Zero ‘0’ is a number or rather a digit that describes the concept of ‘nothing’ or ‘the absence of the quantity.” Before the 5th century, It is believed that ancient people did know the meaning of zero but they had no proper idea or symbol to use in mathematics. Most of the credit for inventing the digit zero goes to the Indian Mathematicians and Astronomer: Arabhatta and Brahmagupta.
The name of the digit ‘0’ in English is spelled as ‘zero’ which is derived from the Italian word ‘zefiro’. It is also called ‘shunya’ in the Hindi language which originated in India and ‘sifr’ in the middle east in the Arabic language. There are many more words that represent zero like a void, nothing, vacuum, nil, none.
History of Zero
Around 800 AD ago, there was o symbol was found for zero. Firstly it came into existence in the Hindu-Arabic number system independently with a base of 10. Many civilizations, in ancient times, used the number system for counting.
1. Zero in Mesopotamian Civilization
It is believed that the Sumerians were the first people in the world who established the counting system around 4000 years ago. The number system was copied from the Sumerians by Babylonians with a base of 60. But Babylonians used to left an empty space for representing zero in their number system and it developed so much confusion in larger numerals that they have to abandon it. Around 300 BC they started using zero as a symbol of ‘two slanted wedges’ but they never developed the idea of zero as a number independently.
2. Zero in Maya Civilization
The Mayans (also called Mesoamerican which stands for south-central Mexico and Central America) used the Idea of zero in their long count calendar. Mayans used the number system that had a base of 20 and they use it in the calendar. The zero is represented as a symbol representing an eye. Though they never used zero independently in numbers or in equations.
Origin and History of Zero
Zero in India
The main credit goes to the Indians for establishing the zero as an independent number. Indians called it ‘shunya’ in the Sanskrit language that describes the meaning of “empty/ void/ space”. They also used it in their Shlokas (poems). The Indian mathematician and astronomer Aryabhatta utilize the idea of zero independently in his mathematical works but he did not use it as a symbol.
Indians represented zero by a symbol of a large dot.
Zero in Islamic Countries, China and Europe
At the end of the 8th century, zero spread in Islamic and Chinese countries. In about 825 AD, a Persian mathematician Musa-Al-Khwarizmi use a circle as a symbol of zero in his mathematical operations.