# Your inquiry is — who came up with algebra?

Contents

The origins of algebra can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Babylon and Egypt, but the term “algebra” itself was coined by a Persian mathematician named Al-Khwarizmi in the 9th century.

## Response to your inquiry in detail

Al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician and scholar, is credited with coining the term “algebra” in the 9th century in his book “Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala” (The Book of Restoration and Reduction). This book, also known as “Algebra”, provided a systematic approach to solving equations and laid the foundation for modern algebra.

According to The Story of Mathematics by Anne Rooney, “Al-Khwarizmi is considered to be the father of algebra, but in fact, he was more concerned with astronomy and geography than mathematics. Algebra was created as a tool to solve problems involving inheritance, taxation, commerce and trade.”

• Algebraic concepts had been used in ancient civilizations such as Babylon and Egypt, but it was Al-Khwarizmi who gave it a formal structure.
• The word “algebra” comes from the Arabic word “al-jabr” which means “reunion of broken parts” or “restoration”.
• Algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with symbols and the rules for manipulating those symbols to solve equations.
• Algebra is widely used in everyday life, from calculating simple interest to solving complex scientific equations.
• Algebra has distinct branches such as linear algebra, abstract algebra, and computer algebra.
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Table illustrating some algebraic symbols and their meanings:

Symbol Name Meaning
Subtraction Subtracts one number from another
x, * Multiplication Multiplies two or more numbers
÷, / Division Divides one number by another
= Equal to Shows that two expressions are equal
() Parentheses Group symbols together to apply operations in a specific order

As John von Neumann, a Hungarian-American mathematician, said, “In mathematics, you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.” Algebra may seem intimidating at first, but with practice and familiarity, it can become a valuable tool in problem-solving and critical thinking.

The word “algorithm” stems from the name of a Persian mathematician and scholar, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. Al-Khwarizmi was a director in the House of Wisdom and made significant contributions to mathematics, astronomy, geography, and cartography. He introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to the West and contributed to maths by showing how complex problems could be broken down into simpler parts and solved. This paved the way for the computer age, as the principles of algorithms became the foundation for modern computing.

## Some further responses to your query

Muhammad ibn Musa al-KhwarizmiMuhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a 9th-century Muslim mathematician and astronomer. He is known as the “father of algebra”, a word derived from the title of his book, Kitab al-Jabr.

Credit is usually given to either Diophantus (3rd century AD, Alexandria) or Muhammed al-Khwarizmi (c. 780-850, Baghdad – though born in the region of Khwarizm in what was northern Persia). Al-Khwarizmi gives us the word “algebra” from his book Al-kitab al-muhtasar fi hisab al-Jabr wa-l-muqabala. “Al-Jabr” translates as something like “completing” or “restoring” and refers to the method of removing a negative from one side and adding the positive to the other, for example [math]3x+2=4-2x[/math] converts to [math]5x+2=4[/math].

Of course many others were involved and the symbolic algebra we use today was developed by European mathematicians of the renaissance. Notably Descartes introduced the superscript notation for powers (eg [math]x^3[/math]).

Source: A History of Mathematics, 3rd Edition, Victor J. Katz (2009)

## Surely you will be interested in these topics

### Who first used algebra?

Both of these civilizations used algebra in different ways and for different reasons, but it’s generally accepted that it was the Babylonians who first made basic use of algebra and pioneered its beginnings in the field of mathematics. There is evidence of this that dates back as far as 1900 to 1600 BC.

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### Who invented algebra and where was it invented?

The origins of algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians, who developed a positional number system that greatly aided them in solving their rhetorical algebraic equations.
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### How did algebra first start?

Answer will be: The earliest known origins are the Rhind mathematical papyrus, written by the scribe Ahmes (or Ahmose) in Egypt around 1650 BC. Other authorities credit the Athenian Diophantus as the father of algebra, based on his series of books, “Arithmetica,” whose texts deal with solving algebraic equations.

### Why does algebra exist?

Answer: Just as multiplying two by twelve is faster than counting to 24 or adding 2 twelve times, algebra helps us solve problems more quickly and easily than we could otherwise. Algebra also opens up whole new areas of life problems, such as graphing curves that cannot be solved with only foundational math skills.

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