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Who Invented Algebra?

Date: 06/07/2004 at 17:40:58
From: Lesia
Subject: Algebra

Who invented Algebra?

Date: 06/07/2004 at 23:14:31
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Algebra

Hi, Lesia.

It depends on what you mean by "algebra"!  And that's exactly how D. 
E. Smith starts his chapter on the subject in his "History of 
Mathematics, volume 2":

  When we speak of the early history of algebra it is necessary to
  consider first of all the meaning of the term.  If by algebra we
  mean the science which allows us to solve the equation ax^2+bx+c=0,
  expressed in these symbols, then the history begins in the 17th
  century; if we remove the restriction as to these particular signs,
  and allow for other and less convenient symbols, we might properly
  begin the history in the 3rd century; if we allow for the solution
  of the above equation by geometric methods, without algebraic
  symbols of any kind, we might say that algebra begins with the
  Alexandrian School or a little earlier; and if we say that we
  should class as algebra any problem that we should now solve by
  algebra (even though it was at first solved by mere guessing or by
  some cumbersome arithmetic process), then the science was known
  about 1800 B.C., and probably still earlier.

He goes on to cover the earliest aspects briefly, mentioning such 
names as Ahmes, Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Mahavira, Liu Hui, Sun-Tzi, 
Heron, Diophantus, al-Khowarizmi, and so on.  Each of these made a 
contribution at some level.

If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum 
Associated Topics:
High School History/Biography
Middle School History/Biography

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