The Beginnings of Algebra

Edited by


9780863564307 December 2009 Hardback 408pp

About the Book

Al-Khwārizmī was a mathematician, astronomer and geographer. He worked most of his life as a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad during the first half of the 9th century and is considered by many to be the father of algebra.

His Algebra (Kitab al-Jabr wa-al-muqabala), written around 820 AD, was the first scientific text in history to systematically present algebra as a mathematical discipline that is independent of geometry and arithmetic. This groundbreaking work is divided into two main sections: one, dealing with algebraic theory, and the other focusing on the calculation of inheritances and legacies.

Al-Khwārizmī’s book laid down the groundwork for a scientific field where mathematics and juridical learning meet, which was further developed by successive generations of mathematicians and jurists. This text also highlighted for the first time the deep-rooted possibilities in algebra to extend the use of mathematical disciplines from one to another, such as the application of arithmetic to algebra, or of geometry into algebra, and vice-versa for these three disciplines into one another; hence opening up novel areas of mathematical research. Latin translations of al-Khwārizmī’s book began in the 12th century, and these texts held a continuous influence over algebra and mathematics until the 16th century.

Roshdi Rashed’s book is the first Arabic critical edition of al-Khwārizmī’s Algebra. It is also the first scholarly annotated translation into English that contains an introductory essay and extensive commentaries on the text that bring the reader back as faithfully as possible to al-Khwārizmī’s original text.

About the Contributors

Roshdi Rashed is a leading authority in history and philosophy of science and mathematics. He is Senior Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, and a former Professor at the University of Tokyo. He has published widely in French and Arabic, and his books in English include: Al-Khwārizmī: The Beginnings of Algebra, The Development of Arabic Mathematics: Between Arithmetic and Algebra, Encyclopaedia of the History of Arabic Science, Omar Khayyam: The Mathematician and Geometry and Dioptrics in Classical Islam.