The Father of Algebra, al-Khwarizmi

Jun 04, 2020

Do you know the father of Algebra, al-Khwarizmi?

We think of Algebra as something new, but the term actually dates back about 900 years. The word Algebra comes from the name of a Persian mathematical genius, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi.

He was born around 780 AD in the region now known as Uzbekistan. He is known as al-Khwarizmi, and he was the director in the House of Wisdom, an intellectual center for scholars in 9th Century Baghdad.

al-Khwarizmi made innovative contributions to mathematics and astronomy. He wrote an influential book called Concerning the Hindu Art of Reckoning. After 300 years, his book was rediscovered and translated into Latin. He introduced the numbers we use throughout the world today.

More importantly, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was the one who introduced us to the "zero" in a perfectly simple way. He adopted the idea of zero as a number. When al-Khwarizmi was explaining zero to humanity for the first time in history, he stated that; if we subtract eight from the other eight, there will be no numbers appearing. So, a little circle should be used to represent nothingness." He called that circle "ṣifr."

However, the main reason why we should thank al-Khwarizmi is for the word algebra, which comes from another of his works, al-jabr, which part of the title of his famous book. With a number system that goes from 0-9, al-Khwarizmi was able to develop fields such as Algebra. His books revolutionized mathematics in the West, showing how complex problems could be broken down into simpler parts and solved.
He built more on the geometry of the Greeks and develops the basic ideas many high school math students can recognize today. For 700 years after his death, European mathematicians cite him in their works, referring to him as "Algorismi." The modern word for a complex mathematical formula, algorithm, is derived from his name.
The invention of zero and Algebra opened up a whole new world of mathematical possibilities and complexities.