The House of Wisdom
The Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom was founded in Caliph Abu Jafar al-Mamun. The goal of the House of Wisdom was to become a wellspring of knowledge by gathering the best scholars and translators to translate the ancient texts from Greece and India, and then to further advance Arab sciences. Al-Mamun established the House of Wisdom in hopes that it would bring prosperity to the Muslim empire. In 833 Al-Mamun died and his son Abu Ishaq al-Mutasim ibn Harun became Caliph, he strongly supported the House of Wisdom, which remained in Baghdad after al-Mutasim moved the capital to Samarra in 836. Al-Mutasim’s son then ruled, and the House of Wisdom continued to flourish under his rule as well. When a man named al-Mutawakkil Ala Allah Jafar bin al-Mutasim came into power, he showed no interest in the learning within the House of Wisdom and thus the House of Wisdom quickly declined during al-Mutawakkil’s reign.
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was appointed to the House of Wisdom by al-Mamun. He was born around 780 and he died around 850. Little is known of al-Khwarizmi’s childhood, and of his heritage. His name would imply that he came from Khwarizmi, also known as Khorezm, which is the region south of the Aral Sea. After al-Khwarizmi joined the House of Wisdom he dedicated two of his works to the Caliph, Kitab al-Jabr wal-Muqabala and Zij. Al-Khwarizmi served in the House of Wisdom under Caliphs al-Mamun, al-Mutasim, al-Wathiq, and al-Mutawakkil. Al-Khwarizmi is considered the greatest scholar of his time. He had many achievements including interpreting the works of Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek mathematicians. Al-Khwarizmi also excelled in astronomy, for instance he wrote two books on the astrolabe, one on sundials, and one on the Jewish calendar. Al-Khwarizmi will always be most recognized for his work in algebra.
The Math Behind the Man
Algebra comes from the Arabic al-jabr, which is part of the title...
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