The numbers we use today are called Arabic, but in fact they began life in India as early as 500 A.D.
The first recorded zero appeared in Mesopotamia around 3 B.C. The Mayans invented it independently circa 4 A.D. It was later devised in India in the mid-fifth century, spread to Cambodia near the end of the seventh century, and into China and the Islamic countries at the end of the eighth.
Indians devised a system that could cope with vast numbers. They developed a different symbol for every number from 1 to 9. The symbols are very close to what we use today. In the Christian world, they were using the Roman numeral system (I,II,III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X,etc.). Adding and subtracting using the Roman numeral system was very difficult.
A symbol was discovered in a temple in Gwalior, India. It is considered the holy grail of numbers. It is the symbol for the number ZERO. A new revolutionary idea since the days the Sumerians invented the counting system. Now it is not the first time it was written, but the first recorded time it was used for a distinct purpose.
While the Romans and the Christian world used numbers to record their conquest and how many dead bodies there were after a war, the Indians used numbers to advance commerce and banking.
Indian astronomers also excelled beyond the Christian world. They were able to work out that the earth spins on its own axis and that the earth moves about the sun. Over in Europe, Copernicus would not figure this out until a thousand years later. Indian scientists were also able to calculate the earth’s diameter to within one percent of its actual measurement. All of this was possible because of the symbol zero and the other nine digits.
Mathematicians were in an Enlighten period throughout the Islamic world. New formulas and equations were being derived and new methods of calculations were being explored. Mathematics exploded in the Islamic world.
Zero found its way to Europe through the Moorish conquest of Spain and was further developed by Italian mathematician Fibonacci who used it to do equations without an abacus, then the most prevalent tool for doing arithmetic. This development was highly popular among merchants who used Fibonacci’s equations involving zero to balance their books.
In the year 1201, Fibonacci wrote a book called “The Book of Calculations” after witnessing how the symbol zero and the digits one through nine were used in the market places on the shores of Northern Africa. Because of how money was being handled in these market places and the ease at which calculations were done, the era of the Roman numerals died a slow death. Well not exactly slow, but by the 16th century, the Indian figures, now commonly called Arabic numerals, finally triumphed.
Today we use the ten digits: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and zero without ever thinking of where they came from…, but now you know.
Information was gathered from the following sites:
By Jessie Szalay, Live Science Contributor | September 18, 2017 12:29pm ET: https://www.livescience.com/27853-who-invented-zero.html
1 The Story of Numbers (0 and 1) Indian Numerals or Arabic?