Jabir Ibn Hayyan
785 – 815
Astronomer, mathemetician, medical doctor, philosopher, chemist, scholar of music and grammar, and perhaps the first to actively explore alchemy. And on and on and on. The man did it all. Quite literally – you’d be hard pressed to find some area of exploration, contemplation, study, that Jabir Ibn Hayyan did not engage with. Some 3,000 works of scholarship and argument are associated with his name (though some perhaps penned by his students), works that draw widely on earlier scholars of Greece, Persia, Egypt.
His influence on scientific and philosophical thought cannot be overstated, and the dissemination of his work in Europe played a major role in what we call the scientific revolution. The very foundations of chemistry and the scientific method in general owe a tremendous debt to Jabir, whose experimentation, observation, and invention of scientific instruments were game-changers.
But even if you aren’t a chemist, even if you have no scientific background whatsoever, you carry around a little of his legacy – his Book of Stones, an investigation of alchemy, was written in a complex code that was unintelligible to any but his initiated students, and forever associated his name (and its anglicized version, Geber) with incomprehensible language: gibberish.