JABIR IBN HAYYAN AND PSEUDO-GEBER

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Nearly all of the alchemy that Muslim websites attribute to Geber either was known prior to the time of Geber, or else was the work centuries later of a Christian known as Pseudo-Geber.
Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan) writings but not Pseudo-Geber writings have originals written in Arabic.
Geber wrote in a long-winded repetitive literary style, and mentioned Allah, but Pseudo-Geber wrote in the short, clear and systematic literary style of a Westerner.

Expanding on what Greeks had written, Geber emphasized that 3 (=earth), 8 (=air), 1 (=fire) and 5 (=water) added up to 17, which was the base of his theory of balance for understanding everything.

He used Arabic numerology on the consonants in the names of elements to explain their nature and properties.

He borrowed from Chinese alchemists an interest in compounds of mercury and sulfur, and the search for an elixir of immortality.
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aberdeenbestiaryfolio004vchristinmajesty

example of a 12th century Christian manuscript illuminated with gold


Muslims at the time of the Muslim alchemist Geber did not illuminate manuscripts. so the “Geber” alchemy book describing an ink for illuminating manuscripts must have been written not by Geber, but by a Christian many centuries later using the pseudonym Geber.

GEBER
The Muslim Persian alchemist Geber (Jābir ibn Hayyān) (721 – 815) repeated the knowledge of the ancients, adding almost nothing new to what had already been known.

VARNISH
Geber used something (probably varnish) to prevent iron from rusting, but the ancient Egyptians had also used varnish for weatherproofing. He also used it to make cloth waterproof.

FIRE-RESISTING PAPER
Geber treated paper (perhaps in a solution of borax) to make it resist fire.

CITRIC ACID
Geber boiled juice of unripe lemons to leave behind probably 85% pure citric acid.

THE WORD “GIBBERISH” MEANS “WRITTEN BY GEBER”

He used Arabic numerology on the consonants in the names of elements to explain their nature and properties.
Geber added to the theory of Aristotle, claiming all metals consisted of a mixture of mercury and sulfur, the proportions and the presence of impurities determining which qualities predominated as the external qualities.
Geber wrote “all metallic bodies in their essences are mercury that was set by means of the sulphur of the mine that has risen to it with the vapours of the earth … The differences in their sulphurs are caused by the differences in their earths and in their positions in relation to the heat that reaches them from the sun as it oscillates in its orbit”.

Expanding on what Greeks had written, Geber emphasized that 3 (=earth), 8 (=air), 1 (=fire) and 5 (=water) added up to 17, which was the base of his theory of balance for understanding everything.


Geber believed in a theory of balance in nature, based on the number 28, that every object was in equilibrium.
The divisors of the number 28 add up to 28.
There are 28 days in the month and twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet.
Geber counted 4 volatile substances, borrowing sulfur, mercury, and arsenic from the Greeks, and ammonia from the Persians.
He borrowed the 4 qualities of matter (cold, hot, wet and dry) from Aristotle.
The number 4 multiplied by 7 days in a week gives the number 28.o
Geber’s alchemy books were translated into Latin and were studied in Europe.

ANTIMONY
A Muslim alchemist, (perhaps Geber), probably discovered that kohl (black antimony) heated at some temperatures in a crucible, gradually forms gray antimony, which sinks to the bottom.

MERCURY OXIDE
Geber was unlikely to have been the first to produce red mercury oxide by heating liquid mercury in oxygen to romade by heating Hg in oxygen at roughly 350 °C.  Pre-Islamic Egyptians heated liquid mercury mixed with gold to a high temperature in their fire gilding process. It can be assumed that the Egyptians must have known that heating liquid mercury to a lower temperature produces a red powder.

CINNABAR
Pre-Islamic alchemists knew that cinnabar ore (a poisonous pigment) could be roasted to produce sulfur and liquid mercury.
It is unlikely that Geber or 9th century Muslim alchemists were the first to notice that heating the resulting mixture of mercury and sulfur at a lower temperature changes it back to cinnabar.

