The History of Science and Maths in Arabic
This book is an excellent reference on the history of science and mathematics in Arabic, and provides an invaluable account of the contributions of the Arabic language to Latin and later mathematics. It also contains an English translation which will be of special interest to philosophers and historians of science. But there's more to Arabic mathematics than meets the eye! There are fascinating accounts of the lives and times of some of the most influential Arabic scientists and mathematicians, and a new appreciation of their work will be a welcome addition to the field.
In the early 7th century, the Islamic caliphate of Baghdad began to develop as a powerful city, with an academy of arts, a library, and an observatory. The city inherited Alexandria and Athens, and collected countless books from many different cultures. The court needed a translator, and Al-Khwarizm was the man to do the job. His work on algebra was translated into Latin in the 12th century. In fact, it is Al-Khwarizm who gives us the word "algebra" today.
The name of al-Khwarizm in Arabic is derived from the word 'al-jabr', which means "restoration". This is used to refer to adding or subtracting numbers to equations. Al-Khwarizmi's book teaches the easiest and most useful arithmetic to solve problems. Algebra was also a tool for measuring land, digging canals, and geometrical computations.
Another Arabic mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi's work was influential in the Arab world. He inspired mathematicians to use the ancient Hindu numbering system, called "Hindu-Arabic" numerals. This ancient system of numeration was adopted throughout the Muslim world and even into Europe. A century later, it spread throughout the world and was widely used.
When Ulugh Beg, the first vizier of the Abbasid Empire, founded a university in Samarkand in 1420, he invited Omar Khayyam and 60 other scientists to teach at the university. Al-Kashi soon became the University's most respected astronomer. His work preserved knowledge of the stars passed down to him by the first Greek astronomers. His discoveries helped develop geometry and algebra.
Al-Kashi's work was influential for centuries. Ancient Greek mathematicians laid the foundations for modern mathematics, and later, Europeans carried on the work. Although there was little progress in maths in the 1000 years between the Greeks and the Renaissance, there was a lot of learning to be found in the Arabic translations of Greek texts. Arabic science and maths continued to develop from the Greek teachings.
During Timur's rule, the region was plagued with war and poverty. Al-Kashi studied astronomy and mathematics and spent his spare time traveling from town to town. Once Shah Rokh arrived, the area became prosperous and there was more freedom to pursue art and intellectual pursuits. Al-Kashi's life improved dramatically with the change in the political climate and the emergence of a new ruler. His life is marked by the first major event of his life - the observation of an eclipse of the moon in Kashan on 2 June 1406.
The new Al-Mu'taman Science and Maths in Arabic is a comprehensive reference work by celebrated epistemologist and philosopher Roshdi Rashed. He is Emeritus Research Director at the CNRS and Director of the Centre for the History of Medieval Science and Philosophy at the University of Paris. He also holds an Emeritus Professorship at the University of Tokyo and is Honorary Professor at the University of Mansourah.
Al-Mu'taman was responsible for discovering Ceva's theorem, a key result of mathematical analysis. The proof was published in 1678, when Giovanni Ceva published his De lineis rectis. Ceva may have discovered the theorem himself or found a translation of al-Mu'taman's treatise on the same subject.
Abu Amir Yusuf ibn Ahmad ibn Hud, known as al-Mu'taman, was the third king of the Banu Hud dynasty in the 11th century. He continued the work of his father, Ahmad al-Muqtadir, and created an intellectual court for the royal family. His palace, the Aljaferia, was dubbed the "palace of joy". He was a patron of science and mathematics, and was himself a scholar of considerable accomplishment. His work, Kitab al-Istikmal ("Book of Perfection"), was a major source of information for Muslims.
Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Samh
Ibn al-Samh was a famous Arabic mathematician and scholar from Andalusia. He studied in Cordova at the Maslama al-Majriti school. During political unrest in Cordova, Ibn al-Samh left and fled to Granada where he worked for Berber Habbus ibn Maksan. Another mathematician from Granada was Samuel ben Nagrella.
