- #1

- 18,534

- 21,429

An entire book could easily be written about the history of numbers from ancient Babylon and India, over Abu Dscha’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Chwarizmi (##\sim ## 780 – 845), Gerbert of Aurillac aka pope Silvester II. (##\sim ## 950 – 1003), Leonardo da Pisa Fibonacci (##\sim## 1170 – 1240), Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß (1777 – 1855), Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805 – 1865), to Kurt Hensel (1861 – 1941). This would lead too far. Instead, I want to consider the numbers by their mathematical meaning. Nevertheless, I will try to describe the mathematics behind our number systems as simple as possible.

I like to consider the finding of zero as the beginning of mathematics: Someone decided to count what wasn’t there! Just brilliant! However, the truth is as often less glamorous. Babylonian accountants needed a placeholder for an empty space for the number system they used in their books. The digits zero to nine have been first introduced in India. In Sanskrit, zero stands for emptiness...

Continue reading...