said that he invented a paper that was fire-resistant and ink that could be read in darkness. Similarly Jaber has also expalined the production of Lead Carbonate, Arsenic and Antimony from thier sulphides.

Jaber by using the "alembic"(arabic: Alanbik) and "retort"(arabic: Qara), produces Citric Acid, Acetic Acid and Tartaric Acid.Alembic -a great invention of Jaber, is used in the many chemical process like extraction, dehydration crystallization, Nitrification and Sulfonation.This instrument comprises two vessels- the alembic and cucurbit. The alembic is the lid with a tube attachment , which is placed on top of cucurbit.The cucurbit is a flask , contains the material to be distilled. The two vessels were made of fine clay. These two vessels were joined together firmly making them air tight. The retort was heated at the bottom as a result of which the vapors start to accumulate and pass through its long neck. At the end of the neck collection vessel is placed underneath. The collection vessel is put in cold water. The vapors after condensation are converted into liquid. Using Alembic and retort, Jabir succeeded in producing saltpeter one of his great products. He used Alum, Ferrous sulphate and Niter to produce saltpeter. According to him"I put some Alum , ferrous sulphate and niter in the alembic and heated it.Later brown fumes started accumulating in the alembic.There was a collecting vessel made of copper. This liquid was hot enough that it melted the collecting vessel.On touching this liquid it burnt my finger. This acid can be reffered as saltpeter . This acid cannot melt gold and glass"

Keeping in view the production of saltpeter Jaber produces Sulphuric acid by the same method- using Alum and Ferrous Sulphate.Also he produced Aqua Regina by using Alum,Ferrous Sulphate, niter and Ammonia. This acid has the property of melting even gold . Since gold was considered the metals of King Jabir named it "Maa-e-almulk" meaning "king's water". When in 15th and 16th century books in arabic languages were translated into Latin the term "Mae-e-almulk" was translated into Aqua Regia. In Latin Aqua means water and Regia means anything related to kingdom. Even in English literature the term Aqua Regia is used for the same terms.

Jabir was not only expert in Alchemy but also in astrology ,cosmology,Magic, artificial generation of living beings,music and symbolic myths(Elm-al-aadaad and elm-al-haroof). pthc

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