Abbas Ibn Firnas

Abbas Ibn Firnas

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Abbas Ibn Firnas also known as Abbas Qasim Ibn Firnas and عباس بن فرناس (Arabic language
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

), was a Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 Andalusian
Andalusian people
The Andalusians are the people of the southern region in Spain approximated by what is now called Andalusia. They are generally not considered an ethnically distinct people because they lack two of the most important markers of distinctiveness: their own language and an awareness of a presumed...

 polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

: an inventor, engineer, aviator, physician, Arabic poet
Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry is categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose, with the former greatly preceding the latter...

, and Andalusian musician
Andalusian classical music
Andalusian classical music is a style of Moorish music found across North Africa in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It originates out of the music of Al-Andalus between the 9th and 15th centuries....

. Of Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 descent, he was born in Izn-Rand Onda, Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

 (today's Ronda
Ronda
Ronda is a city in Spanish province of Málaga. It is located about West from the city of Málaga, within the autonomous community of Andalusia. Its population is approximately 35,000 inhabitants.-History:...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

), and lived in the Emirate of Córdoba
Caliphate of Córdoba
The Caliphate of Córdoba ruled the Iberian peninsula and part of North Africa, from the city of Córdoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Islamic Iberia were constructed in this period, including the famous...

. He is known for an early attempt at aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

.

Work


Ibn Firnas designed a water clock
Water clock
A water clock or clepsydra is any timepiece in which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into or out from a vessel where the amount is then measured.Water clocks, along with sundials, are likely to be the oldest time-measuring instruments, with the only exceptions...

 called Al-Maqata, devised a means of manufacturing colorless glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

, invented various glass planisphere
Planisphere
A planisphere is a star chart analog computing instrument in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars for any time and date. It is an instrument to assist in learning how to recognize stars and constellations...

s, made corrective lens
Corrective lens
A corrective lens is a lens worn in front of the eye, mainly used to treat myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Glasses or "spectacles" are worn on the face a short distance in front of the eye. Contact lenses are worn directly on the surface of the eye...

es ("reading stones"), devised a chain of rings that could be used to simulate the motions of the planets and stars, and developed a process for cutting rock crystal that allowed Spain to cease exporting quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 to Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 to be cut.

In his house, he built a room in which spectators witnessed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms located in his basement laboratory. He also devised "some sort of metronome
Metronome
A metronome is any device that produces regular, metrical ticks — settable in beats per minute. These ticks represent a fixed, regular aural pulse; some metronomes also include synchronized visual motion...

."

Aviation


He is also said to have made an attempt at flight
Flight
Flight is the process by which an object moves either through an atmosphere or beyond it by generating lift or propulsive thrust, or aerostatically using buoyancy, or by simple ballistic movement....

 using a set of wings. The only evidence for this is an account by the Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari (d. 1632), composed seven centuries later:
Al-Maqqari is said to have used in his history works "many early sources no longer extant", but in case of Firnas the only one cited by him was a 9th century poem written by Mu'min ibn Said, a court poet of Córdoba
Córdoba, Spain
-History:The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 32,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy...

 under Muhammad I
Muhammad I of Córdoba
Muhammad I was the Umayyad emir of Córdoba from 852 to 886 in the Al-Andalus .-Biography:Muhammad was born in Córdoba...

 (d. 886), who was acquainted with and usually critical of Ibn Firnas. The pertinent verse runs: "He flew faster than the phoenix
Phoenix (mythology)
The phoenix or phenix is a mythical sacred firebird that can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indian and Phoenicians....

 in his flight when he dressed his body in the feathers of a vulture
Vulture
Vulture is the name given to two groups of convergently evolved scavenging birds, the New World Vultures including the well-known Californian and Andean Condors, and the Old World Vultures including the birds which are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains...

." No other surviving sources refer to the event.

It has been suggested that Ibn Firnas' attempt at glider
Glider aircraft
Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

 flight might have inspired the attempt by Eilmer of Malmesbury
Eilmer of Malmesbury
Eilmer of Malmesbury was an 11th-century English Benedictine monk best known for his early attempt at a gliding flight using wings.- Life :...

 between 1000 and 1010 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 but there is no evidence supporting this hypothesis.

The crater Ibn Firnas
Ibn Firnas (crater)
Ibn Firnas is a lunar impact crater on the far side of the Moon, in honour of Abbas Ibn Firnas , who is regarded as the first man to have attempted flying with evidence of some success. Attached to the exterior of its southwestern rim is the prominent crater King...

 on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 is named in his honor.

Armen Firman


Armen Firman may be the Latinized name of Abbas Ibn Firnas, or, alternatively, he may have been the man who inspired Ibn Firnas.

There is some contradiction in the modern record: According to some secondary source
Secondary source
In scholarship, a secondary source is a document or recording that relates or discusses information originally presented elsewhere. A secondary source contrasts with a primary source, which is an original source of the information being discussed; a primary source can be a person with direct...

s, about 20 years before Ibn Firnas attempted to fly he may have witnessed Firman as he wrapped himself in a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts and jumped from a tower in Córdoba, intending to use the garment as wings on which he could glide. The alleged attempt at flight was unsuccessful, but the garment slowed his fall
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 enough that he only sustained minor injuries.

However, there is no reference to Armen Firman in other secondary sources, all of which deal exhaustively with Ibn Firnas' flight attempt. Since this story was recorded only in a single primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

, al-Maqqari, and since Firman's jump is said to have been Ibn Firnas' source of inspiration, the lack of any mention of Firman in al-Maqqari's account may point to the conclusion that he never existed and that his tower jump was later confused with Ibn Firnas' gliding attempt in secondary writings.