Algebra was a project to learn as a kid, but it soon became fun and I wanted to learn more. As a child I was much more interested in learning Algebra than I was in how Algebra came about. The curiosity bug finally hit and I found out, and this is the history of Algebra.
What is Algebra?
Algebra is a form of math used to solve problems. In fact, Algebra was created to solve everyday problems that merchants encounter. Algebra uses constants and variables. Variables are symbols that represent different values when used in different equations. Constants are numbers that always have the same value. The number 5 and pi are constants,whereas x, y, and z are variables. Algebra is about reducing a problem and balancing an equation with the end goal being X = a number.
The History of Algebra
As it turns out, Algebra wasn’t invented overnight by one fellow. The Babylonians, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Indians, the Chinese, and the Europeans all contributed to Algebra as we know it today.
The Babylonian contribution
Besides solving the quadratic equation, the Babylonians developed a number system that had true place values and was in base 60. (We currently use a base 10 number system. We also have place values. For instance, 20 is two times ten.)
The Greeks also helped out with the creation of Algebra. A man named Diophantus wrote a series of books called Arithmetica. He solved equations and even used symbols, but he didn’t solve general equations. Each of the problems he solved had a specific solution unique to that problem. The techniques used to solve each problem doesn’t help to solve another problem.
Some people refer to Diophantus as the father of Algebra, but most people consider Muhammad ibn Musa-alKwarizimi to be the father. Diophantus was alive in the third century. His exact birth year and death year are not certain.
Muhammad ibn Musa-alKwarizimi (Arabic)
Muhammad ibn Musa-alKwarizimi wrote a book whose title translated to The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion of and Balancing. For the first time general problems could be solved by balancing equations. Basically, balancing equations means that what you do to one side of the equation you must do to the other side, so if you add 3 to one side, you must add 3 to the other side. This was around 820 A.D. Muhammad ibn Musa-alKwarizimi wrote is generally considered to be the father of Algebra.
The Indian contribution
Mahavira solved several kinds of equations in 850 AD. Bhaskara II solved the quadratic equation with more than one unknown in 1114 AD.
(Ancient Hindi, like the Babylonians, had a counting system and a number system with place values.)
Fibonaccci introduced Algebra to Europe in 1202 AD after reading Muhammad ibn Musa-alKwarizimi’s book. Fibonacci, along with many of his contemporaries and other scientists and mathematicians to follow, added to the field of Algebra.
Zhu Shijie solved equations with up to four unknowns around 1300 AD.
Back to the Arabian contribution
Abu al-Hasan ibn Ali ali-Qalasadi introduced the use of words and letters for mathematical symbols.
Who invented Algebra?
Algebra developed over time and many individuals contributed to it.