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Enlightening SymbolsA Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers$
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Joseph Mazur

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691173375

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691173375.001.0001

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The Arab Gift

The Arab Gift

(p.60) Chapter 6 The Arab Gift
Enlightening Symbols

Joseph Mazur

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the Arabs' contributions to the modern number system. It first considers the role played by Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwārizmī, the greatest Arab mathematician of his day, learned of the new Indian numbers from the Arabic translation of Brahmagupta's Brahmasphutasiddhanta, and wrote a textbook on arithmetic using the new Indian numbers. In around 820 AD, al-Khwārizmī wrote The Book of Restoration and Equalization. It was translated into Latin under the title Algebra et Almucabala, and that is how the term “algebra” came to be understood as what it is today. The chapter also looks at the Indian astronomer Kanka, who visited the House of Wisdom in Baghdad in 770 AD and brought with him many manuscripts from India, including the Brahmasphutasiddhanta.

Keywords:   modern number system, Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwārizmī, Indian numbers, Brahmagupta, Brahmasphutasiddhanta, arithmetic, algebra, Kanka, India, Arabs

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