Nothing wrong with the world dubbed him as the father of modern chemistry. The leading Muslim chemists from the era of the Caliphate, known in the Western world as Geber, were phenomenal. Imagine, 10 centuries before a Western chemist named John Dalton (1766-1844) sparked a theory about chemical molecules, Jabir Ibn Hayyan had first discovered it in the eighth century. Jabir Ibn Hayyan was born in 721 AD and grew up in a family of doctors. He is one of the figures who is considered most appropriate dubbed as the main representative of alchemists (chemists) from Arabia in the early days of his development. His full name is Abu Abdullah Jabir bin Hayyan al-Kufi as-Sufi.
Ibn Hayyan’s collection of writings is divided into several very important groups, namely, first, books that contain essays that describe the practices of alchemy systematically with several references pointing to the practice of ancient alchemy. Second, books in the form of a systematic exposition of the teaching of alchemy by Jabir Ibn Hayyan himself. Third, the Book of the Balances, the book of equilibrium, an exposition of the theoretical or philosophical basis of alchemy and occult sciences. He also wrote 306 books about chemistry. These books have been translated in various languages and are now spread in many libraries throughout the world.
Jabir’s name skyrocketed as a chemist after he presented the chemical research methods he had discovered, which placed him as a pioneer figure in empiricism as a scientific methodology. He was also able to express his views on the theory of geological formation of a mixture of various metals. He also studied and explored, then explained, the methods for making carbonates, sulfide compounds from arsenic. In addition, Jabir is known to have made efforts to refine metals, paint colors, leather, and so on.
To support his activities as a scientist, Jabir established a laboratory for the purposes of experiments such as sublimation, filtering, crystallization, and so on. He considers experimentation the most important aspect in chemistry. Jabir argues that someone who does not lay the foundation of knowledge on experimental evidence, it is likely that he will make mistakes. The value of chemistry is not recognized by what it has read but by what has been tested and proven by experiments. The enormous amount of literature written by Ibn Hayyan, which consisted of almost all the sciences that existed at that time until the end of the eighth century, was truly incomparable. The facts show that the collection of writings was compiled at the end of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth century AD.
With what he has done, it is appropriate that Jabir Ibn Hayyan be mentioned as the Father of the First Islamic Chemistry. He was the first scientist to use the scientific method in his activities in the field of alchemy, which was later developed into chemistry as we know it today. His name was also recorded in gold ink as the first person to establish a laboratory and use the furnace to process minerals and extract substances from these minerals and classify them. Jabir’s own arena of life is familiar with the empirical and medical world. Jabir succeeded in classifying various types of objects which, in this case, were arranged based on their chemical elements. He divided it into three, namely: body, life, and reason. In relation to chemical elements, gold (Au) and silver (Ag) are included in body parts. Sulfur (S) and arsenic (As) are included in the life part. Medium, mercury (Hg) or mercury and sal ammonia (coal and oil extracts) are part of the mind.
Jabir is quite famous because of the results of his writings which reached more than a hundred treatises and are still preserved today. There are around 22 treatises which are related to alchemy and chemistry. He also introduced an experimental research model in the chemical world which became the starting point for the development of modern chemistry. In the Middle Ages, Jabir’s treatise on chemistry, including his famous book Al-Kimya and Al-Sab’een, was translated into Latin. In fact, the translation of Al-Kimya was also published by an Englishman named Robert Chester in 1444 AD under the title The Book of the Composition of Alchemy. The second book, Kitab Al-Sab’een was translated by Gerard from Cremona while Berthelot also translated several of his books, including the Book of Kingdom, the Book of the Balances and the Book of Eastern Mercury.
In 1678, an Englishman named Richard Russel translated another Jabir’s work entitled Sum of Perfection. Richard’s book has been very popular in Europe for centuries and has greatly influenced the evolution of modern chemistry. The chemistry experiments performed by Jabir Ibn Hayyan were so rich that they succeeded in convincing the next generation of scientists. He died in the year 815 AD in the Caucasus.