The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

“One of the best of the astronomers,” Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (903‒986 C.E.) depicted the constellation of Virgo as a beautiful maiden in this illustration from The Book of Fixed Stars. Unlike their European counterparts, al-Sufi and his fellow Arab stargazers were familiar with the astronomical work of their Greek predecessors. They were thus able to give the burgeoning field of astronomy a strong mathematical foundation. Al-Sufi’s reworking of Ptolemy’s Almagest, for example, accurately plots the coordinates and magnitudes of the stars in Virgo and other constellations.