Prof. David King
Professor of the History of Science and Director of the
Institute since 1985. Specialist on medieval Islamic science, Arabic scientific
manuscripts and medieval Islamic and European scientific instruments. Lectures
and seminars on aspects of medieval astronomy, astronomical instruments, Arabic
scientific texts and manuscripts.
- Born in England in 1941.
- 1952-59: Studies at High Wycombe Royal Grammar School.
- 1960-72: Studied Mathematics at Cambridge (60-63),
Education at Oxford (63-64), taught in secondary schools in Sudan (64-67)
and Canada (67-68). Graduate Studies in Near Eastern Languages and
Literatures at Yale (68-72).
- 1972-79: Directed a Smithsonian Institution project on
medieval Islamic astronomy at the American Research Center in Egypt.
- 1979-85: Associate Professor and then Professor of Near
Eastern Languages and Literatures and History of Science at New York
- The application of folk astronomy and mathematical
astronomy to specific religious needs of the Muslim community from the 8th
to the 19th century, namely, the regulation of the lunar calendar, the
determination of the sacred direction (qibla), and the organization of the
astronomically-defined times of prayer.
- Regional schools of Islamic astronomy (Egypt, Syria,
Yemen, Iran, Maghrib, etc.).
- Medieval mathematical geography and cartography.
- Medieval Islamic and European scientific instruments.
- Orientation of Islamic religious architecture.
- Cults of medieval virgin saints, in particular St.
Wilgefortis = Ontkommer = Uncumber = Kümmernis.
ASTRONOMY IN THE BAGHDAD OF THE CALIPHS
Publications in book form:
- A Catalogue of the Scientific Manuscripts in the
Egyptian National Library [in Arabic], 2 vols., Cairo: General
Egyptian Book Organization, 1981-86.
- A Survey of the Scientific Manuscripts in the
Egyptian National Library, (Publications of the American Research
Center in Egypt), Catalogs, vol. 5, Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns,
- Mathematical Astronomy in Medieval Yemen - A
Bio-Bibliographical Survey, (Publications of the American Research
Center in Egypt, Catalogs, vol. 4), Malibu, California: Undena
- Islamic Mathematical Astronomy, London:
Variorum, 1986, 2nd rev. edn., Aldershot: Variorum, 1993.
- Islamic Astronomical Instruments, London:
Variorum, 1987, repr. Aldershot: Variorum, 1995.
- Astronomy in the Service of Islam,
Aldershot: Variorum, 1993.
- World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to
Mecca: Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science, Leiden: E. J.
Brill, 1999. [A detailed study of two
17th-century brass Islamic world-maps centred on Mecca which preserve both
direction and distance to the centre.]
- The Ciphers of the Monks - A Forgotten Number
Notation of the Middle Ages, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2001. [A history of the third number-notation of medieval
Europe, a notation unknown to the vast majority of historians of
mathematics and medievalists alike. Any integral number up to 9999 is
represented by a single graphic cipher.]
New works and works in progress:
- "Astronomical Handbook and Tables from the Islamic
World (750-1900): an interim Report" (with Julio Samsó), Suhayl
(Barcelona) 2 (2001), 9-105. [Basic
documentation of the current state of research on the subject,
anticipating further progress in the near future by Benno van Dalen].
- Studies in Astronomical Timekeeping in Medieval
Islam, to be published by E. J. Brill, Leiden. [The first account of the way Muslim astronomers
regulated time by the sun and stars and determined the times of prayer,
based on over 500 unpublished manuscripts.]
- "Medieval Astronomical Instruments: A Catalogue in
Preparation", Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society
no. 31 (Dec., 1991), pp. 3-7; "Making Instruments Talk - Some
Medieval Astronomical Instruments and Their Secrets", ibid.
no. 44 (March, 1995), pp. 5-12. Also: "Astronomical
Instruments between East and West", in H. Kühnel, ed., Kommunikation
zwischen Orient und Okzident - Alltag und Sachkultur, Vienna, 1994,
pp. 143-198. [Description of a long-term project
to prepare a catalogue of all medieval astronomical instruments, Islamic
and European.] See http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/fb13/ign/instrument-catalogue.html
for a preliminary table of contents.
- The Sacred Geography of
Islam, to be submitted to E. J. Brill. [A description of Muslim notions of organizing the
world around the sacred Kaaba in Mecca, and determining the sacred
direction (qibla) by methods of folk astronomy.]
Research assistants and associates:
Current projects supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (= German
Research Foundation, Bonn):
- 1999-2002: European encounters with Islamic science in
16th- and 17th-century Iran and Turkey. Dr. Sonja Brentjes (full-time).
- 1999-2002: Catalogue of European astronomical instruments
(to ca. 1550). Dr. Koenraad van Cleempoel (part-time), François
Charette (part-time). For more information click here.
- 2000-2003: A survey of medieval Islamic zîjes
(astronomical handbooks with tables). Dr. Benno van Dalen
Charette: medieval Islamic astronomical instruments
- Petra Schmidl: medieval
Islamic folk astronomy
- Michael Hofelich: medieval Islamic ephemerides
- Reinhard Glasemann: 16th-century instrument-making in
- Mohamed Abu Zayed: lunar crescent visibility in the
Islamic astronomical sources
The Istanbul Observatory (16th century)
Institute for History of Science
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
D-60054 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 69 798 22337
Fax: +49 69 798 23275