Born: May 18, 1048, in Nishapur, Persia (now Iran)

Died: December 4, 1131, in Nishapur, Persia (now Iran)

Omar Khayyam was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and author. His full Persian name means Omar the tentmaker. Khayyam was educated in his home town in science and mathematics. He then traveled to Samarkand where he completed studies and essays on algebra.

In his day, his accomplishments in mathematics were unequaled. Because of his reputation, he was called upon by Seljuq sultan Malikshah to create a new calendar and a map of the stars. He and other astronomers to the royal court shared a new observatory in Isfahan. Together they invented a new calendar that marked the beginning of the Jalalian or the Seljuk era on March 16, 1079.

After the death of the sultan in 1092, Omar made a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. When he returned he continued to write and teach in many fields including algebra, geometry, medicine, astronomy, and philosophy. He again served the royal court by further mapping the stars and using the maps to forecast future events.

Only a limited number of Khayyam's scientific works exist. He is best known to English readers as the author of the Rubaiyat, a collection of about one thousand four-line stanzas (roba iyat) which ponder the characteristics of humankind. They were first translated in 1859 by Edward Fitzgerald, the British poet and translator. Literary scholars and historians are not positive of the authorship of all of the verses, however, ancient manuscripts have authenticated over two hundred and fifty stanzas.