New research: Al Biruni may have discovered America

Published: January 10, 2014
His calculations of the earth’s circumference helped Columbus navigate to the New World. PHOTO: FILE

His calculations of the earth’s circumference helped Columbus navigate to the New World. PHOTO: FILE

Latest research shows that Central Asian Muslim scholar Abu Raihan al Biruni discovered the Americas hundreds of years prior to Christopher Columbus – the Spanish explorer who has always been credited with the discovery.

According to the research, Al Biruni had proposed a theory in 1037, at the age of approximately 70 years, but he was too old to travel himself at the time.

An article by S Frederick Starr in History Today says al Biruni who was born in modern-day Uzbekistan was the first person to officially suggest that a landmass existed beyond Europe and Asia.

The scholar’s navigational skills and expertise in geography led him to conclude that Europe, Africa and Asia only accounted for two-fifths of the world.

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The article states that al Biruni’s knowledge of both Middle-Eastern and Indian languages, as well as being trained in mathematics, astronomy, mineralogy, geography, cartography, geometry and trigonometry under great scholars like Ahmad al Farghani, gave him deep insight into the sciences of various fields and civilizations.

According to the article, al Farghani had calculated the width of one degree of longitude at the equator which enabled him to deduce the circumference of the earth.

After centuries, Columbus used these calculations, which were less precise than al Biruni’s,  to prove that it was small enough for him to circumnavigate.

However, according to Starr, the Spanish explorer wrongly assumed the readings in Roman miles rather than Arab miles, which caused him to understate the actual perimeter of the earth by 25 per cent. This finding or deliberate misreading helped Columbus obtain funding for his voyage.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Asif
    Jan 10, 2014 - 10:23AM

    Mind sharing the link of the article or at least tell us in which journal was it published?


  • Taimur
    Jan 10, 2014 - 1:56PM

    “An article by S Frederick Starr in History Today ” is the article mentioned in the news.


  • Tariq
    Jan 10, 2014 - 6:33PM

    The title is misleading. His theory would have helped the discovery surely. But you cannot give him full credit. A theory is just an idea until actually experimentally verified to be a fact. The word discovery has always been tied with the actual sighting of land or observation of phenomenon and not with the hypothesis. Besides enormous efforts and risks are involved in the experiment to find out if this land exists. They need to be appreciated too. This article makes it sound as though Columbus knew 100% that America existed and traveled to it as a matter of routine. That is certainly not the case.


  • xyz
    Jan 11, 2014 - 2:13AM

    Firstly, the actual report by S Frederic Starr says that “Beiruni might have discovered New World before columbus ‘without leaving his study’ ” – i.e. without leaving his room.

    Secondly, I don’t believe this guy or the journal is reputable enough that everyone starts quoting him every where.

    Lastly, however, you all need to make your assessment. So, here is the original article



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