Showing posts from July, 2014

do you know the origin of zero?

Rolf, New York, NY.  Robert Kaplan, author of The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero, provides this answer:

The first evidence we have of zero is from the Sumerian culture in Mesopotamia, some 5,000 years ago. There a slanted double wedge was inserted between cuneiform symbols for numbers, written positionally, to indicate the absence of a number in a place (as we would write 102, the '0' indicating no digit in the tens column).

The symbol changed over time as positional notation, for which zero was crucial, made its way to the Babylonian empire and from there to India, via the Greeks (in whose own culture zero made a late and only occasional appearance; the Romans had no trace of it at all). Arab merchants brought the zero they found in India to the West, and after many adventures and much opposition, the symbol we use took hold and the concept flourished, as zero took on much more than a positional meaning and has played a crucial role in our mathematizing of the world…