Early Astronomy in the University of Michigan Collections

Work of the Observatory: ʻAlī Qushjī (d.1474)

15th century Samarqand

This manuscript carries a late 15th century copy of a commentary on the Zīj-i Sulṭānī or Zīj-i Gurkānī, the astronomical handbook compiled at Samarqand under the amīr Ulugh Beg (d.1449).

The author of the commentary is the astronomer and mathematician ʻAlāʼ al-Dīn ʻAlī Qushjī (d.1474) who succeeded his teacher Qāḍīʼzādah al-Rūmī (died ca.1436) as director of the famous observatory constructed at Samarqand under Ulugh Beg’s direction and patronage.

Qushjī also led the effort to produce and author the zīj, after a significant amount of careful astronomical observation. This proceeded likely with some cooperation from Ulugh Beg himself, with whom Qushjī had also studied.

After Ulugh Beg’s assassination in 1449, Qushjī departed Samarqand and was welcomed in Tabriz under the patronage of the Aq Qoyunlu ruler Uzun Hasan (r.1453-1478) who sent him on an ambassadorial mission to Istanbul. There he was even more warmly received by the Sultan Mehmet II (r.1444-1446, 1451-1481) and he ended up settling there. He was given an appointment teaching the natural sciences in the madrasah of the Aya Sofia and established an enduring legacy in Turkey through his works and many, many students.

Observatory at Samarqand

Islamic Astronomy

Select Bibliography

  • Isl. Ms. 827 online catalogue record (E. Kropf)
  • Adnan Adivar, A. “ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Ḳūshdjī.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by Peri Bearman et al.
  • de Blois, François C., David A. King and Julio Samsó. “Zīdj.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by Peri Bearman et al.
  • Rahman, F. and David Pingree, “ʿALĪ QŪŠJĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8: 876-877 (available online 30 December 2012)

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