- History of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system
Hindu-Arabic numeral systemis a place-valuenumeral system: the value of a digit depends on the place where it appears; the '2' in 205 is ten times greater than the '2' in 25. It requires a zero to handle the empty powers of ten (as in "205"). [ [http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/university/scit/modules/mm2217/han.htm Hindu-Arabic Numerals] ]
The numeral system was developed in ancient India, and was well established by the time of the
Bakhshali manuscript(ca. 3d c. CE). Despite its Indian origins it was initially known in the West as "Arabic numerals" because of its introduction to Europe through Arabic texts such as Al-Khwarizmi's "On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals" (ca. 825), and Al-Kindi's four volume work "On the Use of the Indian Numerals" (ca. 830) [cite web |url=http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Al-Kindi.html |title=Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Ishaq al-Sabbah Al-Kindi
accessdate=2007-01-12 |format= HTML|work= ] . Today the name "Hindu-Arabic numerals" is usually used.
An early decimal system was clearly in use by the inhabitants of the
Indus valley civilizationby 3000BC. Excavations at both Harappaand Mohenjo Daroreveal decimal weights belonging to"two series both being decimal in nature with each decimal number multipliedand divided by two, giving for the main series ratios of 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5,1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500."cite web
title = Early Indian culture - Indus civilisation
author = Ian Pearce
publisher = The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
url = http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/~history/Miscellaneous/Pearce/Lectures/Ch3.html
month = May | year = 2002
accessdate = 2007-07-24] Also, marked rulers at
Lodhar(?Lothal) reveal gradations of 1.32 inches (3.35 centimetres), ten of which are 13.2 inches, possibly something akin to a "foot" (similar measures exist in other parts of Asia and beyond). Markings on these and other texts reveal a number systemwith symbols for the numbers one through nine, and separate symbols for 10, 20, 100; thus the decimal system is highly developed though place-valueis not used.
Linguistic comparison among
Indo-European languages(ca. 3000 BC), showsa decimal enumeration system [ [http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/university/scit/modules/mm2217/han.htm Hindu-Arabic Numerals ] ] .In early Vedic texts, composed between 2500 BC and 1800 BC, we find
Sanskrit number words not only for counting numbers in very large ranges, ranging up to 1019, with some
puranasreferring to numbers as large as 1062 [G Ifrah: A universal history of numbers: From prehistory to the invention of the computer (London : Harvill Press, 1998). ISBN 1-86046-324-X ] .
Historians trace modern numerals in most languages to the
Brahmi numerals, which were in use around the middle of the third century BC. The place valuesystem, however, evolved later. The Brahmi numerals have been found in inscriptions in caves and on coins in regions near Pune, Mumbai, and Uttar Pradesh. These numerals (with slight variations) were in use over quite a long time span up to the 4th century ADcite web
title = Indian numerals
author = John J O'Connor and Edmund F Robertson
publisher = The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
url = http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/%7Ehistory/HistTopics/Indian_numerals.html
month = November | year = 2000
accessdate = 2007-07-24] .
During the Gupta period (early 4th century AD to the late 6th century AD), the Gupta numerals developed from the Brahmi numerals and were spread over large areas by the Gupta empire as they conquered territory . Beginning around 7th century, the Gupta numerals evolved into the Nagari numerals.
There is indirect evidence that the
Babylonians had a place value system as early as the 19th century BC, to the base 60, with a separator mark in empty places. This separator mark never was used at the end of a number, and it was not possible to tell the difference between 2 and 20. This innovation was brought about by Brahmagupta of India. Further, the Babylonian place value marker did not stand alone, as per the Indian "0"Fact|date=June 2007.
