Math can be broadly divided into three major branches: arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. One of the most fundamental concepts in the history of math is algebra, which deals with the study of symbols, exponentials, known and unknown variables, equations, etc. You might be familiar with many mathematicians when reading about algebra. One such well-known name credited with making significant contributions to algebra is Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwārizmī. Despite the Babylonians inventing algebra and the Greeks and Hindus refining it, Al-Khwārizmī is the one who advanced algebra as we know it today.1
Who is Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwārizmī?
The brilliant Persian mathematician Muhammad Al-Khwārizmī served as one of the first directors of the House of Wisdom at Baghdad at the start of the ninth century. In addition to producing original work that had a lasting impact on Muslim and European math development, he managed to translate the key Greek and Indian mathematical and astronomical works into Arabic.1
He published a book in Arabic called “Al-Kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr waʾl-muqābala,” which was subsequently translated into English as “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” and is where the word algebra originates from. The book offers a methodical answer to both linear and quadratic equations.1
His ardent support of the Hindu numerical system, which Al-Khwārizmī saw as having the strength and effectiveness necessary to revolutionize Islamic and Western math, was perhaps his most significant contribution to math. The Islamic world quickly adopted the Hindu numerals one through nine and zero, also known as Hindu-Arabic numerals. In the 12th century, Adelard of Bath and others translated Al-Khwārizmī’s work into Latin, and these translations became popular throughout Europe. In fact, the word algorithm is derived from this Latinization of his name.2,1
Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwārizmī is rightfully called the father of algebra since he was one of the most outstanding scientists and mathematicians of the medieval era.2
Let’s examine some of his most notable contributions, which brought him this title. 3, 4 ,2, 1
Contributions and Accomplishments
Al-Khwārizmī’s algebra is viewed as the cornerstone and basis of the sciences. His book “Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala” is regarded as the founding work of contemporary algebra.
His book “kitâb al-jem wa’l tafrîq bi hisâb al-hind” used Indian numerals as opposed to letters of the alphabet to represent numbers and the first decimal notation or numeration of numbers based on position.
He did combine the mathematical knowledge of the Greeks and the Indians, but he was also the first to distinguish clearly between algebra and geometry and to provide geometrical answers to equations that were linear or quadratic.
In addition to algebra and arithmetic, Al-Khwārizmī also contributed to the science of geography. He used Claudius Ptolemy’s “Book of Geography,” as a template for his own book.
His geography book, “Kitâb Sûrat al-Ard,” also known as the “Book of the Image of the Earth,” is made up of lists of localities’ latitudes and longitudes, and it provides coordinates for places like cities, mountains, rivers, seas, and islands in tabulated form. The global map is thought to have been based on this book.
Al-Khwārizmī has also authored several other books on astronomy and history. Some of his significant works include “Encyclopaedia of the History of Arabic Science” and “Omar Khayyam: The Mathematician and Geometry and Dioptrics in Classical Islam” in history and “Sindhind zij” in astronomy. 5
Al-Khwārizmī made incredible contributions to math and science, and the field of math has a bright future ahead of it thanks to the amazing breakthroughs made by young minds every day. For more blogs like this one, go to BYJU’S FutureSchool Blog if this one inspired you and piqued your interest.
- Al-Khwārizmī | Biography & Facts | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Al-Khwārizmī
- (PDF) Al-Khwārizmī: The Father of Algebra | Amalia Listiani – Academia.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.academia.edu/7013671/Al_Khwarizmi_The_Father_of_Algebra
- Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwārizmī – Biography, Facts and Pictures. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.famousscientists.org/muhammad-ibn-musa-Al-Khwārizmī/
- Baki, A. (n.d.). Science History. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://jag.journalagent.com/ias/pdfs/IAS_5_3_225_228.pdf
- The Corpus of the Arabic Science of Weights (9th-19th Centuries): Codicology, textual tradition and Theoretical Scope | Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://al-furqan.com/the-corpus-of-the-arabic-science-of-weights-9th-19th-centuries-codicology-textual-tradition-and-theoretical-scope/