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Abbas Ibn Firnas (810 – 887 A.D.), also known as Abbas Qasim Ibn Firnas and العباس بن فرناس (Arabic language), was an Arabic-speaking Berber polymath, born in Izn-Rand Onda, al-Andalusmarker (today's Rondamarker, Spainmarker), who lived in the Caliphate of Córdoba.


Ibn Firnas designed a water clock called Al-Maqata, devised a means of manufacturing colorless glass, made corrective lenses ("reading stones"), developed a chain of rings that could be used to simulate the motions of the planets and stars, and developed a process for cutting rock crystal that allowed Spain to cease exporting quartz to Egypt to be cut.

In his house he built a room in which spectators witnessed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms hidden in his basement laboratory. He also devised "some sort of metronome." He is also said to have made an attempt at flight using a set of wings:

The story is described 750 years later by the Moroccanmarker historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari (d. 1632) who also cited a verse in a 9th century poem which appears to refer to Firnas' attempt at flight. No other known sources refer to the event.

He has been commemorated on stamps from Libyamarker, by a statue near the Baghdad International Airport, and by a namesake airport north of Baghdadmarker. The crater Ibn Firnasmarker on the Moon is also named in his honor.

Armen Firman

For the Australian rock-group by the same name, see: Armen Firman
Armen Firman may be the latinized name of Abbas Ibn Firnas, or, alternatively, he may have been the man who inspired Ibn Firnas.

There is some contradiction in the modern record: According to some secondary sources, about 20 years before Ibn Firnas attempted to fly he may have witnessed Firman as he wrapped himself in a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts and jumped from a tower in Córdoba, Spainmarker, intending to use the garment as wings on which he could glide. The alleged attempt at flight was unsuccessful, but the garment slowed his fall enough that he only sustained minor injuries.

However, there is no reference to Armen Firman in other secondary sources, all of which deal exhaustively with Ibn Firnas' flight attempt. Since this story was recorded only in a single primary source, al-Maqqari, and since Firman's jump is said to have been Ibn Firnas' source of inspiration, the lack of any mention of Firman in al-Maqqari's account may point to the conclusion that he never existed and that his tower jump was later confused with Ibn Firnas' gliding attempt in secondary writings.

See also


  1. « Ibn Firnas ('Abbâs) » by Ahmed Djebbar, Dictionnaire culturel des science, by Collective under the direction of Nicolas Witkowski, Du Regard Editions, 2003, ISBN 2-84105-128-5.
  2. Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (Spring, 1961). "Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition", Technology and Culture 2 (2), p. 97-111 [100f.]
  3. Arabic and Islamic Names of the Moon Craters MuslimHeritage 9-28-07
  4. No. 1910: Abbas Ibn Firnas John H. Lienhard, Engines of our Ingenuity
  5. Terias, Elias, "Sobre el vuelo de Abbas Ibn Firnas", Al-Andalus, Vol. 29, No. 2 (1964), p. 365-369
  6. Lévi-Provençal, E. "ʿAbbās b. Firnās b. Wardūs, Abu 'l-Ḳāsim." Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs, 2009


  • J. Vernet, Abbas Ibn Firnas. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (C.C. Gilespie, ed.) Vol. I, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970-1980. pg. 5.
  • Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (Spring, 1961). "Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition", Technology and Culture 2 (2), p. 97-111 [100f.]
  • Salim T.S. Al-Hassani (ed.), Elisabeth Woodcock (au.), and Rabah Saoud (au.). 2006. 1001 Inventions. Muslum Heritage in Our World. Manchester: Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation. See pages 308-13. (ISBN 978-0-9555035-0-4)

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