A mathematician is someone who is an expert in the subject

of maths and can display an extensive knowledge when it comes to numbers, data,

shape, models and structures1. Of course, throughout

history there have been many mathematicians who have influenced greatly how mathematics

is applied to daily life. Such

mathematicians though honoured, have never been presented with one of the

greatest recognition for academic, cultural and scientific advances – the Nobel

prize2. The Nobel prize began through Alfred Nobel who signed away

his largest fortune to prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature

and even peace3. Notably absent is the award for mathematics, the

reason for this relating very personally to Alfred Nobel whose mistress had an

affair with a mathematician. However as there is little evidence for this, it

is largely more believable that Alfred Nobel did not care much for mathematics

due to the reason that he did not think it would benefit the human race4.

In the event that a Nobel prize for mathematics did exist, I

would argue that it be presented to Muhammed ibn Musa al – Khwarizmi, an Arab

mathematician from the years 780 – 850 CE, though he was alive centuries ago,

his contribution to mathematics will be something that will always be used,

arguably even more so in the future. Throughout his life he translated many

scientific manuscripts in languages varying from Ancient Greek, Hebrew and even

Rome5. Alongside his contribution to algorithms he also contributed greatly

to geography, astronomy and is known as ‘The father of Algebra’6.

The Latin word for ‘Muhammed’ is ‘Algorismi’ which is where

the word ‘algorithm’ is derived from, commonly found in the use of computer

software everywhere hence showing Al – Khwarizmi’s’ significant contribution to

the technological world5. Al-Khwarizmi is known for introducing the Arabic

numeral system particularly into the west. It is currently still used today and

was similar to the roman numerical system but easier hence allowed for more

complicated calculations and allowed maths to develop to a higher level11.

The Arabic system introduced by him allowed mathematicians to use the integer 0

alongside allowing negative integers. The world ‘algorithm’ is hence used to

describe the techniques used by Al-Khwarizmi during his use of arithmetic’s5&10.

To further explain why I believe Al – Khwarizmi would be deserving

of the Nobel prize, we can begin by talking about his contribution to trigonometry,

he came to terms and established further the terms ‘sind’ and ‘hind’ which

translated become ‘sinus’ and ‘cosinus’ which is commonly known in trigonometry

as the bases of most if not all formulas5. He also went on to

produce the first accurate table of tangents and specialise in spherical

trigonometry7. These have aided in making many advancements

particularly in physics and engineering, it is commonly used for circular

shapes, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, behaviour of elementary particles, planetary

motion, optics, signal processing, in aspects of chemistry and even in

temperature inside walls8.

In addition to this, he has helped to form the basis of the

world map by further enhancing Ptolemy’s work and making it more accurate and

detailed hence why we still find that we are using it today5. He did

this in his book called ‘Kitab Surat al-ard’ which means ‘Book of the image of

the earth’ and when translated into French becomes ‘Configuration de la Terre’,

what we know today as ‘Geography’10&5. Within the book he

calculated the longitude and latitude of around 2,400 sites which aided in

forming the base of what we see on the world map today9. His book extensively

covers cities, seas, mountains, rivers and even islands. Not only did his book

act as a basis of a fundamental understanding of geography but also helped

formulate further geographical studies and helped to create treaties of land10.

One of his greatest contributions has to be his contribution

of Algebra, known as the ‘Father of algebra’ Al – Khwarizmi wrote his book ‘Hisab

al jabr w’al muqabala’ from which the name ‘algebra’ is derived10.The

book was written to help the Muslim society at the time find practical

solutions to their problems involving inheritance, legacies, lawsuits,

measuring farmland, trade, digging canals and even geometric calculations5.

The book was also known to go on to become one of the contributions to the ‘place

value numbering’ system of the West which is now one of the basic teachings of

mathematics across the globe showing the importance of Al-Khwarizmi’s work10.

The bases of algebra are said to come from Al-Khwarizmi through his solutions

to Islamic empires problems. His works on algebra were used globally around the

world and particularly in Europe up until the 17th century, it is

due to him that Indian mathematics was passed to the Arabs and then through

Latin to reach Europe. Though he did combine many aspects of Greek and Indian

mathematics, he was the first to show a clear differentiation between algebra

and geometry10. It is from this that some would argue the bases of

science was born and thus gives Al-Khwarizmi the name of ‘Father of Algebra’ as

he introduced it to the world as we know it today.

Not only did Al-Khwarizmi actively provide large

contributions to geometry, geography and mathematics, he also had many

contributions by incorporating these into his other works relating closely to astronomy

and astrology. He filled out 116 tables with astronomical, astrological and

calendrical data following the movement of the sun, the moon and the 5 known planets

at the time of his work11. These at the time were of great use to

the people as they did not have the advanced technology we have today. It may

have even helped develop some of the way science charts the movement of the

solar system now. His book following his astronomical, astrological and calendrical

work was one of the first books of the Muslim ‘Zijes’ which is knowns as the ‘prediction

of the movement of the seven known celestial bodies’11. Though these

Zijes were arguably based off of Indian astronomical work, Al-Khwarizmi’s were considered

to be more advanced and accurate, hence more widely accepted.

In conclusion, Muhammed Kahn quotes “In the foremost rank of

mathematicians of all time stands Al-khwarizmi.”12 It is argued that

Al-Khwarizmi has composed some of the oldest known works on arithmetic’s and

algebra and these have gone on to become the source of most knowledge not only

in the east where it originates but also in the west. Algebra, considered one

of the foundations of mathematics comes from Al-Khwarizmi showing the

importance of his work to mathematics. Alongside this he also brought together

the Arabic and Hindu numeral systems. It is fitting to say that Al-Khwarizmi

deserves the Nobel prize for mathematics as he has helped to build the basis of

mathematics, all his works are used today without recognition and he seems to

be forgotten mostly on the basis of his religion. Therefore, I can conclude

that Al-Khwarizmi is the most deserving candidate for the Nobel prize in

mathematics13.