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Mirzo Ulugbek

Mirzo Ulugbek – The Ruler who Fixed his Gaze on Stars

The history of Uzbekistan is rich in the names of great thinkers and scientists who left an indelible mark on the centuries. They lived at different times, but their knowledge, progressive and humanistic views contributed to the development of science and culture.

Among the galaxy of encyclopedist scientists, a special place is occupied by Mirzo Ulugbek – an astronomer, mathematician, historian, connoisseur of music, poetry, statesman, who made a huge contribution to the development of world science and human civilization.

Mirzo Ulugbek (Muhammad Taragay) was born on March 22, 1394 in Sultaniya (Iranian Azerbaijan) during Amir Temur’s next campaign in Iraq and Azerbaijan. He was the eldest son of Shahrukh and the grandson of the great Amir Temur on his father’s side, and on his mother’s side – the grandson of the influential Kipchak amir Giyas ad-Din Tarkhan. The name Muhammad Taragai, given at birth, was supplanted in childhood by the nickname Ulugbek (“Great Bek”).

Written sources of the 14th-15th centuries contain very scant information about the childhood years of Mirzo Ulugbek. From childhood, Ulugbek, together with his mentor Saray Mulk Khanum, accompanied Amir Temur on his military campaigns, attended important meetings and receptions of foreign ambassadors. It should be noted the special participation of Amir Temur in the upbringing and education of his grandson, the formation of his interests, and the acquisition of knowledge. Sahibkiran felt in him an extraordinary mind and ability for knowledge. Until the death of his grandfather, Ulugbek was at his court, surrounded by the best teachers.

After the death of Amir Temur in February 1405, for several years there was a struggle for the throne in Movarounnahr, in which Sahibkiran’s youngest son Shahrukh won, and the huge state was divided into two large regions – Movarounnahr and Khorasan. By the end of the first decade of the 15th century, almost the entire inheritance of Amir Temur was concentrated in the hands of Shahrukh. In 1409, he appointed his son as the ruler of Movarounnahr, and he himself remained in Khorasan, which he ruled during his father’s lifetime.

Mirzo Ulugbek became ruler at the age of 15 under the tutelage of Shah Malik. In 1411, his independent rule began, and for forty years, until 1449, political and economic stability continued in Movarounnahr, Samarkand turned into a center of education, science and culture.

Mirzo Ulugbek paid great attention to education. By his order, madrasahs were built: in 1417 in Bukhara, in 1420 in Samarkand, in 1433 in Gijduvan, where, along with religious

In science, students gained knowledge in mathematics, geometry, astronomy, medicine and other disciplines. Madrasahs have survived to this day.

The most advanced educational institution was the Samarkand madrasah, located on Registan Square. According to researchers, this is one of the best monumental structures of the Middle Ages. The first mudaris was appointed Mawlana Muhammad Khawafi, a dervish, a commoner with deep scientific knowledge.

Famous scientists of their time, associates of Mirzo Ulugbek – Kazi-Zade Rumi, Giyasiddin Jamshid, Hussein Birjandi, Ali Kushchi, taught at the madrasah.

According to written sources, Mirzo Ulugbek sometimes himself lectured students on mathematics and astronomy.

Attaching great importance to maintaining sanitary and hygienic conditions, Mirzo Ulugbek ordered the construction of a bathhouse and a hairdresser next to the madrasah. Trees were planted around the madrasah so that during the hot summer, students could study and relax in the shade.

Alisher Navoi wrote in his work “Khairotul Abror” that young people came to Samarkand in the hope of the support that Mirzo Ulugbek provided to those who wanted to study. Young men from poor families could also gain knowledge in the madrasah. He ordered such students to be given scholarships and clothes.

The Samarkand madrasah became famous far beyond the borders of Movarounnahr. It is known that it trained not only mosque ministers, but also civil servants, scientists, and teachers for maktabs and madrassas. This contributed to the rise of science and culture.

The main difference between the Samarkand madrasah of Mirzo Ulugbek and other similar institutions in Movarounnahr was the teaching methods used. Mirzo Ulugbek carried out a reform in the madrasah. Students were not required to obey unconditionally or memorize the text. A schedule was established that was mandatory for both students and teachers. Class attendance was recorded.

One of the points of Mirzo Ulugbek’s reform was the inclusion of the maintenance of madrasahs in the state budget.

To conduct astronomical observations, Mirzo Ulugbek built an observatory in Samarkand. As the famous academician Galina Pugachenkova wrote: “The time of Ulugbek’s forty-year reign was a time of brilliant flowering of secular culture in Movarounnahr, especially the development of exact and natural sciences, mathematics and astronomy, which this crowned scientist, extraordinary in the history of the East, was passionate about.”

The main result of the scientific activity of Mirzo Ulugbek, which brought him world fame, is “Zij-i Jadidi Guragani” (“New Guragan astronomical tables”, or “New Gurgan Zij”). The work is valuable because it was compiled as a result of practical observations long before the invention of the telescope.

It is well known that similar catalogs of tables were compiled before Mirzo Ulugbek, but by the beginning of the 15th century, a need arose in science for more accurate and detailed tables. “Zij” by Mirzo Ulugbek met all the requirements of that time. The work consists of four books. The first is devoted to the chronology and calendars of the Chinese, ancient Turks, Persians, Greeks, and Arabs. The second is spherical astronomy and mathematical geography, it presents mathematical and geographical tables. The third book talks about the movement of planets and stellar astronomy, contains tables of planetary movements and a star catalog describing the coordinates of 1018 fixed stars. The fourth book is dedicated to astrology.

The merits of Mirzo Ulugbek as a medieval scientist and ruler of Movarounnahr were recognized and highly appreciated throughout the world. He was and remains a great scientist of his era. The research results of the Samarkand Astronomical School have taken their rightful place in the treasury of world science.

Ms. Feruza Shamukaramova is leading researcher at the Institute of History Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan