Al Khwarizmi, the Grandfather of Computer Science

Posted on Apr 25 2013 - 6:55pm by Manzar Chaudhury

Islamic mathematician Al Khwarizmi, the academic of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, is arguably the most talented Muslim scholar.

The Persian born al-Khwarizmi was among the first mathematicians who used zero as a place holder in positional base notation.  He moreover, was the adopter of the decimal system. Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala is one of his algebra treatises the value of which is acknowledged world wide since it helped him become the original inventor of algebra. Algebra derived from al-jabr reflects the significance of al-Khwarizmi’s contributions to present day mathematics.

Like other Abbasid Empire patronized Muslim scholars he contributed to number of fields including astronomy, geography, cartography, and trigonometry. It was Al-Khwārizmī who arranged and corrected Ptolemy’s data for Africa and the Middle East.

Significant Works of Al Khwarizmi:

  • Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala or The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing
  • Kitab surat al-Ard  or The Image of the Earth
  • Kitab al-Tarikh, a book of annals

In the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive J. J. O’Conner and E. F. Robertson described the importance of Al Khwarizmi’s role: “Perhaps one of the most significant advances made by Arabic mathematics began at this time with the work of al-Khwarizmi, namely the beginnings of algebra. It is important to understand just how significant this new idea was. It was a revolutionary move away from the Greek concept of mathematics which was essentially geometry.”

According to Al Khwarizmi, Algebra was invented to solve real life problems. As he said: “When I consider what people generally want in calculating, I found that it always is a number. I also observed that every number is composed of units, and that any number may be divided into units.”

Yes, it is algebra and algorithms which enabled the building of computers, and the formation of encryption. That is why the father of algebra is often called the grandfather of computer science.

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