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# A Description of Algebra Defined By Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

Algebra is defined by Websters New Collegiate Dictionary as a generalization of arithmetic in which letters representing numbers are combined according to the rules of arithmetic This is not a good definition of algebra It would take a thick book to really explain it In fact to this day it is still being added to There are always new things to be discovered about it It has been added to by many different people over the centuries Algebra has a long interesting history The first work describing algebra was called Arithmetica a treatise by Diophantus of Alexandria It was a collection of 130 problem and numerical solutions Only 6 of the 13 books have been found the others were believed to have been destroyed soon after their creation Diophantus was known as the father of algebra The way he solved problems algebraically was know as Diophantine analysis He lived from about 200 AD to about 284 AD He was the first to use an algebraic symbolism in which symbols and letters represented the unknown He refused to believe that there was any such thing as a negative number He reasoned this by saying it is impossible to have negative four objects He did much work with quadratic equations and even equations with variables to the sixth power Diophantus also seemed to know that any whole number could be written as the sum of four squares Pierre de Fermat did some work with this but it was not proved until later when Joseph Louis Lagrange worked with it Despite all of Diophantuss work algebra had a long way to go before general problems could be written down and solved There were many other influential people in the history of mathematics One such man was named Theon of Alexandria He wrote commentaries on many other works of mathematics in his time In many cases he added extra steps into others proofs He never really did anything original

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