Known for being the ‘father of algebra’, Diophantus was an eminent Alexandrian Greek mathematician. He wrote countless books on the subject of mathematics and the series of books were titled Airthmetica. Unfortunately, those books got perished over the centuries. Most of his work dealt with algebraic equations and their solution.
It is believed that Diophantus may have been born between AD 201 and 215 in Alexandria, Egypt and died at the age of 84. Historians could not find much on Diophantus’ life but came to light about him was through Greek anthology numerical games, a creation of Metrodorus. Greek mathematics is inadequate without his contribution in the form of Airthmetica. A collection of algebraic problems with solutions to equations both determinate and indeterminate. Only six books have been succeeded to pass down through the ages out of thirteen. However, there are also speculations that more books were survived in Arabic translation.
It has been observed that Diophantus refrained from applying general methods in his solutions. A prominent German mathematician Hermann Hankel commented that his work is devoid of general method and each problem is solved through a unique method and application of that one method is impractical to other somewhat similar problems. Hence it is found challenging to solve a hundredth and one problem even after going over innumerable of his equations and answers.
During the Dark Ages with a sharp decline in literacy in Eastern Europe, work of Diophantus faded to oblivion. Greek Arithmetica survived but only a portion of it which Byzantine scholars copied in modern text. Bombelli was the first one to translate Airthmetica from Greek to Latin in the late 16th century. The translation remained unpublished at that time, nevertheless, Bombelli his own work Algebra which borrowed components from Airthmetica. While others had tried to publish parts of the books, for instance, Xylander published in 1575 the editio princeps of Arithmetica. Thus far the best known translation, published in Latin in the 17th century, is credited to Bachet. That 1621 edition of the books gained popularity as Pierre de Fermat penned his renowned ‘Last Theorem’ in the margins.
Besides Diophantus’ Airthmetica just a few books managed to survive. This knowledge came to attention when translators found the mention of his other work in his surviving book, for example, The Porisms. Furthermore, Diophantus work established a foundation for algebra and its evolution over the ages and in doing so it left a great impression on the minds of the future mathematicians. The late sixteenth century witnessed a great inclination toward algebra and it was Diophantus’ work that inspired them to make progress in the field. He was given the title “father of algebra” based on his relentless contribution to number theory.
Additionally, his use of mathematical notations, especially the syncopated notation played a significant role in cementing his position as a notable mathematician. He was the first one to incorporate those notations and symbolism in his work. Prior to that everyone made use of complete equations which was often time-consuming. Introduction of algebraic symbolism with abridged notation for recurring operations proved to be quite useful tool in solving problems. However, his symbolism technique lacked the expression of more general operations in algebra like the general number n. It only goes to show that his work was more focused on particular problems while ignoring the general ones.