GEBER’S SCALE
The scale used by alchemist Geber (Jābir ibn Hayyān) (721 – 815), like the pre-Islamic scale Geber copied from, used a grain of wheat (which has a weight of 0.0648 grams) as the standard mass of known weight. Therefore, Geber’s scale could weigh with an accuracy of 0.0648 grams (the weight of one grain of wheat).
An idiot writing at http://www.muslimheritage.com/chemistry badly botches the explanation of this fact, instead writing that Jābir ibn Hayyān “built a precise scale that weighed items 6,480 times smaller than the kilogram (anticipating Dalton by ten centuries)”.
First, he incorrectly changed a conversion factor of 0.0648 grams per grain to instead 0.0648 grains per gram.
Then, when his result made no sense, he moved the decimal point to a different place, resulting in a calculation of the accuracy of the scale as one-sixth the weight of the average human tooth instead of the weight of a grain of wheat.
Then he changed the meaning to be the weight of the object being weighed instead of the accuracy in weighing the object.
Then, by mentioning Dalton, he falsely implied a kilogram is about 6480 times as large as a dalton (approximately the weight of one proton or neutron).
Actually, a kilogram is not 6480 daltons but approximately 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 daltons.

PSEUDO-GEBER
Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber) was not the same person as Pseudo-Geber (likely a Franciscan friar) using the pen name of “Geber” who in the 13th or 14th century wrote about acids and alchemy.
Pseudo-Geber made no mention of magical alphabetical numerology of assigning numerical values to the letters in Arabic words, or the theory of the number 28 in balance in nature, which were continually mentioned in the writings of the genuine Geber.
Among the things written about by Pseudo-Geber but not by Geber were oil paint, and glazing the laboratory apparatus to prevent gases from escaping into the pores of the pottery,

ILLUMINATED CHRISTIAN MANUSCRIPTS
Pseudo-Geber, not Geber, wrote about an ink with iron pyrite (“fools gold”) to illuminate manuscripts. Muslim manuscripts produced at the time of Geber were not illuminated. http://www.muslimheritage.com/sites/default/files/pre_modern_industry_08.jpg The Baghdad style of Islāmic manuscript illustration did not begin until the late 12th century. It was Pseudo-Geber in the 13th century, not Geber, who illustrated manuscripts with colorful drawings of alchemy vessels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21898979/

NITRIC ACID AND AQUA REGIA
Pseudo-Geber (not Geber) wrote about nitric acid, aqua regia, and using nitric acid to produce chemicals such as silver nitrate, and hydrated mercury nitrate.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqua_regia states “Aqua regia first appeared in the work of medieval European alchemist Pseudo-Geber, dating from the 13th or 14th century.”, citing the “Alchemy” article from the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.
The alchemy writings of Rhazes, who had read the writings of the genuine Geber, did not mention nitric acid or aqua regia.
Pseudo-Geber used the nitric acid method of creating mercury oxide, but Geber and other Muslim alchemists did not know about nitric acid.

GREEN VITRIOL
Many websites and books mistakenly rely on the false belief that the book “Geberis philosophi perspicacissimi, summa perfectionis magisterii” was about the discoveries of Geber. Actually it was about the discoveries of a 13th century Christian, writing under the pseudonym of Geber, whom modern scholars call Pseudo-Geber.
Both the book “Vitriol in the History of Chemistry” and the book “A History of Chemistry from the Earliest Times” confirm it was Pseudo-Geber, not Geber, who wrote about green vitriol.

NO ORIGINALS IN ARABIC
Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan) writings but not Pseudo-Geber writings have originals written in Arabic.

DIFFERENT WRITING STYLE
Geber wrote in a long-winded repetitive literary style, and mentioned Allah, but Pseudo-Geber wrote in the short, clear and systematic literary style of a Westerner.


Image by unknown 12th century miniature painter, via Wikimedia Commons.
image credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AberdeenBestiaryFolio004vChristInMajesty.jpg

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