Who invented The Algorithm? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Most people have already heard about and experienced algorithms, even if they might not necessarily be sure from where. The most obvious examples would be Google, where people type up questions and surf the web every single day. The concept of the algorithm is a part of daily life, and there’s so much more to it than people realize.

When you consider how complicated algorithms can be, it seems crazy that someone had to have invented the concept at one point. Did you know that the concept of algorithms existed well before the word algorithm was coined? Let’s dive into the many fun facts and timeline of algorithms!

Who invented the algorithm?

The first person to coin the term algorithm was Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, a 9th-century mathematician from Persia. He wrote an Arabic language treatise called Dixit Algorizmi. The interesting thing is that algorizmi is a latinization of his name! Eventually, the term algorizmi evolved into the algorithm we know today.

The algorithm’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Babylonians
    The first to use the concept of algorithms

    Babylonian mathematicians around 2500 BC used arithmetic algorithms.

  • Egyptians
    Followed in the footsteps of the Babylonians

    The Egyptians kept the trend alive by using similar arithmetic in various ways.

  • Greeks
    Used algorithms to find prime numbers

    The Greeks were also well-known for using algorithms to find prime numbers. The mathematicians of the ancient days made good use of the concept of algorithms.

  • Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī
    The father of algebra

    The term algorithm was coined by the 9th century Persian mathematician, solidifying the concept of the algorithm.

  • Alan Emtage
    Creator of the world’s first search engine

    The world’s first search engine, Archie, was the foundation where the most popular search engines (and the algorithms behind them) were built.

When was the algorithm invented?

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī coined the term algorithm as a latinization of his name for one of his written manuscripts in 825 AD.

A brief history of the algorithm

There’s no denying that algorithms have always been a part of mathematics — and mathematics have always been tied to creation and innovation. For as long as mankind has had the spark to understand the world around us, mathematics has always been around in one way or another. When it comes to algorithms, the interesting thing is the concept has been around much earlier than when the term was coined?

It all starts with Babylonian mathematicians around 2500 BC, where they used arithmetic algorithms such as division algorithms for various tasks. Naturally, the Egyptians weren’t too far behind, with their mathematicians using similar formulas around 1500 BC. The Greeks were the next step, using the sieve of Eratosthenes — an algorithm primarily utilized to find prime numbers. The Greeks were known to use this particular algorithm around 250 BC.

The Arabic world around the 9th century AD started to solidify the concept of the algorithm, specifically with the help of the father of Algebra, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. The manuscript he created was a treatise on the Hindu-Arabic numeral system called Dixit Algorizmi — a latinization of his name. With the concept of the algorithm going into full swing, it wouldn’t be long for people to start finding newer and better ways to tackle the algorithm.

While the primary topic is the history of the first algorithm, we’re going to take a few steps forward, closer to the modern age. In 1989, Alan Emtage had the distinction of inventing the world’s first search engine. Everyone knows what search engines are, especially with industry powerhouses such as Google offering an unlimited database of knowledge using their search engine. Alan Emtage’s creation, Archie, served as the prototype and testbed for just about every modern search engine! These days, the algorithm paves the way for artificial intelligence and general machine learning. After all, AI is simply an algorithm at its core.

The algorithm timeline

  1. 2500 BC
    Babylonian mathematicians

    The concept of algorithms started with the Babylonian mathematicians. They used arithmetic algorithms.

  2. 1550 BC
    Egyptian mathematicians

    The Egyptians took the example of the Babylonians and continued with the concept of algorithms.

  3. 240 BC
    Greek mathematicians

    The Greek mathematicians would make use of arithmetic algorithms, as well as specific algorithms to find prime numbers.

  4. 825 AD
    Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī

    Known as the father of algebra, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī solidified the concept of algebra. The term algorithm comes from the latinization of his name, algorizmi.

  5. 1989 AD
    Archie, the first search engine

    Fast-forward to the almost-present, and the very first search engine is born. It’s the foundation for the most popular search engines of today.

Where was the algorithm invented?

While the concept of algorithms existed long before it was reinforced, the algorithm as we know it got its start in Persia. As for the concept of algorithms, ancient Messopotamia was where things began.

The importance of the algorithm

  • The ancient and modern method of problem solving

    At its core, algorithms are a means of solving problems. There are arithmetic algorithms, as well as algorithms made to solve specific issues. Even to this day, algorithms are still being used to solve issues.

  • The wave of the future

    The core of artificial intelligence is a complex algorithm. The most popular search engine, Google, is a complicated algorithm whose patterns are studied by businesses all over the world. There’s no denying that algorithms are the wave of the future.

  • The mathematical equivalent of human ingenuity

    Algorithms are created primarily to solve mathematical issues. In many ways, humans are a form of algorithm — always looking to solve issues.

  • A natural part of progress

    Even long before people knew of the existence of algorithms, they were already using early forms of algorithms to get the job done. It just goes to show how important algorithms are — both in the ancient world and in today’s digital sphere.

The algorithm by the numbers

  • 1,000,000,000,000Algorithms such as Google sift through trillions of web pages to find what you need. You read that right — trillions of pages.
  • 500The Google algorithm makes changes to its core processes about 500 times in a year. It’s the reason why so many businesses are always looking to make changes based on what Google does to its algorithm.
  • 6There are 6 fundamental types of algorithms. It includes the recursive algorithm, divide & conquer algorithm, dynamic programming algorithm, greedy algorithm, brute force algorithm, and the backtracking algorithm.
  • 4.54The number of active internet users as of January 2020 was about 4.54 billion. That’s a lot of people using search algorithms.

Five facts about the algorithm

  • Handling the information diet

    When it comes to where people get their news and general information, all of it is controlled by today’s powerful computer algorithms. In many ways, those who control algorithms also control the flow of information.

  • Algorithms are always confusing — at first

    There’s no denying that even the most basic algorithms can be confusing for people who have never seen that specific algorithm. However, all it takes is a bit of study to figure things out. Once you get the concept, it’ll be much easier to figure out the rest.

  • The reason for skepticism

    Many people tend to be skeptical about the news they see online specifically due to their understanding of algorithms. Anything that’s used to spark outrage or push people into a particular opinion can be accomplished all-too-easily by today’s algorithms.

  • The only way to market a business

    Without a doubt, the only way to market a business is to ensure that they take advantage of search engine optimization. SEO is used to get the attention of search engine algorithms in a bid to get their content ranked higher on the search engine results page (SERP).

  • Removing human error

    One of the primary functions of algorithms is to remove human error from the mix. It’s the reason why AI has algorithms at its core.

FAQ about the algorithm

  • How do algorithms affect everyday life?

    Algorithms can move mountains in today’s digital world. They can tell people what to feel, and shift their opinion between one thing or another. In an age with an abundance of information, it’s crucial to consider that algorithms have much more control over the uninformed.  

  • Why is Google the most popular search engine algorithm?

    Put simply, Google is the most popular as it’s the search engine that offers the most bang for buck when it comes to quality and quantity. Its algorithm doesn’t fall below expectations, and so many businesses depend on the Google algorithm to get the job done.

  • Why don’t I understand how algorithms work?

    Learning about algorithms is all about the practice you put in. Once you understand the concept and things start to click, everything else falls into place. The only issue is that the details are different depending on the algorithm. Fortunately, with an understanding of the concept of algorithms, you’ll have an easier time understanding how things work.

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