The Discovery Of Zero

The Discovery of Zero- India’s Mathematical Marvel

India’s contribution to the field of Mathematics is far from ‘Nil.’

And yet, all Indians can say with a sense of pride, that it is ‘Zero!’

The discovery of Zero can be traced as far back as the 5th century, when an Indian Mathematician known as Aryabhata used the number in the Decimal System. Needless to say, this is an achievement that Indian citizens have always celebrated with a sense of pride.

The discovery of the number Zero, is widely touted as the greatest of Aryabhata’s achievements. It is for that very reason, that we will take a closer look at this number over the course of this blog post.

Ready to know more about Aryabhata’s mystical ‘Zero’? Read on, to find out all the ‘somethings’ behind this seemingly innocent ‘nothing’ of a number!

Table of Contents:

Nothingness: The Origins of Aryabhata’s Zero

To understand Zero, we must first be made aware of its origins. When we think of the number ‘zero’, the first thing that comes to our mind is a sense of ‘nothingness’.

Indeed, it’s this very sense of nothingness that has baffled ancient thinkers from diverse cultures around the world.

Interesting Fact: Did you know, there existed ‘placeholder systems’ that were invented by the ancient Babylonians and Mayans, to represent the ‘empty’ spaces in numerical systems?

Back home, there existed a Sanskrit scholar named Acharya Pingala, who is believed to be the first person to use the name ‘Sunya’, which represents the number Zero. However, to understand the origins of zero in Indian culture, we will have to dig a little deeper.

From time immemorial, Indian culture, too, has held the philosophical belief of a kind of ‘void’ or ‘nothingness.’ In fact, this concept was taken to another level, as people were taught through religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, to meditate on its very essence!

Cool Fact: The infamous Hindu ‘bindi’, that is represented by a circle with a dot in the centre, is nothing short of being representative of the number Zero itself!

Beyond Nothingness: The History of Zero

Going beyond ‘nothingness’ and ‘the void’, Zero slowly started gaining traction in the annals of Mathematical History.

The following are some of the landmark milestones, vis a vis the History of Zero.

  1. The earliest use of Zero in ancient India
  2. It is believed that Zero was used for the first time as a decimal digit, in a mathematical text known as the Lokabhivaga.

  3. Laying the Mathematical Foundations for the number Zero
  4. In case you’re wondering when the foundations for mathematical functions like ‘addition’ and ‘subtraction’ were laid, it was in the 7th century AD. This was by none other than the famed astronomer Brahmagupta.

  5. Further advancements to the number
  6. Arab mathematicians were next to take the number Zero further.

    Cool Fact: It took a while for the idea of the number Zero to reach Europe – as late as the 12th century A.D. This was only because, the Church was vehemently opposed to the very ‘idea’ of the number Zero!

  7. Fibonacci takes it even further!
  8. If you have heard of the term ‘Fibonacci Sequence’, it’s because of the legendary work in Mathematics done by the great Italian Mathematician Fibonacci.

    Cool Fact: Fibonacci actually made use of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in his book. If the ‘sign’ of zero was used then in Europe, it was thanks largely to him.

Zero surely went a long way, from being the modest ‘placeholder’ it started out as, to the fascinating Mathematical Concept it is even in today’s times. Having a profound impact not only on Mathematics but in arenas as diverse as Computer Science, it has certainly cemented its place in the exalted ‘History of Mathematics’!

Aryabhata’s Contribution to Mathematics: The Discovery of Zero and the Place Value System

In his popular treatise ‘Aryabhatia’, Aryabhata uses a system of representing numbers. This system sees him give values to numbers 1,2,3,..100, using 33 consonants of the Indian alphabetical system.

The French mathematician Georges Ifrah claims that the Numeral System and Place Value System were well known to Aryabhata. She bases her supposition on the fact that the invention of his alphabetical counting system would have been impossible without ‘Zero’, or the place value system. Did you know, it was Aryabhata himself who proposed the notion that any number multiplied by 0 leads to the result ‘0’?

Needless to say, back in the day Aryabhata wrote his work in the ancient language of Sanskrit. That being said, it is widely known that the Sanskrit language wielded an enormous influence on the way the English numerical system was written.

Aryabhata’s Zero: Fun Facts for Kids

Here are some cool facts revolving around Aryabhata’s Zero for Kids, that they would love to know.

  1. The ‘Time Zero’ means ‘Now’
  2. This is especially relevant to us in the case of something like a ‘race.’ The count goes ‘three, two, one…’ and when it comes to Zero, needless to say, it means ‘Go!’

  3. The ‘Undefined’ conundrum
  4. If there is an attempt made to divide any number by the number zero, what is it we get? Curiously, the answer is this: ‘Undefined.’

    Bonus Fact: This dilemma forms the root basis of several advanced mathematical topics, such as Calculus.

  5. It’s integral to the Placeholder System
  6. Earlier in this article, we briefly touched upon how the invention of Aryabhata’s placeholder system would have been impossible without the number ‘0’, right? Here’s how. Imagine the numbers 3 and 30. Both of them will look exactly the same if it isn’t for the number 0!

  7. Decoding the number of Zeroes in a Million
  8. This one’s for all those questioning little minds, who are eager to know how many zeroes a ‘million’ might have. The next time your child asks you, tell them it has ‘6’ zeroes. And yes, as we saw in the earlier point, without all those added zeroes a million would be merely ‘One’!

  9. Understanding What Type of Number Zero is
  10. Have you ever wondered what type of number Zero is? If you must know, it is an Integer!

    Bonus Fact: Apart from being an Integer, Zero is also a Rational Number and a Whole Number that is not Positive or Negative.

  11. The ‘Oddness’ or ‘Evenness’ of Zero
  12. You might have wondered sometime or the other, ‘Is Zero Even or Odd?’ The answer is, it’s an ‘Even’ Number!

    Cool Fact: When you divide 0 by 2, the result is zero. This makes it an Integer, and this is the very basis for classifying it as an Even Number.

  13. Basic Mathematics with Zero

    There are some basic mathematical rules that apply to Zero. These are the following:

    • Addition
    • When you add zero to a number, you get the same number. Example: 2 + 0 = 2

    • Subtraction
    • When you subtract zero from a number, you get the same number. Example: 2 – 0 = 2

    • Multiplication
    • When you multiply 0 by any number, you get 0. Example: 2 x 0 = 2

    • Division
    • When you divide 0 by any number, the answer is 0. Example: 0 / 2 = 0

    Over the course of this article, you have surely found reason enough to be enamoured by the number ‘0’, if not by the mathematical prowess of the great legend Aryabhata himself. Take the next logical step, and educate your child about the wonders of ‘Zero.’ You never know, they might just be the next ‘Aryabhata’ in the making!


  1. Geeksforgeeks

  3. Britannica

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