Concept of dating history
If philosophical and cultural factors found in India were important to the development of zero as a mathematical concept, it would explain why other civilizations did not develop zero as a mathematical concept, said van der Hoek.According to the book "The Crest of the Peacock; Non-European Roots of Mathematics," by Dr. Joseph suggests that the Sanskrit word for zero, śūnya, which meant "void" or "empty" and derived from the word for growth, combined with the early definition found in the Rig-veda of "lack" or "deficiency." The derivative of the two definitions is Śūnyata, a Buddhist doctrine of "emptiness," or emptying one's mind from impressions and thoughts.Marcus du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, said, "Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world.But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics."We now know that it was as early as the third century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world.Discovered in a field in 1881, researchers thought it also had originated in the ninth century.However, recent carbon dating has revealed that it was probably written in the third or fourth century, which pushes the earliest recorded use of zero back 500 years.The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian sub-continent for centuries."Over the next few centuries, the concept of zero caught on in China and the Middle East.According to Nils-Bertil Wallin of Yale Global, by 773, zero reached Baghdad where it became part of the Arabic number system, which is based upon the Indian system.
Six hundred years later and 12,000 miles from Babylon, the Mayans developed zero as a placeholder around A. 350 and used it to denote a placeholder in their elaborate calendar systems.
The Sumerians' system passed through the Akkadian Empire to the Babylonians around 300 B. There, Kaplan agrees, a symbol appeared that was clearly a placeholder — a way to tell 10 from 100 or to signify that in the number 2,025, there is no number in the hundreds column.
Initially, the Babylonians left an empty space in their cuneiform number system, but when that became confusing, they added a symbol — double angled wedges — to represent the empty column.
Merchants continued to use it illegally and secretively, and the Arabic word for zero, "sifr," brought about the word "cipher," which not only means a numeric character, but also came to mean "code." By the 1600s, zero was used fairly widely throughout Europe.
It was fundamental in Rene Descartes' Cartesian coordinate system and in calculus, developed independently by Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhem Liebniz.
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Robert Kaplan, author of "The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero," suggests that an ancestor to the placeholder zero may have been a pair of angled wedges used to represent an empty number column.