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The concept and associated value of mathematical symbol "zero" It is used throughout the world as a fundamental numerical pillar. However, its origin has so far been one of the greatest enigmas in the field.
Scientists from the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford have used carbon dating to trace the origins of the figure in an ancient Indian manuscript: the Bakhshali manuscript.
The text dates back to the 3rd century, making it the oldest recorded use of this symbol.
The research was requested from the Bodleian Library, where the manuscript has been found since 1902. Its importance lies in the use of hundreds of zeros and this finding marks the birth of the "zero" 500 years earlier than previously thought.
The zero symbol.
The concept of the symbol as we know it now began with a simple period that was widely used as a «position marker»To represent orders of magnitude in the ancient Indian number system.
The first recorded example of the use of zero was, until now, in an inscription from the 9th century on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.
Although a number of ancient cultures, including the ancient Mayans or BabyloniansThey also used the zero placeholder, the use of the period in the Bakhshali Manuscript is the one that eventually evolved into the symbol we use today.
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India is also the place where the symbolic placeholder became a number in its own right and the concept of the number zero as it exists today was born.
Marcus du sautoy, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: 'Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used all over the world and is a key element in the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the point symbol found in the Bakhshali Manuscript, was one of the greatest advances in the history of mathematics«.
«We now know that as early as the third century, Indian mathematicians planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. Findings show just how vibrant mathematics has been on the Indian subcontinent for centuries«He added.
Bakhshali Manuscript find.
The Bakhshali manuscript It was found in 1881, buried in a field in what was then an Indian village called Bakshali, now in Pakistan. It is widely known as the oldest Indian mathematical text although the exact age of the text has been in dispute for years.
The most conclusive academic study on the subject was carried out by the Dr. Hayashi Takao and, on the basis of factors such as writing style and literary and mathematical content, he claimed that it probably dated to between the 8th and 12th centuries.
The new carbon dating reveals why it was so difficult to date the manuscript: it has 70 very fragile birch bark pages, and is made up of material from at least three different periods.
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