Biographies

Al-Khwarizmi, algebra and algorithms

Al-Khwarizmi, algebra and algorithms

Mahommed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was an Arab mathematician, born in Kharizm (now Jiva, Uzbekistan) in 780. Then Caliph Harun al-Rashid, fifth caliph of the Abbasid dynasty reigned. The capital was in Bagdag. Harun had two children and at his death, there was a war of succession between the two brothers, al-Amin and al-Mamun. He won the al-Mamun war and al-Amin was executed in 813.

al-Mamun continued the patronage of arts and culture that his father had started and founded the House of Wisdom, where Greek philosophers and scientists taught. He also built a library and an astronomical observatory.

Al-Khwarizmi was a librarian at the court of Caliph al-Mamun and an astronomer at the Baghdad observatory. His works of algebra, arithmetic and astronomical tables greatly advanced mathematical thinking.

The work al-jebr w'al-muqabalah was translated into Latin, for the first time, at the Toledo School of Translators and had a great influence on the mathematics of the time. The translation of the title of the work was complicated, so the translators chose to Latinize the title, making it aljeber which ended up deriving in the current algebra.

The word jebr refers to the operation of passing an equation term on the other side of the equation and the word muqabalah refers to the simplification of equal terms.

The Latin version of al-Khwarizmi's treatise on algebra was responsible for much of the mathematical knowledge in medieval Europe.

In Spain, where the Arab influence was very important, the term algebra emerged, it was used to refer to the art of restoring dislocated bones and the algebrist term that was the person who knew how to fix dislocations.

Another book by al-Kharizmi was De issue indiorum (On Hindu numbers). In this book the rules for arithmetic operations are given. These rules were referred to as the al-Kharizmi rules and by deformation of the word reached the current term algorithm.

His work with the algorithms introduced the method of calculation with the use of Arabic numeration and decimal notation. Mathematics owes al-Khwarizmi the introduction of the current numbering system and algebra.

He died around the year 835.

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