Maths Facts

Aryabhatta and origin of zero

23 Jul , 2014  

aryaAryabhatta (476-550 A.D.), one of the world’s greatest mathematician-astronomer, was born in Patliputra in Magadha, modern Patna in Bihar. Many are of the view that he was born in the south of India especially Kerala and lived in Magadha at the time of the Gupta rulers. However, there exists no documentation to ascertain his exact birthplace. Whatever this origin, it cannot be argued that he lived in Patliputra where he wrote his famous treatise the “Aryabhatta-siddhanta” but more famously the “Aryabhatiya”, the only work to have survived.

But his greatest contribution has to be ZERO, for which he became immortal. He certainly did not use the symbol, but the French mathematician Georges Ifrah argues that knowledge of zero was implicit in Aryabhata’s place-value system as a place holder for the powers of ten with null coefficients. The supposition is based on the following two facts: first, the invention of his alphabetical counting system would have been impossible without zero or the place-value system; secondly, he carries out calculations on square and cubic roots which are impossible if the numbers in question are not written according to the place-value system and zero.


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