There is indirect evidence that the Indians developed a positional number system as early as the
first century CE. The Bakhshali manuscript(c. 3d c. BCE) uses a place value system with a dot to denote the zero, which is called "shunya-sthAna", "empty-place", and the same symbol is also used in algebraic expressions for the unknown (as in the canonical "x" in modern algebra). However, the date of the Bakhshali manuscript is hard to establish, and has been the subject of considerable debate. The oldest dated Indian document showing use of the modern place value form is a legal document dated 346 in the Chhedicalendar, which translates to 594CE. While some historians have claimed that the date on this document was a later forgery, it is not clear what might have motivated it, and it is generally accepted that enumeration using the place-value system was in common use in India by the end of the 6th century. [ [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/%7Ehistory/HistTopics/Indian_numerals.html Indian numerals ] ] . Indian books dated to this period are able to denote numbers in the hundred thousands using a place value system. [ [http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/university/scit/modules/mm2217/han.htm Hindu-Arabic Numerals ] ] Many other inscriptions have been found which are dated and make use of the place-value system for either the date or some other numbers within the text , although some historians claim these to also be forgeries.
In his seminal text of
499, Aryabhatadevised a positional number system without a zero digit. He used the word "kha" for the zero position.. Evidence suggests that a dot had been used in earlier Indian manuscripts to denote an empty place in positional notation. [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/%7Ehistory/HistTopics/Indian_numerals.html] . The same documents sometimes also used a dot to denote an unknown where we might use x. Later Indian mathematicians had names for zero in positional numbers yet had no symbol for it.
The use of zero in these positional systems are the final step to the system of numerals we are familiar with today. The first inscription showing the use of zero which is dated and is not disputed by any historian is the inscription at
Gwaliordated 933 in the Vikramacalendar ( 876CE.) [ [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/sinologie/eastm/back/cs13/cs13-3-lam.pdf Lamfin.Pdf ] ] .
The oldest known text to use zero is the Jain text from
Indiaentitled the Lokavibhaaga , dated 458 AD. [Ifrah, Georges. 2000. The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. David Bellos, E. F. Harding, Sophie Wood and Ian Monk, trans. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Ifrah 2000:417-1 9]
The first indubitable appearance of a symbol for zero appears in 876 in India on a stone tablet in
Gwalior. Documents on copper plates, with the same small o in them, dated back as far as the sixth century AD, abound. [Kaplan, Robert. (2000). "The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero". Oxford: Oxford University Press.]
Sanskrit literature, fractions, or rational numberswere always expressed by an integer followed by a fraction. When the integer is written on a line, the fraction is placed below it and is itself written on two lines, the numeratorcalled "amsa" part on the first line, the denominator called "cheda" “divisor” on the second below. If the fraction is written without any particular additional sign, one understands that it is added to the integer above it. If it is marked by a small circle or a cross (the shape of the “plus” sign in the West) placed on its right, one understands that it is subtracted from the integer. For example, Bhaskara IwritesHarv|Filliozat|2004|p=152]
६ १ २ १ १ १० ४ ५ ९
6 1 2 1 1 1० 4 5 9
to denote 6+1/4, 1+1/5, and 2–1/9
Adoption by the Arabs
Before the rise of the
Arab Empire, the Hindu-Arabic numeral system was already moving West and was mentioned in Syriain 662AD by the Nestorianscholar Severus Sebokhtwho wrote the following:
:"I will omit all discussion of the science of the Indians, ... , of their subtle discoveries in astronomy, discoveries that are more ingenious than those of the Greeks and the Babylonians, and of their valuable methods of calculation which surpass description. I wish only to say that this computation is done by means of nine signs. If those who believe, because they speak Greek, that they have arrived at the limits of science, would read the Indian texts, they would be convinced, even if a little late in the day, that there are others who know something of value." [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html]
According to al-Qifti's chronology of the scholars [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html] :
:"... a person from India presented himself before the Caliph al-Mansur in the year [776 AD] who was well versed in the siddhanta method of calculation related to the movement of the heavenly bodies, and having ways of calculating equations based on the half-chord [essentially the sine] calculated in half-degrees ... This is all contained in a work ... from which he claimed to have taken the half-chord calculated for one minute. Al-Mansur ordered this book to be translated into Arabic, and a work to be written, based on the translation, to give the
Arabs a solid base for calculating the movements of the planets ..."
