Invention of Decimal System

Did you know that Hindus gave us the method of expressing numbers by means of a decimal system?

The so called Arabic numerals are actually Hindu numerals and even many Arab mathematicians admit that. During the 700's, the Arabs learned Hindu arithmetic from scientific writings of the Hindus and the Greeks. Then, in the 800's, a Persian mathematician wrote a book that was translated into Latin about 300 years later. This translation brought the Hindu-Arabic numerals into Europe.


Hindu mathematicians used a system based on 10. The Hindus had symbols for each number from one to nine. They had a name for each power of 10, and used these names when writing numerals. For example, Hindus wrote "1 sata, 3 dasan, 5" to represent the number we write as 135. They wrote "1 sata, 5" for the number we write as 105. Hindus found a way of eliminating place names. They invented the symbol shunya (meaning empty), which we call zero. With this symbol, they could write "105" instead of "1 sata, 5."

The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 1053 (i.e 10 to the power of 53) with specific names (Tallakshana) as early as 5000 B.C. during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera: 1012 (10 to the power of 12).

"It is India that gave us the ingenuous method of expressing all numbers by the means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position, as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit, but its very simplicity, the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions, and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest minds produced by antiquity."
— French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace (1749 - 1827)

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