The discovery of Zero is the greatest abstraction of the human mind. It is not wrong to say that the concept or the invention of zero was revolutionary in mathematics. Zero is a symbol for the concept of nothingness or having nothing. It gives rise the ability for a common person to be able to do mathematics isn’t. Before it, mathematicians struggled to perform the simplest arithmetic calculations. Now a day’s zero both as a numeric symbol and a concept help us to do calculus, in solving complicated equations and is the basis of a computer.
But the question arises from where zero number first appears?
Zero was fully developed in India around fifth century AD or first time about zero is talked in India only. In mathematics it is really vibrant in the Indian subcontinent. First place to see the ideally zero beginning to be born is from Bakhshali manuscript dating back to the third or fourth century. It is said that a farmer in 1881 dug up the text from a field in the Bakhshali village near Peshawar today is Pakistan. It is quite a complicated document because it is not just a one piece of document, but it consists of many pieces written over a pace quite a century back. With the help of radiocarbon dating technique, which is a method for measuring the content of carbon isotopes in organic material to determine its age shows that the Bakhshali manuscript consists of several texts. The oldest part dated to AD 224-383, next is to AD 680-779 and another is to AD 885-993. This manuscript has 70 leaves of birch bark and contains hundreds of zeros in the form of dots.
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That time these dots were not zero as a number, but it was used as a placeholder digit for building large numbers like 101, 1100 etc. Even with the help of this document merchants in the past do calculations. Some more ancient cultures are there which used the similar placeholders like the Babylonians, they used it as a double wedge, Mayans, used it as the number of shells. So, we can say that ancient civilizations knew the concept of ‘nothing’ but they don’t have the symbol or letter for it. According to the Oxford University, in India, in Gwalior an inscription was found in a temple which dates back to the ninth century and has been considered the oldest recorded example of a zero.
Do you know when Zero became a concept?
Zero became an important part of the number system in India. Even in the past mathematical equations were chanted in poetry. Words meaning void, sky, space represent nothingness or zero. Pingala an Indian scholar used binary numbers and he was the first who use ‘shunya’ for zero as a Sanskrit word. Brahmagupta a scholar and mathematician in AD 628 first time defined zero and its operation and developed a symbol for it which is a dot underneath the numbers. He had also written rules for mathematical operations like addition and subtraction using zero. Then, Aryabhatta a great mathematician and an astronomer used zero in the decimal system.
From the above article it is clear that zero is an important invention of India, which gave a new direction to mathematics and makes it more logistic.