Alfalfa, now commonly abbreviated in commerce into Alfa, the popular name of a grass which furnishes one of the most important of paper materials, also commonly called Esparto or Spanish grass. It is Macrochloa (formerly Stipa) tenacissima and not, as often stated, Lygeum spartum. Introduced by Mr. Thomas Routledge in 1856, it came into general use during the American war, when the cotton famine produced a scarcity of rags, just when the repeal of the paper duty had increased the demand. It is a native of the south of Spain and the north of Africa, growing in dry ferruginous soil near the sea. It reaches three or four feet in height, and its leaves yield 56 per cent of their weight of fibre. The demand exceeds the supply; but the costliness of Alfa is tending to the increased use of wood-pulp as a substitute.
Al-Farabi, an early and distinguished Arabian philosopher, who flourished in the beginning of the tenth century. Like most of the speculative thinkers of his race, he was a physician, and practised his art at the court of Seif-Eddaula, in Damascus. From the fragments of his works that have come down to us, he appears to have had a tendency towards asceticism, derived from contact with the Neo-Platonic school. Al-Farabi died in 950 A.D.