Situated close to the Ota Darvasa, a large brooding statue commemorates one of Khiva's most famous local heroes, Abdullah Muhammed Ibn Muso Al Khorezmi (780-850), the father of algebra. Born in Khiva, he proved a budding scientist from his early days, displaying such extraordinary talent that he was invited to study in Baghdad, one of the world's leading cultural and intellectual centres of the time. Here he embarked on an brilliant academic career, studying under the auspices of various Khalifs, working in the Baghdad observatory and teaching in the famous 'Baytul Hikma' university ('Dwelling of the Wise') which produced several notable Arab and Central Asian scientists.
Known by his nickname 'Al Khorezmi' (from Khorezm), Abdullah Mohammed made significant discoveries which revolutionised mathematics forever. He introduced algorithm, the method of calculation using Arabic numerals and decimal notation to which he gave his name (his name in Latin is Algorismi), and he was the first scholar to use the term 'al jabr' (algebra) for mathematical purposes. In fact, the Latin translation of his book on algebra established the foundation for much of the mathematical knowledge of mediaeval Europe. He also made breakthroughs in the fields of astronomy and science and is rumoured to have written books about history and music as well. Ever the realist, Al Khorezmi took a keen interest in applying his findings to everyday life and often included practical tips in his writings, such as the best way to solve money and land disputes.
To find out more about Khiva's eighth century genius, go to the Matpana Baya Madrassah which contains paintings and copies of his work. There is also a new museum next to Urgench airport which pays homage to this mathematical wizard.