Ric Michael P. De Vera
Mr. Norie Sabayan
A and B
Arabic mathematics: forgotten brilliance?
Indian mathematics reached Baghdād, a major early center of Islam, about ad 800. Supported by the ruling caliphs and wealthy individuals, translators in Baghdād produced Arabic versions of Greek and Indian mathematical works. The need for translations was stimulated by mathematical research in the Islamic world. Islamic mathematics also served religion in that it proved useful in dividing inheritances according to Islamic law; in predicting the time of the new moon, when the next month began; and in determining the direction to Mecca for the orientation of mosques and of daily prayers, which were delivered facing Mecca. Recent research paints a new picture of the debt that we owe to Arabic/Islamic mathematics. Certainly many of the ideas which were previously thought to have been brilliant new conceptions due to European mathematicians of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are now known to have been developed by Arabic/Islamic mathematicians around four centuries earlier. In many respects the mathematics studied today is far closer in style to that of the Arabic/Islamic contribution than to that of the Greeks. There is a widely held view that, after a brilliant period for mathematics when the Greeks laid the foundations for modern mathematics, there was a period of stagnation before the Europeans took over where the Greeks left off at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The common perception of the period of 1000 years or so between the ancient Greeks and the European Renaissance is that little happened in the world of mathematics except that some Arabic translations of Greek texts were made which preserved the Greek learning so that it was available to the Europeans at the beginning of the sixteenth century. That such views should be generally held is of no surprise. Many leading historians of mathematics have contributed to the perception by either omitting any mention of Arabic/Islamic mathematics in the historical development of the subject or with statements such as that made by Duhem in :- ... Arabic science only reproduced the teachings received from Greek science. Before we proceed it is worth trying to define the period that this article covers and give an overall description to cover the mathematicians who contributed. The period we cover is easy to describe: it stretches from the end of the eighth century to about the middle of the fifteenth century. Giving a description to cover the mathematicians who contributed, however, is much harder. The works and are on "Islamic mathematics", similar to which uses the title the "Muslim contribution to mathematics". Other authors try the description "Arabic mathematics". However, certainly not all the mathematicians we wish to include were Muslims; some were Jews, some Christians, some of other faiths. Nor were all these mathematicians Arabs, but for convenience we will call our topic "Arab mathematics". We should emphasize that the translations into Arabic at this time were made by scientists and mathematicians such as those named above, not by language experts ignorant of mathematics, and the need for the translations was stimulated by the most advanced research of the time. It is important to realize that the translating was not done for its own sake, but was done as part of the current research effort. Of Euclid's works, the Elements, the Data, the Optics, the Phaenomena, and On Divisions were translated. Of Archimedes' works only two - Sphere and Cylinder and Measurement of the Circle - are known to have been translated, but these were sufficient to stimulate independent researches from the 9th to the 15th century. On the other hand, virtually all of Apollonius's works were translated, and of Diophantus and Menelaus...