Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Week 1 - History of Zero (History)

History of 0

The history of 0 does not necessarily refer to what we believe zero to always be. We would assume that when we hear “zero”, we would think of something that is actually nothing. “I have zero chance of buying this car”, or “There is zero food left at the buffet....shame”. In history though, dating back to Babylonians before Christ, zero did have its existence, as a measurement. More so, zero represented larger quantities, much like how we have tens and hundreds and thousands and so on. 

It is impossible to tell where zero came from, and cannot be traced to a single source. The concept of zero has been around for centuries, and is thought to be initially used throughout the Middle East, India, and North Africa in the Arabic numerical system, and brought to Europe by Fibonacci in the 13th century. There is evidence that zero was used by the Babylonians but was not written as a single digit or symbol, but interpreted as such. From there, zero became more recognizable, and became more known as how we would typically think of it: as the average between -1 and 1. 

Now, we see zero as applicable as any given single item in mathematics. It became the center of origin in coordinate planes. More familiarly, it represents an empty space. Oddly enough, the Greeks were believed to have put a symbol to zero, as their numbers were not represented by digits, but by lines. Thus, with zero space not be able to represented by any physical measure, they used “0” to represent the empty space in their numerical system. 

To get a rough interpretation of the use of zero by all sorts of history’s cultures and societies, I’d recommend reading:

Other works cited: 

1 comment:

  1. Clear - +
    Coherent - +
    Complete - needs a bit deeper exposition to show your time investment. Some detail, or depth on a certain issue.
    Consolidated - With more content, it will be good to have a summary to tie things together.
    Correct - you dodge the history we do know that could be fleshed out. Also like to see you get at the two main ideas: zero as a placeholder, then zero as a number.