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Who Invented Zero?

Maths | 7-14 yrs | Interactive, Reading Pod

Invention of Zero

Zero was invented independently by the Babylonians, Mayans and Indians . Though ancient civilizations already knew the concept of ‘nothing,’ they did not have a symbol or letter for it.

History of Maths

  • The Sumerians were the first people in the world to have introduced a counting system. The Babylonians used the Sumerian counting system to develop a number system. They had a placeholder symbol, to show that there were no tens in 1101, for instance.
  • 600 years after the Babylonians, the Mayans also developed zero as a placeholder.

When Zero became a concept?

  • The concept of zero did come from the Babylonian system, but it was in India where zero became an important part of the number system.
    In India, mathematical equations were chanted in poetry . Words which meant ‘void,’ ‘sky,’ ‘space’ all represented nothingness or zero.
  • The Indian scholar Pingala used binary numbers and was the first to use the Sanskrit word ‘sunya’ for zero. In 628 AD, Brahmagupta used a dot below numbers to symbolize zero. Before that, mathematicians always used a blank space to show zero or nothing.
  • Brahmagupta wrote rules for mathematical operations like addition and subtraction, using zero.
  • Aryabhatta used zero in the decimal system.

How Zero got its name?

  • Zero soon spread to China and the Middle East. Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, a Persian mathematician, proposed that a small circle be used if no number was being used in the tens place.
  • The Arabians called this ‘siphr’ or empty. Al-Khowarizmi used zero to invent algebra.
  • Later the number system was brought to Europe, around 900 AD, by the Arab traders and was called the Hindu-Arabic system. Till then the Romans did not have zero in their number system. Zero is now an integral part of mathematics all over the world.

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