On Void and the Plausibility of the Copernican Paradigm: an Indo-Persian Link in the Qajar Reception of Modern Astronomy

In: Philological Encounters
Trevor Brabyn MA Student, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University New York, NY USA

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Mohammad Sadegh Ansari Assistant Professor, Department of History, SUNY Geneseo Geneseo, NY USA

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Historiography on the introduction of the Copernican astronomical paradigm in Iran has acknowledged the presence of Persian treatises from India in early-nineteenth century Qajar Iran for some time. In spite of this acknowledgment, the processes by which the modern paradigm was transmitted to Iran via the subcontinent have remained shrouded in mystery for the most part. MS Or. 462 at Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, represents a unique early nineteenth-century composite manuscript (majmūʿah), in which, alongside treatises belonging to the premodern Ptolemaic paradigm, appears an entry on the Copernican planetary system. The treatise in question, titled “The discovery of the novel opinions of the sages of Europe” (Istikshāf-i rāyhā-yi tāzah-ʾi ḥakīmān-i farang), outlines the expanding geographical knowledge of Europe as well as the cosmological revisions of Copernicus and Newton, among other unnamed European scholars. In this article, we first examine the treatise’s connection to its Indo-Persian source and present an overview of its content on the new Copernican cosmology. Furthermore, we examine an encounter between proponents and detractors of the new scientific paradigm as detailed at the end of the treatise. Finally, we draw a few conclusions about the introduction of modernity and modern science into nineteenth-century Qajar Iran, based on the information that can be retrieved from this treatise.

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