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Maths in the Early Islamic World

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how mathematicians in the Islamic world, from C8th-C15th, developed new ideas and synthesised ideas from Greek and Indian maths.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of maths in the early Islamic world, as thinkers from across the region developed ideas in places such as Baghdad's House of Wisdom. Among them were the Persians Omar Khayyam, who worked on equations, and Al-Khwarizmi, latinised as Algoritmi and pictured above, who is credited as one of the fathers of algebra, and the Jewish scholar Al-Samawal, who converted to Islam and worked on mathematical induction. As well as the new ideas, there were many advances drawing on Indian, Babylonian and Greek work and, thanks to the recording or reworking by mathematicians in the Islamic world, that broad range of earlier maths was passed on to western Europe for further study.


Colva Roney-Dougal
Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

Peter Pormann
Professor of Classics & Graeco-Arabic Studies at the University of Manchester


Jim Al-Khalili
Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 16 Feb 2017 21:30



Useful websites:

Islamic world - History of Philosophy without any gaps (Kings College London)

Islamic Mathematics – The Story of Mathematics

MacTutor History of Mathematics archive

Mathematics in Medieval Islam – Wikipedia



Jim Al-Khalili, Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Penguin, 2012)

Muhammad b. Mūsa al-Khwārizmi (trans. F. Rosen), The Algebra of Muhammad ibn Mūsa (Oriental Translation Fund, 1831)

J. L. Berggren, Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam (Springer, 2013)

J. N. Crossley, The Emergence of Number (World Scientific, 1987)

Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (Routledge, 1998)

George Gheverghese Joseph, The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Victor J. Katz, A History of Mathematics: An Introduction (Pearson, 1998)

Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (Brown University Press, 1957)

Roshdi Rashed, The Development of Arabic Mathematics: Between Arithmetic and Algebra (Springer, 1994)

Roshdi Rashed, Al Khwarizmi: The Beginnings of Algebra (Saqi Books, 2009)

George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (MIT Press, 2007)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Colva Roney-Dougal
Interviewed Guest Peter Pormann
Interviewed Guest Jim Al-Khalili
Producer Simon Tillotson


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