The Word Algorithm Originates in 9th Century Baghdad

The word algorithm comes from the name of a Persian mathematical genius, al-Khwarizmi, who dealt with mathematical sorcery in the 9th century. Although he did not invent algorithms in their contemporary sense i.e a finite sequence of rigorous instructions, he did inspire the Western world to use Arabic numerals instead of the clumsy Roman system. And he can be thanked for the word algebra. 

It is when his works were translated into Latin and Italian that his name transformed into Algoritmi. And then his name entered the mainstream when it started to mean arithmetic in English.

It is striking to think that some people’s names became the semantic representation of an essential concept of science and technology. How often did that happen? —

Cops, emergency room doctors, and insurance actuarists all know it. They realize how many crazy impossible things happen all the time. A burglar gets stuck in a chimney, a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away; a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike; a candle at a wedding sets the bride’s hair on fire; someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark. In former times these unlikely events would be private, known only as rumors, stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed.

But today they are on YouTube, and they fill our vision. You can see them yourself. Each of these weird freakish events just mentioned can be found on YouTube, seen by millions.

The Improbable is the New Normal by Kevin Kelly, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog, writes an excellent article about the unexpected nature of our time (spent browsing the Internet).