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3 great Arab mathematicians that you may not know (and their great contributions to science)

“Neither mathematics nor modern physics would exist without algebra. There would be no computers without algorithms, and no chemistry without alkalis,” said theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili.

The University of Surrey professor made the BBC documentary “Science and Islam”.

“The language of modern science still has many references to its Arabic roots,” he noted on the show.

“From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, European scholars regularly referenced Islamic texts from the past.”

and make a copy of Liber Abbaci of Leonardo de Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, who would become Europe’s first great medieval mathematician.

“What is fascinating is that on page 406 there is a reference to an ancient text called Modum algebre et almuchabalhey in the margin the name is written Maumehtthe Latinized version of the Arabic name Mohammed,” says Al-Khalili.

It was about Abu Abdullah Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Jwārizmīknown in Spanish as Al-Khuarismiwho lived approximately between the years 780 and 850.

Al-Khuarismi described the revolutionary idea that any number you want can be represented with just 10 simple symbols.

The great mathematician, who emigrated from eastern Persia to Baghdad, gave the West numbers and the decimal system. He is often referred to as the father of algebra.

“Many ideas previously thought to have been brilliant new concepts thanks to European mathematicians of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries are now known to have been developed by Arab/Islamic mathematicians some four centuries earlier,” John Joshep wrote. O’Connor and Edmund Frederick Robertson, from St. Andrews University, in the United Kingdom.

“In many respects, the mathematics studied today is much closer in style to the Arabic/Islamic contribution than to that of the Greeks.”

There have been great mathematicians from the Arab and Islamic world throughout history. These are three of them.


For Juan Martos Quesada, retired professor and former director of the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, one of the main contributions of Arab mathematicians “was to rescue Greek and Latin science with their translations.”

But they also recovered the best of the science developed by the Indians.

“The great importance of Al-Batani is that he managed to unite astronomy and mathematics and make the same field of study,” Martos Quesada told BBC Mundo.

“He applied many mathematical formulas to astronomy. For example, he determined with great precision the solar year in 365 days, which was a great achievement, since we are talking about the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th”.

“Regarding the equinoxes, he studied them and found that there were errors in the accounts that Ptolemy had made and that served to perfect the entire Greek heritage of Ptolemy that the Arab mathematicians received.”

He also introduced a series of trigonometric relations.

Al-Khalili visited the University of Padua, in Italy, and saw one of the most important books in the history of science: De revolutionibus orbium coelestiumpublished in 1543 by Nicolaus Copernicus.

“The importance of this book is enormous. In it, Copernicus argues for the first time since Greek antiquity that all the planets, including the Earth, revolve around the sun.

“Many historians describe it as the initiator of the European scientific revolution”.

Copernicus cites Machometi Aracenfis, what is the great Al-Battānī.

“It is a great revelation to me that he explicitly mentions a Muslim from the 9th century, who provided him with a great deal of information about his observations.”

Al-Batani, was born in 858 near Urfa, Syria, and died in 929, in Iraq.

“Copernicus extensively used Al-Batani’s observations on the position of the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars.”

Jaime Coullaut Cordero, professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Salamanca, spoke with BBC Mundo about Ibn Al-Shatiran astronomer and mathematician who was born in Damascus around the year 1304.

“He was little known in the West because his works were not translated into Latin.”

However, he says that in the 1980s, “researchers discovered Ibn Al-Shatir’s planetary models and realized that they were the same as the models proposed by Copernicus a few centuries later.”


Shaikh Mohammad Razaullah Ansari, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Aligarh Muslim University in India, wrote an article for the UNESCO website about an Arab scholar of the 10th and 11th centuries who devoted himself not only to mathematics but also to physics, mechanics, astronomy, philosophy and medicine.

This is the great Abū Ali al-Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham al-Baṣrī, known in the West as Alhazen and, in Spanish, as Alhacén.

He was born in the year 965 in Iraq and died in 1040 in Egypt.

He was one of the famous scientists of Cairo and was called the “Second Ptolemy” by Arab scholars.

He is considered the father of the modern scientific method.

He developed the methodology of “experimentation as another way of testing the basic hypothesis or premise,” says Razaullah Ansari.

Martos Quesada highlights his contributions to the principles of optics.

In fact, according to Razaullah Ansari, his most famous work was on optics: “Kitab fi al-ManaẓirIn latin Opticae Thesauruswhich was translated anonymously in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

There are seven volumes in which he studied experimentally and math the properties of light.

But he was also a great mathematician, as Ricardo Moreno, author and associate professor at the Faculty of Mathematics of the Complutense University explains on the page of the Virtual Center for the Dissemination of Mathematics.

“He was one of the first Arab mathematicians who successfully tackled equations higher than the second degree, by geometrically solving a third degree equation that, more than 1,200 years earlier, had been proposed by Archimedes in his work ‘On the sphere and the cylinder’”.

In the field of number theory, Alhacén made an important contribution with his work on perfect numbers.

He also made contributions to elementary geometry and investigated specific cases of Euclid’s theorems.

Abu Kamil

Ricardo Moreno points out that Al-Juarismi’s death “coincided approximately with the birth in Egypt of Abu Kamil ibn Aslam ibn Mohammed, called the Egyptian calculator.”

“He lived eighty years and left us numerous mathematical works. Among them a treatise on algebra, whose Arabic original has been lost, but of which two translations have come down to us, one Latin and one Hebrew.

“The quadratic equations solves them geometricallylike its Baghdad predecessor, but leans more directly on the Elements”.

According to a brief biography by O’Connor and Robertson, very little is known of Abu Kamil’s life.

But enough to understand its role in the development of algebra.

“Kamil was one of Al-Khuarismi’s immediate successors,” the authors note.

In fact, Kamil himself highlights Al-Khuarismi’s role as the “inventor of algebra.”

“However, there is another reason for the importance of Abu Kamil, and that is that his work was the basis of the Fibonacci books”, point out O’Connor and Robertson.

“Kamil is not only important in the development of Arabic algebra, but, through Fibonacci, he is also of fundamental importance in the introduction of algebra in Europe.” (I)

Source: Eluniverso


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