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Five Ways Ancient India Changed The World - With Maths

When Europe was in the dark ages, the leap made in India transformed zero from a placeholder to a number in its own right.

It should come as no surprise that the first recorded use of the number zero, recently

discovered to be made as early as the 3rd or 4th century, happened in India. Mathematics on the Indian subcontinent has a rich his ton- going back over 2.000 years and thrived for centuries before similar advances were made in Europe, with its influence meanwhile spreading to China and the Middle East.

As w'ell as giving us the concept of zero, Indian mathematicians made seminal contributions to the study of trigonometry, algebra, arithmetic, and negative numbers among other areas. Perhaps most significantly, the decimal system that we still employ worldwide today was first seen in India.

The number system

As far back as 1200 BC, mathematical knowledge was being written down as part of a large body of knowledge knowrn as the Vedas. In these texts, numbers were commonly expressed as combinations of powers of ten. For example, 365 might be expressed as three hundred (3x100), six tens (6X10) and five units (5x10°), though each power of ten was represented with a name rather than a set of symbols. It is reasonable to believe, that this representation using powers of ten played a crucial role in the development of the decimal place value system in India.

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