Abbas Ibn Firnas

Abbas Ibn Firnas

Andalusian scientist, inventor
Country: Spain

  1. Biography of Abbas Ibn Firnas
  2. The First Flight Attempt
  3. Armen Firman and the Connection to Abbas Ibn Firnas

Biography of Abbas Ibn Firnas

Abbas Ibn Firnas was an Andalusian scholar, inventor, engineer, aviator, physician, poet, and musician. He is believed to be one of the first individuals to break the bonds of gravity, preceding the Wright brothers. The dream of human flight began long before the Wright brothers, and it is possible that successful attempts to fly occurred even before them. Some sources claim that Abbas Ibn Firnas, an Andalusian inventor, was perhaps the first successful aviator in the world.

Born in Izn-Rand Onda, Al-Andalus, Ibn Firnas spent most of his life in the Emirate of Córdoba. History has provided us with information about several of his inventions. Ibn Firnas developed a new model of water clocks and a type of metronome. He also discovered a method to produce colorless glass, created various types of glass planispheres, made corrective lenses known as "reading stones," invented a system of rings for depicting the motion of stars and planets, and found a way to cut crystals. Many of his inventions had practical value, such as his crystal cutting technique, which allowed the Spanish to forgo sending quartz to Egyptian craftsmen.

According to contemporary accounts, Ibn Firnas' house was a marvel, with rooms that featured mechanical devices that portrayed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning.

The First Flight Attempt

The most famous of Ibn Firnas' creations is the one that has survived in historical accounts. According to the Moroccan historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari, Ibn Firnas attempted to fly using a cloak made of feathers and realistic wings. In front of witnesses, he managed to travel a considerable distance through the air before landing somewhat unsuccessfully. Al-Maqqari claimed that Ibn Firnas severely injured his spine during the fall, possibly due to a lack of a tail rudder to control the aircraft. It is unknown whether Abbas continued to improve his invention afterward, as history does not provide any further information. Al-Maqqari references "other no longer existing early sources," one of which is believed to be Mu'min ibn Said, a Cordovan court poet and contemporary critic of Ibn Firnas. In his works, Ibn Said claimed that "he [Ibn Firnas] flew faster than a phoenix, dressed in vulture feathers." Unfortunately, more reliable information about Ibn Firnas' flight and the design of his wings has not been found. Some believe that Ibn Firnas' experiments inspired the Benedictine monk Eilmer of Malmesbury to create a glider prototype in the early 11th century, but this remains an unproven hypothesis.

Armen Firman and the Connection to Abbas Ibn Firnas

The name of Abbas Ibn Firnas is often associated with a certain Armen Firman. Some sources consider "Armen Firman" to be the Latinized form of "Abbas Ibn Firnas," while others refer to stories about a scholar who once inspired Ibn Firnas to engage in inventive activities. Records exist that claim Ibn Firnas observed Armen Firman jumping from the minaret of the Great Mosque in Córdoba while wearing a fortified cloak made of wood (similar to a hang glider) 20 years before his own experimental flight. Unfortunately, these records are not accurate, and no information about Armen Firman apart from this story has been found. It is speculated that these records are a distorted version of Ibn Firnas' own experiment. In modern times, a lunar crater was named in honor of the great scholar.