Did you know that algebra and algorithm are not only related, but both derived from a (mangled) translation of a mathematician? Yep!

In the 9th century, a Baghdad scholar named Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi wrote a famous treatise on mathematics that introduced Arabic numbers and computing to the West for the first time. In honor of him, these ways of working with numbers were named after him…in a way. Medieval Latin used algorismus for this “system of computation,” which was their bad translation of al-Khwarizmi. Over the centuries, algorismus eventually became algorithm.

Similarly, algebra (also joining the language in the medieval days) was influenced by this same name, altered slightly to reflect the Arabic al jabra, which means “reunion of broken parts.” By the 1550s, it meant “formal mathematics; the analysis of equations.” It wasn’t until the 17th century that the pronunciation became AL-gebra; until then, it was the more Arabic-influenced al-GEB-ra.

How do you stand with algebra? Love it? Hate it?

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