The Founder of Algebra

The Founder of Algebra: Muḥammad ibn Mūsā


Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi, was a Persian scientist, mathematician, and author. He was born c. 780; and died c. 840 in the town of Khwarizm (now Khiva), in Khorasan province of Persia (now in Uzbekistan). The name al-Khwarizmi means the person from Khwarizm. His family moved soon afterward, to a place near Baghdad, where he accomplished most of his work in the period between 813 and 833. There are various guesses at his native languages, including Persian or more probably Khwarizmian (now dead). All of Al-Khwarizimi’s works were written in Arabic.

He developed the concept of the algorithm in mathematics (which is a reason for his being called the grandfather of computer science by some people), and the words “algorithm” and “algorism” come from Latin and English corruptions of his name. He also made major contributions to the fields of algebra, trigonometry, astronomy, geography and cartography. His systematic and logical approach to solving linear and quadratic equations gave shape to the discipline of algebra, a word that is derived from the name of his 830 book on the subject, Hisab al-jabr wa al-muqabala (حساب الجبر و المقابلة in Arabic).

While his major contributions were the result of original research, he also did much to synthesize the existing knowledge in these fields from Greek, Indian, and other sources. He appropriated the place-marker symbol of zero, which originated in India, and he is also responsible for the use of Arabic numerals in mathematics.

Al-Khwarizmi systematized and corrected Ptolemy’s research in geography, using his own original findings. He supervised the work of 70 geographers to create a map of the then “known world”. When his work became known in Europe through Latin translations, his influence made an indelible mark on the development of science in the West: His algebra book introduced that discipline to Europe and became the standard mathematical text at European universities until the 16th century. He also wrote on mechanical devices like the clock, astrolabe, and sundial. His other contributions include tables that included trigonometric functions, refinements in the geometric representation of conic sections, and aspects of the calculus of two errors

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