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Mathematics in medieval Islam

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Mathematics in medieval Islam

Mathematics during the Golden Age of Islam, especially during the 9th and 10th centuries, was built on Greek mathematics (Euclid, Archimedes, Apollonius) and Indian mathematics (Aryabhata, Brahmagupta). Important progress was made, such as the full development of the decimal place-value system to include decimal fractions, the first systematised study of algebra (named for The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing by scholar Al-Khwarizmi), and advances in geometry and trigonometry.

Contents

Arabic works also played an important role in the transmission of mathematics to Europe during the 10th to 12th centuries.

Algebra

The study of algebra, the name of which is derived from the Arabic word meaning completion or "reunion of broken parts", flourished during the Islamic golden age. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, is along with the Greek mathematician Diophantus, known as the father of algebra. In his book The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, Al-Khwarizmi deals with ways to solve for the positive roots of first and second degree (linear and quadratic) polynomial equations. He also introduces the method of reduction, and unlike Diophantus, gives general solutions for the equations he deals with.

Al-Khwarizmi's algebra was rhetorical, which means that the equations were written out in full sentences. This was unlike the algebraic work of Diophantus, which was syncopated, meaning that some symbolism is used. The transition to symbolic algebra, where only symbols are used, can be seen in the work of Ibn al-Banna' al-Marrakushi and Abū al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī al-Qalaṣādī.

On the work done by Al-Khwarizmi, J. J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson said:

"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. Algebra was a unifying theory which allowed rational numbers, irrational numbers, geometrical magnitudes, etc., to all be treated as "algebraic objects". It gave mathematics a whole new development path so much broader in concept to that which had existed before, and provided a vehicle for future development of the subject. Another important aspect of the introduction of algebraic ideas was that it allowed mathematics to be applied to itself in a way which had not happened before."

Several other mathematicians during this time period expanded on the algebra of Al-Khwarizmi. Omar Khayyam, along with Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī, found several solutions of the cubic equation. Omar Khayyam found the general geometric solution of a cubic equation.

Cubic equations

Omar Khayyám (c. 1038/48 in Iran – 1123/24) wrote the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra containing the systematic solution of cubic or third-order equations, going beyond the Algebra of al-Khwārizmī. Khayyám obtained the solutions of these equations by finding the intersection points of two conic sections. This method had been used by the Greeks, but they did not generalize the method to cover all equations with positive roots.

Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (? in Tus, Iran – 1213/4) developed a novel approach to the investigation of cubic equations—an approach which entailed finding the point at which a cubic polynomial obtains its maximum value. For example, to solve the equation   x 3 + a = b x , with a and b positive, he would note that the maximum point of the curve   y = b x x 3 occurs at x = b 3 , and that the equation would have no solutions, one solution or two solutions, depending on whether the height of the curve at that point was less than, equal to, or greater than a. His surviving works give no indication of how he discovered his formulae for the maxima of these curves. Various conjectures have been proposed to account for his discovery of them.

Induction

The earliest implicit traces of mathematical induction can be found in Euclid's proof that the number of primes is infinite (c. 300 BCE). The first explicit formulation of the principle of induction was given by Pascal in his Traité du triangle arithmétique (1665).

In between, implicit proof by induction for arithmetic sequences was introduced by al-Karaji (c. 1000) and continued by al-Samaw'al, who used it for special cases of the binomial theorem and properties of Pascal's triangle.

Irrational numbers

The Greeks had discovered irrational numbers, but were not happy with them and only able to cope by drawing a distinction between magnitude and number. In the Greek view, magnitudes varied continuously and could be used for entities such as line segments, whereas numbers were discrete. Hence, irrationals could only be handled geometrically; and indeed Greek mathematics was mainly geometrical. Islamic mathematicians including Abū Kāmil Shujāʿ ibn Aslam and Ibn Tahir al-Baghdadi slowly removed the distinction between magnitude and number, allowing irrational quantities to appear as coefficients in equations and to be solutions of algebraic equations. They worked freely with irrationals as mathematical objects, but they did not examine closely their nature.

In the twelfth century, Latin translations of Al-Khwarizmi's Arithmetic on the Indian numerals introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world. His Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing presented the first systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. In Renaissance Europe, he was considered the original inventor of algebra, although it is now known that his work is based on older Indian or Greek sources. He revised Ptolemy's Geography and wrote on astronomy and astrology. However, C.A. Nallino suggests that al-Khwarizmi's original work was not based on Ptolemy but on a derivative world map, presumably in Syriac or Arabic.

Spherical trigonometry

The spherical law of sines was discovered in the 10th century: it has been attributed variously to Abu-Mahmud Khojandi, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and Abu Nasr Mansur, with Abu al-Wafa' Buzjani as a contributor. Ibn Muʿādh al-Jayyānī's The book of unknown arcs of a sphere in the 11th century introduced the general law of sines. The plane law of sines was described in the 13th century by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī. In his On the Sector Figure, he stated the law of sines for plane and spherical triangles, and provided proofs for this law.

Other major figures

  • 'Abd al-Hamīd ibn Turk (fl. 830) (quadratics)
  • Thabit ibn Qurra (826–901)
  • Sind ibn Ali (d. after 864)
  • Ismail al-Jazari (1136–1206)
  • Abū Sahl al-Qūhī (c. 940–1000) (centers of gravity)
  • Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi (952–953) (arithmetic)
  • 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Qabisi (d. 967)
  • Ibn al-Haytham (ca. 965–1040)
  • Abū al-Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (973–1048) (trigonometry)
  • Ibn Maḍāʾ (c. 1116–1196)
  • Jamshīd al-Kāshī (c. 1380–1429) (decimals and estimation of the circle constant)
  • References

    Mathematics in medieval Islam Wikipedia


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