Mathematician Al Khwarizmi: Facts & Contributions

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  • 0:00 Who Was al-Khwarizmi?
  • 0:28 Creation of Arithmetic
  • 1:18 Creation of Algebra
  • 2:19 Advances in Astronomy…
  • 3:36 Advances in Calendars
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

This lesson explores the life and contributions of Mohammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a noted mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. Items include his works introducing Arabic numerals, and algebraic equations as well as more precise astronomical, geographical, and calendrical work.

Who Was Al Khwarizmi?

Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a Persian who studied the sciences at Baghdad. As an educated scholar he would expand the knowledge of mathematics, geography, astronomy, and cartography, as well as our understanding of calendars. Muhammad al-Khwarizmi lived between 780 and 850 CE.

Creation of Arithmetic

Muhammad al-Khwarizmi was responsible for introducing the Arabic numeral system to the Western world. The system was identical to the one used today and was based on ten symbols as opposed to the Roman numeral system, which used the I, V, V, L, and C symbols to describe numbers up through one hundred. The Arabic numerals were less bulky because one symbol represented one digit. This allowed for more complex calculations and the development of higher mathematics.

The Arabic system also had the 0 and was capable of using negative numbers. In short, al-Khwarizmi is responsible for introducing both concepts to Europe. The word 'algorithm' even derives from his name. It was used to describe the technique al-Khwarizmi employed while performing arithmetic.

Creation of Algebra

Muhammad al-Khwarizmi developed the concept of algebra by generating a new method for solving linear and quadratic equations. His revolutionary technique began by putting the equations in one of six standard forms where b and c were both positive integers.

  • ax2 = bx (squares equal roots)
  • ax2 = c (squares equal number)
  • bx = c (roots equal numbers)
  • ax2 + bx = c (squares and roots equal numbers)
  • ax2 + c = bx (squares and number equal roots)
  • bx + c = ax2 (roots and number equal squares)

Our modern word algebra gets its name from Al-jabr, which is the process of removing negative units, roots, and squares from an equation by adding the same quantity to each side.

Advances in Astronomy

Muhammad al-Khwarizmi wrote 116 tables filled with astronomical, calendrical, and astrological data, cataloging the movements of the sun, the moon, and the five planets that were known at the time. His book was also the first of the Muslim zijes, or a prediction of the movements of the seven known celestial bodies. The zijes were based on the Indian astronomical methods, but his were more advanced. He also wrote tables for sine and cosine concepts and may have been responsible for a work on spherical geometry.

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