Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi, known as
Father of Algebra, was born at Khawarizm (Kheva), south of Aral Sea. Very
little is known about his early life.
His family had migrated to a place south of Baghdad. The exact dates of his
birth and death are also not known, but it is established that he flourished
under Al- Ma'amoun at Baghdad through 813-833 and probably died around 840
Al Khawarizmi was a great Muslim mathematician, astronomer and geographer.
He is one of the most prominent mathematicians who ever lived. Moreover he
was the founder of several branches and basic concepts of mathematics. In
the words of Phillip Hitti, Al Khawarizmi's contribution to mathematics
influenced mathematical thought to a greater extent. His work on algebra was
outstanding, as he not only initiated the subject in a systematic form but
he also developed it to the extent of giving analytical solutions of linear
and quadratic equations, which established him as the founder of Algebra.
The very name Algebra has been derived from his famous book Al-Jabr
His arithmetic synthesized Greek and Hindu knowledge and also contained his
own contribution of fundamental importance to mathematics and science. Thus,
he explained the use of zero, a numeral of fundamental importance developed
by the Arabs. Similarly, he developed the decimal system so that the overall
system of numerals, 'algorithm' or 'algorizm' is named after him.
In addition to introducing the Indian system of numerals (now generally
known as Arabic numerals), he developed at length several arithmetical
procedures, including operations on fractions. It was through his work that
the system of numerals was first introduced to Arabs and later to Europe,
through its translations in European languages. He developed in detail
trigonometric tables containing the sine functions, which were probably
extrapolated to tangent functions by Maslama. He also perfected the
geometric representation of conic sections and developed the calculus of two
errors, which practically led him to the concept of differentiation. Al
Khawarizmi is also well known for his collaboration in the degree
measurements ordered by Ma'amoun al-Rashid that was aimed at measuring of
volume and circumference of the earth.
His development of astronomical tables was a significant contribution to the
field of astronomy, on which he also wrote a book. The contribution of
Khawarizmi to geography is also worth mentioning, in that not only did he
revise Ptolemy's views on geography, but also corrected them in detail as
well as his map of the world. Other contributions include original work
related to clocks, sundials and astrolabes.
Most of Al Khawarizmi's books were translated into Latin in the early 12th
century. In fact, his book on arithmetic, Kitab al-Jam'a wal- Tafreeq bil
Hisab al-Hindi, was lost in Arabic but survived in a Latin translation. His
book on algebra, Al-Maqala fi Hisab-al Jabr wa-al- Muqabilah, was also
translated into Latin in the 12th century. Translating his books into Latin
introduced this new science to the West "completely unknown till then". His
astronomical tables were also translated into European languages and, later,
into Chinese. His geography captioned Kitab Surat-al-Ard, together with its
maps, was also translated. Also he wrote a book on the Jewish calendar
Istikhraj Tarikh al-Yahud, and two other books on the astrolabe. He also
wrote Kitab al-Tarikh and his book on sun-dials was captioned Kitab al-Rukhmat,
but both of them have been lost.
The influence of Khawarizmi on the development of science, in general, and
mathematics, astronomy and geography in particular, is well established in
history. Several of his books were readily translated into a number of other
languages, and, in fact, constituted the university textbooks till the 16th
century. Al Khawarizmi's approach was systematic and logical, and not only
did he bring together the then prevailing knowledge on various branches of
science, particularly mathematics, he also enriched it through his original
contribution. No doubt AL Khawarizmi has been held in high repute throughout
the centuries since then.
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