Zero first used in In­dia 500 years ago

The Nation - - WORLD -

A BLACK dot on a 3rd cen­tury In­dian man­u­script has been iden­ti­fied by Ox­ford Univer­sity as the first recorded use of the math­e­mat­i­cal sym­bol for zero, 500 years ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought.

“Sci­en­tists from the Univer­sity of Ox­ford’s Bodleian Li­braries, have used car­bon dat­ing to trace the fig­ure’s ori­gins to the fa­mous an­cient In­dian scroll,” the univer­sity said in a state­ment. The birch bark scroll is known as the Bakhshali man­u­script af­ter the vil­lage, which is now in Pak­istan, where it was found buried in 1881. It has been held at the Bodleian Li­braries since 1902.

“The cre­ation of zero as a num­ber in its own right, which evolved from the place­holder dot sym­bol found in the Bakhshali man­u­script, was one of the great­est break­throughs in the his­tory of math­e­mat­ics,” said Marcus du Sau­toy, a math­e­mat­ics pro­fes­sor at Ox­ford.

The Bakhshali scroll was al­ready recog­nised as the old­est In­dian math­e­mat­i­cal text but its ex­act age was widely con­tested.

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