The work was most likely to have been
Brahmagupta's " Brahmasphutasiddhanta" (Ifrah) [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html] (The Opening of the Universe) which was written in 628 [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html] . Irrespective of whether Ifrah is right, since all Indian texts after Aryabhata's "Aryabhatiya" used the Indian number system, certainly from this time the Arabs had a translation of a text written in the Indian number system. [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html] In his text "The Arithmetic of Al-Uqlîdisî" (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1978), A.S. Saidan's studies were unable to answer in full how the numerals reached the Arab world:
:"It seems plausible that it drifted gradually, probably before the seventh century, through two channels, one starting from Sind, undergoing Persian filtration and spreading in what is now known as the Middle East, and the other starting from the coasts of the
Indian Oceanand extending to the southern coasts of the Mediterranean." [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/ans/eastm/back/cs13/cs13-3-lam.pdf] Al-Uqlidisideveloped a notation to represent decimal fractions. [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Al-Uqlidisi.html] [http://members.aol.com/jeff570/fractions.html] The numerals came to fame due to their use in the pivotal work of the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, whose book "On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals" was written about 825, and the Arabmathematician Al-Kindi, who wrote four volumes (see  ) "On the Use of the Indian Numerals" (Ketab fi Isti'mal al-'Adad al-Hindi) about 830. They, amongst other works, contributed to the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration in the Middle-Eastand the West.
Evolution of symbols
The evolution of the numerals in early Europe is shown below:
The French scholar J.E. Montucla created this table “Histoire de la Mathematique”, published in 1757:
Adoption in Europe
*"976"The first Arabic numerals in Europe appeared in the "
Codex Vigilanus" in the year 976.
Fibonacci, an Italian mathematician who had studied in
Béjaïa(Bougie), Algeria, promoted the Arabic numeral system in Europewith his book " Liber Abaci", which was published in 1202.
*"1482"The system did not come into wide use in Europe, however, until the invention of
printing(See, for example, the [http://bell.lib.umn.edu/map/PTO/TOUR/1482u.html 1482 Ptolemaeus map of the world] printed by Lienhart Hollein Ulm, and other examples in the Gutenberg Museumin Mainz, Germany.)
*"1549"These are correct format and sequence of the “"modern numbers"” in titlepage of the Libro Intitulado Arithmetica Practica by Juan de Yciar, the Basque calligrapher and mathematician,
In the last few centuries, the European variety of Arabic numbers was spread around the world and gradually became the most commonly used numeral system in the world.
Even in many countries in languages which have their own numeral systems, the European Arabic numerals are widely used in
The Abacus versus the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in Medieval Pictures
Impact on Mathematics
The significance of the development of the positional number system is probably best described by the French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace (1749 - 1827) who wrote:
: "It is India that gave us the ingenuous method of expressing all numbers by the means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position, as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit, but its very simplicity, the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions, and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest minds produced by antiquity." "
Tobias Dantzig, the father of
George Dantzig, had this to say in "Number":
:"This long period of nearly five thousand years saw the rise and fall of many a civilization, each leaving behind it a heritage of literature, art, philosophy, and religion. But what was the net achievement in the field of reckoning, the earliest art practiced by man? An inflexible numeration so crude as to make progress well nigh impossible, and a calculating device so limited in scope that even elementary calculations called for the services of an expert [...] Man used these devices for thousands of years without contributing a single important idea to the system [...] Even when compared with the slow growth of ideas during the dark ages, the history of reckoning presents a peculiar picture of desolate stagnation. When viewed in this light, the achievements of the unknown Hindu, who some time in the first centuries of our era discovered the principle of position, assumes the importance of a world event."
Table of mathematical symbols by introduction date
* [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/sinologie/eastm/back/cs13/cs13-3-lam.pdf "The Development of Hindu-Arabic and Traditional Chinese Arithmetic" by Professor Lam Lay Yon, member of the International Academy of the History of Science]
* [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/%7Ehistory/HistTopics/Indian_numerals.html Indian numerals by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson]
* [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/%7Ehistory/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html Arabic numerals by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson]
* [http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/university/scit/modules/mm2217/han.htm Hindu-Arabic numerals]
* [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_numerals.html The Arabic numeral system by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson]
chapter= [http://www.springerlink.com/content/x0000788497q4858/ Ancient Sanskrit Mathematics: An Oral Tradition and a Written Literature]
title=History of Science, History of Text (Boston Series in the Philosophy of Science)
publisher=Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 254 pages, pp. 137-157
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