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“India added Zero to Maths”

Zero. It is the first whole number in the infinite-length number system. This single number changed the way mathematics takes its form. In the History of Math and Zero in India, we would read that without zero, there is no accounting and Calculus.

We might sometimes wonder why would this zero even exists. Just imagine, what could be the case if we remove zero from the number system. For most of the calculations, we think almost all would have gotten their end.

Well, you may feel why this math even existed. But, we cannot escape from the fact that maths is an important subject. Everything starts from Zero. So, we must accept Zero and Math as resources than calculations.

If we want to know about the history of Math and Zero, we should know about Brahamagupta. Brahmagupta is an ancient Indian Mathematician. He was the one who explored the properties of Number Zero. Some of the advanced mathematical discoveries had their roots in India.

India added Zero to Maths

The modern system of positional decimal arithmetic with zero was discovered in the fourth or fifth century. This is because,

As the 19th-century mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace explained:

It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers using ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea that appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to all computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.

This is clear evidence that Zero was first developed in India around the fifth century. Soon then zero has become an important part of the number system across the world. The Indian scholar Pingala was the first to use ‘Shunya’, a Sanskrit word for zero. In 628 AD, Brahmagupta first defined zero and its operation. He developed a symbol which is a dot under the numbers. He also defined clear rules for addition and subtraction formulas. These are the basis of any mathematical function. Later these, Aryabatta used zero in the decimal system. Besides these, mathematics was also found to be used  in religious texts in ancient India.

The scholars preserved Mathematics in the city of Mohenjo Daro. This is far from the past during the Indus Valley Civilization. We use Math everywhere. Right from advanced architecture to its methods of measurement, counting, weighing, and more. The Roman number system does not go further than ten to the exponent of four. In contrast to it, the Indus Valley Civilization knew denominations as large as ten to the exponent of twelve.

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India’s Lost history of a great Mathematician – Srinivasa Ramanujan

The heritage of Indian mathematics was grown after the work of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Most of the discoveries attributed to European scholars have their traces in India. Pythagorean theorem is one glorious example. Similarly, much of the work on Calculus is also done in India.

A Brief about Zero in Maths!

Sometimes, nothing makes better sense if placed beside the valued one. The same is the case with Zero. Despite the negative view, the invention of zero simplified many calculations. The rule of zero in math is significant. If you want to better know the value of zero, check about its placeholder value.

European civilizations were late to incorporate zero until the Fibonacci concept came out. Later in the Middle East and Africa, zero has become a revolutionary concept. This inspired the middle age thinkers to fundamental mathematics in the world.

The count of Nothing started here

The discovery of zero did not come all at once. It followed a series of stages in its fullest evolution. The count of this Nothing started first by Babylonians some 4000 years ago.  They adopted the positional notation to count the number and read it(The one we follow now). They divided the number into columns and defined the positional value of each column. (Ex: Ones, Tens, Hundreds, etc from right to left).

In this process, when they find nothing between the columns, they filled it up with ‘-’(A Dash/Hyphen). This has nothing in the true sense.  Later on, they came out with placing wedges in place of dash/hyphen. When the context of writing the sum of 2 & -2, the result is not very precise to show.

From here, zero slowly began to spread all around. But the true appreciation of representing zero in number line ventured in India. The researchers saw the first evidence of zero as ‘Shunya’.  And then Brahmagupta on his rules for calculations wrote that

“When zero is added to a number or subtracted from a number, the number remains unchanged; and a number multiplied by zero becomes zero.”

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Here are the few important roles of Zero in math –

1. Necessary for fractions:

We wouldn’t know the concept of fractions without zero in math. Zero created a more accurate way to describe fractions.

2. Set the Boundary:

In basic subtraction, you find negative numbers. How could these come without zero? Confused?

Zero is neither positive nor negative. But, It sets the boundary between them both.

3. Foundation of Digital world:

There are two kinds of people. They are those who understand math(1) and those who don’t(0).

You may not understand this, but the computer you are operating understands this well. Because all your computer functions are built in Binary language which has only two alphabet (0 and 1).

Wrapping Up

From the first line of this blog, it is told that zero came into existence as a notion of nothingness. Then why do we need to indicate that nothingness even?

Though the Greeks believed zero was nothing, nothingness was very important in eastern regions. There were many debates to figure out the origin of Zero. But finally, this “Zero has become the Hero” of the world.

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