The origins of the number zero


Numbers play a major part in pretty much everything we do these days. Even if you aren’t a fan of maths, or you work a job that is more creative, numbers still play a part. Our lifestyles and economies all revolve around numbers, and we use them every day. When we pay for something, tell the time, or load up our computers, we are using numbers, even if it’s indirectly.

And we all know that numbers play a massive part in cultures and customs. Consider the superstitions behind the number ‘8’ in Chinese culture, or the Biblical reference of the number ‘7’ in Western and Christian cultures. There are a lot of origins to numbers, and meanings behind those origins. Today we’re going to look at the number zero, and the origins behind it. It may be more interesting than you once thought…

The history

There are many civilizations that could be credited with the use of the first zero. Indeed, the Babylonians had a symbol that denoted the concept of nothing. The Ancient Greeks had nothing, while it is believed that the Chinese had a 0 in 690 AD. But, it is the Indians who are considered to have produced the oldest known use of the number zero. Indeed, a Bakhshali manuscript, dated around 224 and 383 AD are thought to include the oldest known use of the number zero.

Debate rages

In spite of this discovery, there are some who claim that the first ever zero should not be credited to the Indians necessarily. The reason behind this way of thinking is that, at the time, there was a lot of trade going on with the Arabic Empire, and, as such, the number could have originated from anywhere. However, there are plenty of scholars and historians who feel comfortable crediting this to India. This discovery changed the world and became the cornerstone of mathematics.

Heading West

Over the next few centuries, the usage of the number zero became significantly more widespread. China and the Middle East adopted it and began to implement it into their number systems. When the Moors conquered Spain, the number zero found its way to European shores, and by the 1600s, it was widely used throughout Europe. People like Isaac Newton made great use of the number zero in his work, specifically for the development of modern calculus. Of course, this had a massive impact on many of the amazing industries we have today. Zero was (and still is) instrumental in the fields of science, engineering, computers, economics, and the financial world.

There is absolutely no doubt that the number zero has irrevocably changed our world, and had a huge bearing on the economy and industry of the world. Without it, we would not have had many of the advancements we do, and the world would not have progressed as much as it has. It’s plain to see that zero is perhaps the most important number in the world, and arguably the single greatest discovery of all time. Who knew that little 0 meant so much?