Algebra comes home?

Algebra books

My book Introduction to Algebra has been translated into two languages from the birthplace of algebra. If it encourages a reawakening of algebra there, I shall be honoured and pleased.

The first algebra book (treating solving of equations by an algorithmic, rather than geometric, method) is Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi’s Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala “can be considered as the first book to be written on algebra” (according to the St Andrews History of Mathematics site). His name gave us the word “algorithm”, while the name of his book (and one of his procedures for solving equations) gave us the word “algebra”.

There is some disagreement about where Al-Khwarizmi came from. The St Andrews History says he came from Baghdad, and cites Rashed, who dismisses opposing views as fantasy. However, Wikipedia quotes another tradition, that he (or his ancestors) came from the region of Khwarezm in Khorasan, south of the Aral Sea, which is on the borders of modern-day Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. (The most popular image of him, shown here from Wikimedia, is on a Soviet stamp issued in 1983, to commemorate his 1200th birthday.)

Al-Khwarizmi

It is generally agreed that he was a Persian, and it is thought that his ancestors were (and possibly he was in his youth) Zoroastrian, though when he came to write his algebra book he was a devout Muslim. He worked as a scholar at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.

Anyway, as I expect you have recognised, the two translations shown above are to the languages Farsi or Persian (spoken in Iran) and Kazakh.

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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One Response to Algebra comes home?

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    T.S. Eliot • Little Gidding

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