Omar Khayyam was born in Persia in 1048 and was a mathematician, astronomer and poet. He was known for using a geometric approach to analyzing algebra problems and for solving cubic equations using line segments. He noted that solving the cubic required the use of conic sections and could not be solved simply with a rule and compass. This was proven to be true over seven hundred years later. He gave the “unknown variable” used in algebra an Arabic name, which was later translated into Spanish and abbreviated to the current day “x” used as the unknown variable that is being solved for. As an astronomer, he contributed to creating a more accurate solar calendar.
Whoever thinks algebra is a trick in obtaining unknowns has thought it in vain. No attention should be paid to the fact that algebra and geometry are different in appearance. Algebras
are geometric facts which are proved by propositions five and six of Book two of Elements.
One of his most famous quotations is:
The Moving Finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
1545 – Ars Magna