Hindu–Arabic Numerals (700 AD)_Persian language, numerals

Indian ancient symbols are at the basis of today’s 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

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

Arabic numerals comprise the following 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 current system for representation of numbers, and is also called Hindu–Arabic numbers.

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. Before Brahmagupta, zero was used in 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

Persian language,numerals

Persian also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. Persian is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Persian was the first language to break through the monopoly of Arabic on writing in the Muslim world, with Persian poetry becoming a tradition in many eastern courts. There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide.  In general, the Iranian languages are known from three periods: namely Old, Middle, and New (Modern). These correspond to three historical eras of Iranian history; Old era being sometime around the Achaemenid Empire (i.e., 400–300 BC).

Language Classical Persian. Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. Page from a manuscript of the Shahnama of Firdawsi (d. 1020)
Written 977–1010 CE
An Old Persian inscription written in Old Persian cuneiform in Persepolis, Iran

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_language#/media/File:Pers%C3%A9polis._Inscription.jpg

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

The Modern Persian script is directly derived and developed from Arabic script. After the Muslim conquest of Persia and the fall of Sasanian Empire in the 7th century, Arabic became the language of government and especially religion in Persia for two centuries.   Modern Iranian Persian and Afghan Persian are written using the Persian alphabet which is a modified variant of the Arabic alphabet, which uses different pronunciation and additional letters not found in Arabic language. The Persian alphabet   mostly but not exclusively right-to-left; mathematical expressions, numeric dates and numbers bearing units are embedded from left to right. The script is cursive, meaning most letters in a word connect to each other.

Persian uses the Eastern Arabic numerals, but the shapes of the digits ‘four’ (۴), ‘five’ (۵), and ‘six’ (۶) are different from the shapes used in Arabic.

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

The Adaptation in Europe

On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals, it is a treatise in Arabic written in 825 by Al-Khwārizmī, which survives only as of the 12th-century Latin translation, Algoritmi de numero Indorum.  in the Codex Vigilanus of 976, the first mentions of the numerals in the West are found. Gerbert of Aurillac (later, Pope Sylvester II) from the 980s spread the knowledge of numbers in Europe, studied in Barcelona, and was known for having requested mathematical treatises regarding the astrolabe from Lupitus of Barcelona after his return to France. Leonardo Fibonacci (Leonardo of Pisa), a mathematician born in the Republic of Pisa who had studied in Béjaïa (Bougie), Algeria, with his 1202 book Liber Abaci promoted the Indian number system in Europe.

Spread of the Western Arabic Variant

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

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

The “Western Arabic” numerals in common use in Europe since the Baroque period then found a worldwide use together with the Latin alphabet, intruding into the writing systems in regions where other variants of the Hindu–Arabic numerals had been used, but also in combination with Chinese and Japanese writing.

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