The Story of zero
Zero was invented by Babylonians, Mayans and Indians. Ancient society knew the concept of ‘nothing,’ however they did not have a symbol or letter to represent it.
Babylonians developed the Sumerian counting system where they had a placeholder symbol to represent zero. The Mayans also developed zero as a placeholder. However, it was in India where zero became an important part of the number system. The Indian scholar Pingala used binary numbers and was the first to use the Sanskrit word ‘sunya’ for zero. In 628 AD, Brahmagupta used a dot below numbers to symbolize zero, instead of a blank space. Brahmagupta also used zero in writing rules for mathematical operations. The concept of zero soon spread to China and the Middle East. A Persian mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, proposed that a small circle be used if no number was being used in the tens place. The Arabians called this ‘siphr’ or empty. Al-Khowarizmi used zero to invent algebra. In around 900 AD, the number system was brought to Europe by the Arab traders. Europeans adapted the concept of zero to their number system. Zero is now an essential part of mathematics.