Meet Ali al-Daffa, greatest Saudi mathematician of his time
24 July 2018|10 Dhul Qa’dha 1439|Al Arabiya
Hailed as the greatest Saudi mathematician of his time, Ali Abdullah al-Daffa was able to see through the graduation of thousands of students from high-ranking universities such as King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and Harvard University.
Daffa contributed to the development of the mathematics curricula in Saudi Arabia about 40 years ago as well as enriched Arab libraries with 49 original books, most of which revolve around mathematics.
He was nicknamed by mathematicians in the US as the “King of Integration”, to the extent where at some math competitions, contestants could not use solutions previously presented by Daffa.
Al Arabiya caught up with Daffa at his home in Khobar after he completed more than 37 years of teaching before he retired in 2008.
Daffa started from the beginning when he was a child, and spoke about how his mother shaped his success.
“My mother used to always tell me that if I found a math problem difficult, I should always go back to her and ask,” Daffa said.
“I remember how my mother struggled for 70 years to provide a good living for us,” he said.
Daffa spoke about his experience with King Saud before his retirement, where the king shook his hand with great pride and expressed how “proud the country is” of Daffa.
Although Daffa was offered a job to become the head of the Mathematics and Sciences department at the King Fahd University, he insisted on still being a professor and continuing to teach.
Daffa graduated from the University of Texas in 1967 and acquired a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in the United States. He later returned to Saudi Arabia and worked at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals as an assistant professor.
Daffa was appointed president of the Union of Arab Mathematicians and Physicists twice.
Daffa contributed to the development of the mathematics curricula in Saudi Arabia by using simple solving methods to facilitate the study of this field.
The mathematician had great love for his students whom he taught at the University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Saud University and Harvard, where he studied throughout his career.