Fr.: méthod de Mamun
A method for deriving the Earth's size based on
measuring a length of meridian between two points corresponding
to the difference between the respective latitudes. The Abbasid caliph
al-Ma'mun (ruling from 813 to 833 A.D.), appointed two teams of surveyors to this
task. They departed from a place in the
desert of Sinjad (nineteen farsangs from Mosul and forty-three from
Samarra), heading north and south, respectively. They proceeded
until they found that the height of the Sun at noon had increased
(or decreased) by one degree compared to that for the starting point.
Knowing the variation of the Sun's → declination
due to its apparent → annual motion, they could relate
the length of the arc of meridian to the difference between the latitudes of
the two places.
They repeated the measurement a second time, and so found that the length of
one degree of latitude is somewhat between 56 and 57 Arabic miles (Biruni, Tahdid).
360 times this number yielded the Earth's circumference, and from it the radius
The seventh Abbasid caliph Abu Ja'far Abdullâh al-Ma'mûn, son of Hârûn al-Rashîd (786-833 A.D.); → method.