(Editorial) The "Father of Algebra" Whose Name You Don't Know
Updated: Jan 9
Author: Rizwan Amir
Chief Editor: Stéphane Bincheng Mao
Source: World of Math
When it comes to the field of mathematics, many remember the likes of Pythagoras, Isaac Newton, and esteemed physicist Albert Einstein. But only a few remember Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a Persian scientist known for his works in mathematics, geography, and astronomy. He is considered the grandfather of computer science, the founder of algebra, and his name is the origin of the word algorithm.
Al-Khwarizmi was born in 780 AD in Persia during a time of scientific progress and vast trade networks between China and India. His name is believed to come from the region Khwarizm where he was born. Very little is known about his early life, but al-Khwarizmi began his career in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad analyzing and translating manuscripts from the ancient Greek and Hindu world.
It is here, under the Caliph al-Ma'mun, he produced his seminal work al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala which was translated to Latin as The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing. It is in this book, al-Khwarizmi systematically laid out the foundational elements of linear and quadratic equations which became known as algebra. The word for algebra comes from the arabic word al-jabr.
From there he revised longitudinal and latitudinal values in the Ptolemy’s Geography with his second book Kitab surat al-ard (“The Image of the Earth”). He contributed to the table of sines and tangents and innovated the sundial which made it easier to determine the time for prayer.
His work on mathematics and algorithmic way of solving problems would be the fundamentals for modern day computer science and data analysis. He will be remembered as one of the most influential mathematicians to ever arise from the Islamic world.