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(I) Inception of Algorithms – Ancient Times: The term ‘algorithm’ comes from the name of the Persian mathematician, Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, who imparted his teachings in mathematics and algebra in the 9th century. However, the concept of algorithms predates Al-Khwarizmi, with the earliest known algorithm being a set of instructions for the Babylonian tablet, the Plimpton 322, to solve quadratic equations, dating from circa 1800 BC.
(II) Emergence of Formalized Algorithms – 3rd Century BC: Greek mathematician Euclid is often credited with creating the first formalized algorithms, one of which, Euclid’s algorithm, was for the calculation of the greatest common divisor (GCD) of two given integers. This specific example demonstrates how algorithms have been used to aid mathematical processes since their conceptualization.
(III) Algorithms in Mechanical Devices – 1st Century AD: In the context of mechanical computing, one of the earliest known devices was the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek analogue computer used to predict astronomical positions. This demonstrates the use of algorithms in tangible mechanical devices.
(IV) Early Algorithm Development – Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, Arab mathematicians continued to refine algorithms, particularly in the fields of algebra and arithmetic. Al-Khwarizmi’s work on algorithms was then translated into Latin, spreading this influential concept throughout Europe.
(V) Algorithms in Calculus – 17th Century: With the advent of calculus in the 17th century, mathematicians like Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed more specialized algorithms for problem-solving in the field, marking important progress in mathematical thought and execution.
(VI) Age of Mechanical Calculators – 19th Century: The 19th century saw the development of the first mechanical calculators capable of performing complex calculations. Inventors like Charles Babbage designed machines, such as the Analytical Engine, which incorporated primitive algorithms to perform calculations and is now considered a conceptual precursor to modern computers.
(VII) Birth of Modern Algorithms – Mid 20th Century: The concept of algorithms came into its own with the advent of the digital computer. In the mid-20th century, scientists like John Von Neumann started to develop algorithms to control electronic computers and execute a wide array of computational tasks.
(VIII) Era of Optimization – Late 20th Century: From the 1960s onward, the focus of algorithm development shifted towards optimization. Computer scientists developed algorithms for specific tasks or classes of tasks, with an emphasis on efficiency and minimizing computational resources.
(IX) Age of Internet and Data – Early 21st Century: The rise of the internet and the explosion of available data brought about new challenges and opportunities for algorithms. Algorithms became central to search engines, data sorting, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and countless other digital applications.
(X) Modern Algorithm Development – Present Day: In today’s world, algorithms determine many aspects of everyday life, and the development of more efficient and versatile algorithms remains a central challenge in computer science. The introduction of quantum algorithms and neural networks are one of a few important milestones that have continued to refine the landscape of what algorithms are capable of achieving.