Hindu–Arabic Numerals (700 AD)

Indian ancient symbols are at the basis of today decimal numbering system. However they were not transmitted directly from India to Europe but rather came first to the Arabic/Islamic peoples who refined them and then transmitted them to Europe and the Western world.

Different numeral systems

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Arabic numerals are the ten digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The term often implies a decimal number written using these digits, which is the most common system for the symbolic representation of numbers in the world today, and is also called Hindu–Arabic numerals.

Origins of the Arabic numbers

Development of Hindu-Arabic numerals

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The decimal Hindu–Arabic numeral system with zero was developed in India by around AD 700. The development was gradual, spanning several centuries, but the decisive step was probably provided by Brahmagupta’s formulation of zero as a number in AD 628. Prior to Brahmagupta, zero was in use various forms but was regarded as a ‘blank spot’ in a positional number. It was only used by mathematicians  while the general populace used the traditional Brahmi numerals. After 700 AD, the decimal numbers with zero replaced the Brahmi numerals. The system was revolutionary by limiting the number of individual digits to ten. It is considered an important milestone in the development of mathematics.

How Symbols Became Numbers

According to Al-Beruni, there were multiple forms of numerals in use in India, and “Arabs chose among them what appeared to them most useful”.  Al-Nasawi wrote in the early eleventh century that the mathematicians had not agreed on the form of numerals, but most of them had agreed to train themselves with the forms now known as Eastern Arabic numerals. The oldest specimens of the written numerals available from Egypt in 260 A.H. (873–874 CE) show three forms of the numeral “2” and two forms of the numeral “3”, and these variations indicate the divergence between what later became known as the Eastern Arabic numerals and the (Western) Arabic numerals.

Ancient characters in Mathematics

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals

The Adaptation in Europe

In 825 Al-Khwārizmī wrote a treatise in Arabic, On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals, which survives only as the 12th-century Latin translation, Algoritmi de numero Indorum. Algoritmi, the translator’s rendition of the author’s name, gave rise to the word algorithm. The first mentions of the numerals in the West are found in the Codex Vigilanus of 976. From the 980s, Gerbert of Aurillac (later, Pope Sylvester II) used his position to spread knowledge of the numerals in Europe. Gerbert studied in Barcelona in his youth. He was known to have requested mathematical treatises concerning the astrolabe from Lupitus of Barcelona after he had returned to France. Leonardo Fibonacci (Leonardo of Pisa), a mathematician born in the Republic of Pisa who had studied in Béjaïa (Bougie), Algeria, promoted the Indian numeral system in Europe with his 1202 book Liber Abaci.

Spread of the Western Arabic Variant

Late 18th-century French revolutionary “decimal” clockface.

The “Western Arabic” numerals as they were in common use in Europe since the Baroque period have secondarily found worldwide use together with the Latin alphabet, and even significantly beyond the contemporary spread of the Latin alphabet, intruding into the writing systems in regions where other variants of the Hindu–Arabic numerals had been in use, but also in conjunction with Chinese and Japanese writing

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals                                 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu                                                                                  https://www.britannica.com/science/                                                                              http://www-history.mcs.st-

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