Muhammad ibn Musa Al Khwarizmi was born around 780 AD and died about 850 AD. He was a known mathematician who was a member of the “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad. Al Khwarizmi directed and engaged in intellectual interests from algebra, geometry, astronomy and translating of Greek scientific manuscripts. This paper will profile the life and times of this great intellectual person and his discoveries during his time at the “House of Wisdom”.
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a mathematician, an astrologer, geographer, an astronomer and a scholar in the “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad (what is now Iraq). Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi's exact details are not known but there are postulations about his date of birth at around 780 CE at Khwarizm. Not much information is known about his place of birth or his upbringing. He has been one of the erudite men who used to work in the “House of Wisdom” and he particularly flourished during Kalif al-Mamun’s leadership. Kalif al-Mamun was the son of Khalif Harun al-Rashid who was especially famous in the Arabian Nights and who popularized the “House of Wisdom” as a teaching and scientific research center (Famous Scientists and Inventors in History).
This great scientist died at around 850 AD. He is being remembered as one of the most influential scientist in early Islamic culture.
Al-Khwarizmi was lucky to be born during the golden age when there was harvesting of intellectuals that led to the golden age. During the golden age of Islam, Arabic was the universal language of the intellects and Al-Khwarizmi lived in the “House of Wisdom” which was a library established in Baghdad. Many well known scholars like Al-Khwarizmi were brought into the “House of Wisdom” to share useful information and ideas. The “House of Wisdom” was founded by Caliph Abu Jafar and when he died in 833 AD, his son Al-Mutasim ibn Harun took over and showed a lot of interest during which time Al Khwarizmi became a member of the “House of Wisdom”. The “House of Wisdom” declined when another person named al-Mutawakkil Ala Allah Jafar took the reins of power. Therefore, al Khwarizmi was fortunate to have grown during the time the “House of Wisdom” showed a lot of interest in intellectual talents. The period in which Al Khwarizmi was born was a vibrant period in Arab civilization that preserved, enhanced and communicated the knowledge.
History of Algebra and Al Khwarizmi
It is at the “House of Wisdom” that al Khwarizmi encountered the Indian numerals (0, 1, 2…9) and wrote a treatise of the Arabic numerals. Later, in the 12th century, his work was translated into Latin and was very important in the introduction of Arabic numerals in Europe where the first positive zero was used as a positional holder (University of Arkansas at Little Rock).
Algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of structure, relation and quantity. Algebra, in fact, comes from the Arabic word al-jabr from al Khwarizmi’s book “al-Kit%u0101b al-mu%u1E2Bta%u1E63ar f%u012B %u1E25is%u0101b al-%u011Fabr wa-l-muq%u0101bala” (meaning the book of reduction and summary) written in 820 AD (Abisatya).
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi is famous for developing the concept of algorithm in mathematics (and he earned the name “the grandfather of computer science” from some people). Al-Khwarizmi’s algebra is considered by many as the cornerstone of all sciences. His mathematical work’s title, Hisab al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabala, was the first work that used the word algebra and the book was later translated into Latin by Robert of Chester and Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century. The book worked out several hundred examples of quadratic equations by analysis and geometry. The book also contained sections on how to divide up inheritances and how to survey plots of land. The book has several ways on how to solve for practical computational problems instead of algebra as the term is currently used (Famous Scientists and Inventors in History).
Al-Khwarizmi’s greatest work was algorithm and he confined his work to equations of the first and second degrees and wrote important work on astrology, astronomy and algebra. His astronomical works covered calendars, calculations on the true position of the sun, moon & other planets, astrological tables, eclipses and parallax calculations and the visibility of the moon while his astronomical work which he titled Zij al-sindhind was based on the work of other scientists.
Al-Khwarizmi’s most recognized work was algorithm. Today’s generation algorithm to do applications like addition, long division and some principles found in al-Khwarizmi’s book that was written more than 2000 years ago. He was responsible for bringing the Arabic numbering to the West thus setting the process that came to use nine Arabic numerals.
In geography, al-Khwarizmi made some important improvements to the theory of sundials construction. He systemized and corrected Ptolemy’s research using his own research and findings on the shape of the earth entitled Sray al-Ard. There were some maps but they were not preserved although modern scholars have been able to reconstruct them from al-Khwarizmi’s works and descriptions. Al-Khwarizmi is also known to have supervised the work of some 70 geographers creating a map of the then known world. His geographical work was later to be known in Europe through Latin translations and he made a big influence on the development of science in Europe.
Evolution of algebra since Al Khwarizmi Death
Algebra is a branch of mathematics derived from the word Al-Jabr that was derived from the works of Muhammad ibn Musa Al Khwarizmi. Al Khwarizmi’s title was Al-jabr w’al muqâbala which can be translated as“simplification.” The word al-jabr meant restoring the balance of equation (like in the example x2 + 4 = 6), while the word al-muqâbala means simplification of the equation. Al Khwarizmi was able to come up with a unified generalized problem solving some of which are still used today (Al Khwarizmi: the father of algebra).
Since the Al Khwarizmi’s times more developments have been added to the study of algebra. In fact, the word algorithm evolved from Al Khwarizmi’s first transcribed name Alchoarismi and scholars used the term to refer to mathematical operations using the new Arabic system.
Why I chose Al-Khwarizmi
Algebra is a unique discipline and is abstractness causes the brain to think in new different ways while building the brain better. I feel that the study of algebra associated with Al-Khwarizmi is one of the ways of maximizing our brain use. Abu Jafar Muhammad has had a great impact in our lives especially in this era of information technology. He is a credited grandfather of computer science and the father of algebra. I feel that it is through this great mathematician that we are able to solve not only our core problems through his simple but useful approach to the life’s problems. I have come to appreciate mathematics through Al-Khwarizmi’s work.
From the above literature, Al-Khwarizmi was a notable intellectual person especially in the field of mathematics. He discovered ways through which algebraic quadratic expressions would be solved by keeping the question simple and easy to be manipulated. His quadratic equations became so popular that European universities in the 16th century used his book AL Jabr as the principle mathematics. He wrote a mathematical book around 830 AD with the encouragement of the Caliph of the “House of Wisdom”. He provided exhaustive ways of solving the polynomial equations while discussing the importance of reduction and balancing. He is one of the greatest mathematicians who lived in the 9th century.