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Blow to the propaganda that Algebra was invented by Al-Khwarizmi or Diophantus

The following pages are from the 16th century work “L’Algebra” by Italian mathematician Rafael Bombelli. Translation of highlighted text follows.



Translation from the Italian: “I have decided first to consider the majority of the authors who up to now have written about [algebra], so that I can fill in what they have missed out. They are very many, and among them Mohammed ibn Musa [Al-Khwarizmi], an Arab, is believed to be the first […] I believe that the word ‘algebra’ came from him, because some years ago, Brother Luca [Pacioli] of Borgo San Sepolcro of the Minorite order, having set himself the task of writing on this science, as much in Latin as in Italian, said that the word ‘algebra’was Arabic […] and that the science came from the Arabs. Many who have written after him have believed and said likewise, but in recent years, a Greek work on this discipline has been discovered in the Library of our Lord in the Vatican, composed by a certain Diophantusof Alexandria, a Greek author […] Antonio Maria Pazzi and I have translated five books (of the seven) […] In this work we have found that he cites the Indian authors many times, and thus I have been made aware that this discipline belonged to the Indians before the Arabs.”

Not only is algebra (Beejaganita in Sanskrit) a purely Hindu invention, in my upcoming book with @GarudaPrakashan I explore how its growth is closely intertwined with Hindu philosophical and religious thought, and how Hindu mathematicians explicitly mentioned this connection.

References: Bombelli’s book (in Italian) is available at’algebra.pdf…. The English translation is from J. Fauvel and J . Gray, The History of Mathematics: A Reader (Macmillan 1987), pg. 264. cc

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