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The History of Zero

Updated: Jun 3

“Zero is just a number in the numerical system”. Doesn’t everyone say that? But no. There is a long history behind the number zero. It dates back to 628 AD, when a mathematician and astronomer named Brahmagupta discovered it in East India. Some people in these times assumed that zero did not exist. Since everyone thought that zero was non-existent, Brahmagupta wisely introduced a dot to represent this and also included it in the number system. This was the very first time that zero was included with all the other numbers, instead of on its own. He was the very first person who helped people use zero in their calculations. 

There was also another mathematician who was involved in giving zero to the world, called Aryabhata. Aryabhata gave rules to use zero as a place holder. Soon, the knowledge spread around the whole world and famous mathematicians started using it in their calculations globally. Today, zero forms an essential part of Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and Computer Science, and is written as a circle or an ellipsis. 

Some facts about zero are…

  • Zero is neither positive or negative: it is just an integer that sits exactly in between positive and negative numbers.

  • Zero is a whole number by definition as it is neither positive nor negative.

  • Other names for zero are nought, nothing, cipher, and nil: there are so many different names for zero because the number has been implemented into many different cultures and languages over centuries.

I chose to write about zero because everyone thinks zero is just an ordinary number and is just there in the number system. I became interested in writing about the number because I love maths and I wanted to correct my own assumptions on zero.

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Juntao Li
Juntao Li
Jun 03


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