This collection was probably of Persian and Syriac origin. The Arabic version probably dates from the first half of the ninth century. Another Arabic work, 'Utarid's Lapidary, is a specialized guide to minerals. This book is a valuable source of information and history about the origin and use of precious stones. The manuscript is considered to be the earliest Arabic work of its kind.
Other important authors of Science & Mathematics in Arabic include Abu al-Qasim i-Samh and Ibn Masawaih. While Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Samh wrote a textbook on calculus and algebra, Ibn Masawaih was a rival for his attention.
The modern fame of Omar Khayyam can be attributed in large part to his poetry. His Rubaiyat, which contains loose translations of some of his quatrains, was translated into English by Edward FitzGerald in the 18th century. The work enjoyed a fin de siecle renaissance, and by 1929 there were more than 300 separate editions.
The scholarly opinion about the authenticity of the poetry is somewhat disputed. While some scholars believe that Omar's verses were written in the 13th and 14th centuries, others have doubted their authenticity and argue that the entire tradition is pseudepigraphic. The question remains open. Whatever the case may be, the legacy of Khayyam is worth exploring.
Omar Khayyam's philosophical works are arguably the least studied aspect of his thought. They have remained unpublished until recently, but they provide a vital context for understanding the Ruba'iyyat. His philosophical works, such as The Light of Intellect on the Subject of Universal Knowledge, are particularly valuable in understanding his work, which is often referred to as the 'Risalah al-wujud'.
Al-Kashi's contribution to decimal fractions
The use of decimal fractions by al-Kashi has many ramifications. It is possible to say that al-Kashi was the first Arab mathematician to make use of decimal fractions. Al-Kashi was a prominent figure in the mathematical community in Muslim central Asia, working with prominent figures such as Ulugh Beg (1393-1449) and Qadi Zada al-Rumi (1364-1436).
One of the most important contributions to decimal fractions in Arabic is the discovery of the geometric method to solve cubic equations. He applied this method to calculate nth roots of numbers and gave new meaning to ratios. His methods of solving systems of equations also helped reform the calendar. Among other things, he used fixed-point iteration to solve systems of equations.
The full name of al-Kashi varies from one transcription to another, but the standard transliteration is Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid Mas'ud al-Kashi. Al-Kashi was born in Kashan, a desert town in Iran that is famous as an oasis along the road to the Shiite holy city of Qom. During his early years, the Kashan region was under the control of the Timur dynasty, also known as Tamurlane. The death of Timur and the ensuing decline of the empire led to a new and better life for young Jamshid al-Kashi.
Al-Haytham's contribution to Wilson's theorem
While the contributions of Arab mathematicians are usually associated with the study of algebra and number theory, Al-Haytham made contributions to geometry, astronomy, and trigonometry. He pioneered systematic experimentation and supervised testing in science, and also discussed catoptrics, a branch of physics dealing with reflections from mirrors and mirror-like surfaces.
Al-Haytham's contributions to Wilson's theorem were very early in the history of mathematics. In fact, it was the Arabs who translated Euclid and Thabit Ibn Qurra's work and were responsible for the creation of the Lambert quadrilateral, as well as determining the volume of the paraboloid.
Ibn al-Haytham was born in Basra, part of the Buyid emirate, in the year 965. In 1011, he went to Cairo under the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim, who was a patron of the sciences and particularly interested in astronomy. He proposed a hydraulic project to help flood the Nile, which led to the early Aswan Dam. Al-Haytham's contributions to Wilson's theorem in Arabic are numerous and well worth reading.
As a devout Muslim, Ibn al-Haytham had a deep interest in mathematics and applied his learning to the problems faced by Islamic sects. He researched the beliefs of other Muslim groups, including the Shia and Sunni, and concluded that their differences largely stemmed from their different backgrounds and practices. That was when he began to study the theory of gravitational in Arabic, a branch of physics that would later become one of the most famous mathematical theories in history.