Omar Khayyam


Persian mathematician, astronomer, and author of one of the world's best-known works of poetry.

He was born in Neyshabur (Nishapur, now in Iran); his name means Omar the Tentmaker. As astronomer to the royal court, he was engaged with several other scientists to reform the calendar; their work resulted in the adoption of a new era, called the Jalalian or the Seljuk. As a writer on algebra, geometry, and related subjects, Omar was one of the most notable mathematicians of his time. He is, however, most famous as the author of the Rubáiyát. About 1000 of these epigrammatic four-line stanzas, which reflect upon nature and humanity, are ascribed to him. The English poet and translator Edward FitzGerald was the first to introduce Omar to the West through a version (1859) of 100 of the quatrains. This version is a paraphrase, often very close, that despite its flowery rhymed verse captures the spirit of the original.

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