Geber, aka Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, was a prominent Islamic Alchemist, Pharmacist, Philosopher, Astronomer, and Physicist. He has also been referred to as “the father of Arab Chemistry” by Europeans. His ethnic background is not clear; although most sources state he was an Arab, some describe him as Persian.
Jabir was born in Tus, Khorasan, in Iran, which was at the time ruled by the Umayyad Caliphate; the date of his birth is disputed, but most sources give 721 or 722. He was the son of Hayyan al-Azdi, a pharmacist of the Arabian Azd tribe who emigrated from Yemen to Kufa (in present-day Iraq) during the Umayyad Caliphate.
Hayyan had supported the revolting Abbasids against the Umayyads, and was sent by them to the province of Khorasan (in present Iran) to gather support for their cause. He was eventually caught by the Ummayads and executed. His family fled back to Yemen, where Jabir grew up and studied the Koran, mathematics and other subjects under a scholar named Harbi al-Himyari.
After the Abbasids took power, Jabir went back to Kufa, where he spent most of his career. Jabir’s father’s profession may have contributed greatly to his interest to chemistry.
In Kufa, he became a student of the celebrated Islamic teacher and sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq. It is said that he also studied with the Umayyad prince Khalid Ibn Yazid. He began his career practising medicine, under the patronage of the Barmakid Vizir of Caliph Haroun al-Rashid.
It is known that in 776 he was engaged in alchemy in Kufa.His connections to the Barmakid cost him dearly in the end. When that family fell from grace in 803, Jabir was placed under house arrest in Kufa, where he remained until his death.
The date of his death is given as c.815 by the Encyclopedia Britannica, but as 808 by other sources.
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