Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī

born c. 780,
died c. 850
Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī was a mathematician, an astronomer, an astrologer and a geographer.He was born around 780 in Khwārizm (now Khiva, Uzbekistan) and died around 850. He worked most of his life as a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. His Algebra was the first book on the systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. Consequently he is considered to be the father of algebra, a title he shares with Diophantus. Latin translations of his Arithmetic, on the Indian numerals, introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world in the 12th century.He revised and updated Ptolemy's Geography as well as writing several works on astronomy and astrology. His contributions not only made a great impact on mathematics, but on language as well. The word algebra is derived from al-jabr, one of the two operations used to solve quadratic equations, as described in his book. The words algorism and algorithm stem from Algoritmi, the Latinization of his name.His name is also the origin of the Spanish word guarismo and of the Portuguese word algarismo, both meaning digit.

His major contributions to mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography and cartography provided foundations for later and even more widespread innovation in algebra, trigonometry, and his other areas of interest. His systematic and logical approach to solving linear and quadratic equations gave shape to the discipline of algebra, a word that is derived from the name of his 830 book on the subject, al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa'l-muqabala (Arabic الكتاب المختصر في حساب الجبر والمقابلة) or: "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing". The book was first translated into Latin in the twelfth century. His book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals written about 825, was principally responsible for the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration in the Middle-East and then Europe. This book also translated into Latin in the twelfth century, as Algoritmi de numero Indorum. From the name of the author, rendered in Latin as algoritmi, originated the term algorithm. Some of his contributions were based on earlier Persian and Babylonian Astronomy, Indian numbers, and Greek sources. Al-Khwārizmī systematized and corrected Ptolemy's data in geography as regards to Africa and the Middle east. Another major book was his Kitab surat al-ard ("The Image of the Earth"; translated as Geography), which presented the coordinates of localities in the known world based, ultimately, on those in the Geography of Ptolemy but with improved values for the length of the Mediterranean Sea and the location of cities in Asia and Africa. He also assisted in the construction of a world map for the caliph al-Ma'mun and participated in a project to determine the circumference of the Earth, supervising the work of 70 geographers to create the map of the then "known world".[9] When his work was copied and transferred to Europe through Latin translations, it had a profound impact on the advancement of basic mathematics in Europe. He also wrote on mechanical devices like the astrolabe and sundial.


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