Top 10 Arab Mathematicians

Top 10 Arab Mathematicians

Arabic mathematicians have always been remembered for developing algebra and trigonometry, combining Greek geometry with Indian and Babylonian ideas, re-introducing zero to modern civilization, and contributing through applied mathematics in astronomy. Though many think their contribution was developing the existing philosophies of mathematics, it was not the case all the time. Some of the mathematicians, as we will see in the article, also created mathematical concepts and solved problems that were left unsolved by the Greeks and Indians.

Here are some of the top mathematicians that led to the advancement of the Arab Civilisation and snippets about their life and work.

  1. Al-Kindi ( 801 AD  to 873 AD): Abu Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn ʼIsḥāq aṣ-Ṣabbāḥ al-Kindī also famously known as the father of Arab Philosophy. He was born in Kufa and studied in Baghdad. His skills and aptitude made him an essential figure in House of Wisdom and Caliphs who appointed him to translate many Greek texts. Hellenistic philosophy or the “Philosophy of the Ancients” had such a tremendous impact on him that he became a prominent advocate of the philosophy. His contribution to the field of mathematics was establishing Indian numerals to the Islamic world, which found its way to the Christian world. Al-Kindi also contributed to the evolution of cryptography. His book titled Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages advanced the rise of cryptanalysis. He popularised several methods of decoding cyphers, such as frequency analysis.

2. Thabit ibn Qurrah ( 836 AD to 901 AD): Thabit was born in 836 AD is Mesopotamia in the Sabbian Sect. This religious sect were star worshippers which proved a strong motivation for Thabit’ s study of astronomy and added to that was his sect’s secure connection with Greeks. However, the conditions that led Thabit to study this field was more than that. He was a moneychanger as a young man and inherited a family fortune giving him a socially high standing. This got him the ticket to meet Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Shakir. Who gave him the opportunity to study the subject along with his brother famously known as the Banu Musas. Thabit translated and revised some of the critical books such as Euclid’s Elements, which acted as a significant catalyst in Arabic understanding of the subject.

3. Abu Kamil Shuja’ ibn Aslam ( 850 AD to 930 AD): A prominent mathematician of Islamic Golden age who is considered the first mathematician to use irrational numbers as solutions and coefficients to equations methodically. Fibonacci later embraced this method; it made Abu Kamil harbinger of algebra to Europe. His contribution to algebra and geometry were plenty. He effortlessly worked on algebraic equations having powers higher than x2, solved sets of non-linear simultaneous equations with three unknown variables, exemplified the rules of signs for expanding the multiplication, and always computed all possible solutions to some of his problems. One of his strengths was to write the issues rhetorically, rather than to use mathematical notation.  It made it understandable even to ordinary people.

4. Al-Battani (858 AD to 929 AD): The “Ptolemy of the Arabs” and one of the best-known astronomer of the medieval Islamic world was so influential that even Copernicus quoted him. His father was a famous scientific instrument maker f his time. Ibn Khallikan used to surprise his fellow beings with his expresses ignorance on the Muslim faith. Al-Battani prowess can be determined by the fact that he measured the solar year was 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds. He missed out by 2 minutes and 22 seconds! In mathematics, he produced several Trigonometric relationships including solving the equation sin x = a cos x and formula of a right-angled triangle.

5. Maslama al-Majriti (950AD to 1007AD): Al- Majriti contributed in the translation of Ptolemy’s Planisphaerium. He enhanced the existing version of the Almagest, improved the astronomical tables of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, assisted historians by making tables to convert Persian dates to Hijri years, and introduced the techniques of surveying. He was also one of the original experimenters to record the usage and experimentation of mercury oxide. Al- Majriti also introduced new surveying methods by working closely with his colleague ibn al-Saffar and wrote a book on taxation and economics. However, his most significant contribution by many scholars was predicting a futuristic process of scientific interchange and the advent of networks for scientific communication. His school of Astronomy and Mathematics caused the beginning of organized scientific research in the Arabic world. Some of the students of this school were ibn al-Saffar, Abu al-Salt, and at-Turtushi. Historian Said al-Andalusi has rightly called him the best mathematician and astronomer of his time in his book on al-Andalus.

6. Avempace (1085 AD to 1138AD): Versatile Avampace will be remembered for his contribution to philosophy, physics, astronomy, medicine, botany, music, and poetry.  Avempace was the first to write commentaries on Aristotle in the region. Unfortunately, his endeavor on the projectile motion was never translated from Arabic to Latin. However, his outlook became so well known in the western world that it influenced contemporary medieval thought. Galileo and inclined by his work. Text 71 contains Avempace’s well-known theories on projectile motion.

7. Jabir ibn Aflah (1100 AD to 1150 AD): Abū Muḥammad Jābir ibn Aflaḥ was an astronomer and mathematician. Born in Seville, 12th century his work Correction of the Almagest influenced astronomers globally. He invented torquetum that took and converted measurements into the horizon, equatorial, and ecliptic. In simple words, it was an analogue computer.

8. Sheikh Baha’i, (1547 AD to 1621AD): This Arab mathematician, astronomer, and poet lived in 16th and early 17th centuries in Safavid Iran and was one of the earliest original astronomers of the Islamic world to advocate the prospect of the Earth moving around Sun before the spread of the Copernican theory. He wrote more than 100 treatises and books in Arabic and Persian languages on the number of different topics in architectural and engineering designs. His prominent books on Treatise on the problems of the Moon and Mercury attempted to solve inconsistencies of the Ptolemaic system. His book The summa of arithmetic was translated in Germany by mathematician  G. H. F. Nesselmann in 1843.   

9. Abdul Jerri (1932 – Present): Abdul Jabbar Hassoon Jerri is a contemporary Iraqi American mathematician. One of his most prominent contributions was Shannon Sampling Theory. More than thirty top international experts edited the Generalizations, Error Analysis, and Historical Reviews, and particularly his findings mentioned in The Journal Sampling Theory in Signal and Image Processing. He also contributed to the general understanding of the Gibbs Phenomenon, which was the first book ever on the subject.

10. Roshidi Rashed ( 1936 – Present): Roshidi is a mathematician, philosopher, and historian of science. He is well known for his work on illuminating the works of medieval Arab mathematicians and physicists. He highlights through his work the unrecognized Arabic scientific tradition. It is through the numerous publications that he has highlighted the immense contributions of the Arabic world to the development and formalization of mathematics.

There was a time when the Arab world was far ahead from all its peers. Thousands of years ago, it had tremendous technological advantages over the west in many fields, but the most prominent among them was in Mathematics. It is impressive to note that in the medieval period, the task of translating the work of Greek and Hindu mathematicians was almost an industry in its own right. The tradition has continued and even today, many Arabic mathematicians show the way in this field.

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