Rise to Power and Educational Reforms
At the tender age of 15, Ulugbek was appointed as governor of Samarkand by his father, Shahrukh, who had emerged victorious in a two-year-long succession dispute following Timur‘s death. In Samarkand, Bukhara, and Gijduvan, Ulugbek built schools (madrassahs) and invited some of the most brilliant minds of his time to teach and study alongside him. He also made sure that talented but impoverished students had access to education.
Contributions to Astronomy
Ulugbek’s own astronomical research was perhaps his most impressive accomplishment. In 1428, he had a groundbreaking observatory built, which allowed him to make precise measurements of the Earth’s axis and the astronomical year. Ulugbek also compiled a star catalogue, which contained the exact positions of approximately 1,000 stars. His observatory was so advanced that it would be over a century before similar accuracy was achieved in Europe.
Challenges as a Ruler and Legacy
Despite his many achievements, Ulugbek faced challenges as a ruler. He was deposed and sent on a pilgrimage to Mecca by his own son, Abdul-Latif, after a succession dispute, and on his way there, Ulugbek was arrested and brutally beheaded. His observatory was destroyed, but thanks to one of his students, Ali Qushchi, some of his works were saved.
Ulugbek’s legacy lives on through various tributes, including a lunar crater and an asteroid that bear his name, as well as statues in Samarkand and Riga. Even the Soviet Union issued a stamp with his image in 1987, in recognition of his many contributions.
In conclusion, Mirza Ulugbek was not just a Timurid prince but also a brilliant astronomer who made significant contributions to the field. He was a visionary who brought educational reforms to his region and ensured that even the most impoverished students had access to education. Despite the challenges he faced as a ruler, his legacy lives on today, and he continues to inspire people around the world.