Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The History of Zero

history of zero
When we start to learn the numbers we usually never think that where did this come from. Whether you believe it or not, there is a history behind the inception of every number and the number zero is not different from the tradition of inception.
In the time of birth of zero it was not used properly or frequently. It was normally counted as the absence of number. Now the zero is used as both a numerical digit and also a number. Zero fulfills one of the main roles in the mathematics as additive identification of the “real number”, the “integers” and also other different structures of the algebra. In the form of a digit,  zero is applied in the system of place value as the placeholder. Zero is called by different names in English. It may be called “nought”, “zero”, “nil” or the “naught”.

A brief history of zero:


The root of zero came for the Arabic “safira”. It then went through the Italian “zefiro” and then the Venetian “zero” to French “ze’ro”. The “safira” comes from “sifr” which means “nothing” and that indicate “zero”. This number was first used in English in 1598. In the Sanskrit word empty or zero means “shoonya”.


The mathematics of Babylonian had faced really complicated “sexagesimal” position in the system of numerical at the middle of the second millennium BC. The lack of the value (zero) of positional meant that there is a space between the numerals of: sexagesimal”. As per the Babylonian’s system, there is a symbol of punctuation, which was chosen as “a place holder” by the BC 300. But the placeholder of Babylonian was not the true zero as it was never applied alone. And even it was never applied at the ending of any number. Some number was considered as same like the, 3 and180 (3×60), 2 and 120 (2×60) etc did not represent different value. The contact only could show them as different one.

Greeks and Romans:

The previous study represents that the Greeks were uncertain about the fact of the zero. They did not clearly understand how the zero can be a number. They used to ask themselves how it is possible nothing to be something. In the period of Medieval, religious people argue about the character and the subsistence of “zero” as well as “vacuum”. The “zeno of elea” paradoxes contributed a lot for the confusion about the explanation of zero. In the 130 AD the symbol of the zero was used in the numeral system of the “sexagesimal” by the Greek. They influenced by the Babylonians as well as by the Hipparchus.
In the system of roman the “roman numerals” was used in the 525. This was known as the “Dionysius Exiguus”. But here to mention that, in roman the “nulla” means “nothing”. It was not used as the symbol. At the time when there was a division using zero there the “nihil” also means “nothing”. Around the 725 the symbol “N” is used to in the Roman numerals tables to mention Zero.


In the 9th century AD the zero number was used like the other number in India. In India from the very begging zero was used as a number not the symbol of separation. It was also considered as number when there was need of division.  In the 5th to 2nd century one of the Indian scholars “Pingala” used the “binary” as the form of the long and short syllables. Using zero of this pattern made it as similar as the Morse code. He and as well as his current Indian intellectuals used the word “sunya”(comes from Sanskrit”) as “zero” or “void”. The application of zero to represent the zero was started from 4th century.


For calculation of the decimal numbers as well as of the blank number the china used rods since the 4th century. There was a clear instruction of adding different signed number, subtracting same signed numbers, subtracting positive numbers from the value of zero and also the indication of subtracting the negative number from the zero etc in the book of mathematical art, which was wrote in 213 B.C. in china the word “wuru” means “null enters” or the “no entry”. As well as the negative numbers normally in the mathematicians China used “zero” and some of mathematicians used “wuru” or “kang” to indicate the no entry or empty. In 1247 one of the Chinese mathematician, Ch’in Chu-Shao’s used round symbol to indicate zero. And earlier the fifteen century most of the Chinese were well known about the negative numbers.

The Arab world:

In the 500 Ad the system of “positional number” as well as the “hindu-arabic number” was established. It was first brought in public by al-kawarimi in the book on arithmetic. He was a Persian scientist.  That book combined the knowledge of the Greek as well as the Hindu. And there are also his unique contribution on the science and math. There he gave the explanation of using zero. And just after the one century the numeral system of Arabic was stated to use in the western world.

The Americas:

The Mesoamerican calendar of long count was developed in the Central America and south-central Mexico. In this calendar the zero is used as the “placeholder” within the system of position number. A lot of glyphs like “quatrefoil” also applied the symbol of zero for those long count dates. It is supposed that when the “long count” dates came out the homeland of Maya the application of zero in the Americas pre dated Maya. It was probably after the contraption of the “olmecs”. There are many “long count” dates were got in the heartland of “olmec”. Though, the “olmec” was civilized in the 4th century BC. Many other countries also know about this “long count” dates earlier. The zero is one of the integral elements in the numerals of Maya but it never influenced the system of the others numerals.

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