Al-Khwarizmi (Latinized to Algoritmi) – Best Known for Contributions to mathematics

Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780, Khwarizm – c. 850) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer and geographer, a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.

His Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala presented the first systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. He is considered the founder of algebra, a credit he shares with Diophantus. In the twelfth century, Latin translations of his work on the Indian numerals, introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world. He revised Ptolemy’s Geography and wrote on astronomy and astrology.

His contributions had a great impact on language. “Algebra” is derived from al-jabr, one of the two operations he used to solve quadratic equations. Algorism and algorithm stem from Algoritmi, the Latin form of his name. His name is the origin of (Spanish) guarismo and of (Portuguese) algarismo, both meaning digit.

On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals written about 825, was principally responsible for spreading the Indian system of numeration throughout the Middle East and Europe. It was translated into Latin as Algoritmi de numero Indorum. Al-Khwarizmi, rendered as (Latin) Algoritmi, led to the term “algorithm”.

Al-Khwarizmi systematized and corrected Ptolemy’s data for Africa and the Middle east. Another major book was Kitab surat al-ard (“The Image of the Earth”; translated as Geography), presenting the coordinates of places based on those in the… Geography of Ptolemy but with improved values for the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, and Africa.

He also wrote on mechanical devices like the astrolabe and sundial.

He assisted a project to determine the circumference of the Earth and in making a world map for al-Ma’mun, the caliph, overseeing 70 geographers.

When, in the 12th century, his works spread to Europe through Latin translations, it had a profound impact on the advance of mathematics in Europe. He introduced Arabic numerals into the Latin West, based on a place-value decimal system developed from Indian sources.See More

Page from a Latin translation, beginning with “Dixit algorizmi”Arithmetic

Al-Khwarizmi’s second major work was on the subject of arithmetic, which survived in a Latin translation but was lost in the original Arabic. The translation was most …likely done in the twelfth century by Adelard of Bath, who had also translated the astronomical tables in 1126.

The Latin manuscripts are untitled, but are commonly referred to by the first two words with which they start: Dixit algorizmi (“So said al-Khwarizmi”), or Algoritmi de numero Indorum (“al-Khwarizmi on the Hindu Art of Reckoning”), a name given to the work by Baldassarre Boncompagni in 1857. The original Arabic title was possibly Kitab al-Jam? wa-l-tafriq bi-?isab al-Hind (“The Book of Addition and Subtraction According to the Hindu Calculation”)

R. Rashed and Angela Armstrong write:

“Al-Khwarizmi’s text can be seen to be distinct not only from the Babylonian tablets, but also from Diophantus’ Arithmetica. It no longer concerns a series of problems to be resolved, but an exposition w…hich starts with primitive terms in which the combinations must give all possible prototypes for equations, which henceforward explicitly constitute the true object of study. On the other hand, the idea of an equation for its own sake appears from the beginning and, one could say, in a generic manner, insofar as it does not simply emerge in the course of solving a problem, but is specifically called on to define an infinite class of problems.”

J. J. O’Conner and E. F. Robertson wrote in the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive:

“Perhaps one of the most significant advances made by Arabic mathematics began at this time with the work of al-Khwarizmi, namely the beginnings of alge…bra. It is important to understand just how significant this new idea was. It was a revolutionary move away from the Greek concept of mathematics which was essentially geometry. Algebra was a unifying theory which allowed rational numbers, irrational numbers, geometrical magnitudes, etc., to all be treated as “algebraic objects”. It gave mathematics a whole new development path so much broader in concept to that which had existed before, and provided a vehicle for future development of the subject. Another important aspect of the introduction of algebraic ideas was that it allowed mathematics to be applied to itself in a way which had not happened before.”