A Short Animated History of Zero (0): How It Started in India, Then Made Its Journey to the West

Zilch. Nada. Bup­kis. Yes, I’m tak­ing about Zero (0), a num­ber that seems so essen­tial to our sys­tem of num­bers, and yet it has­n’t always enjoyed such a priv­i­leged place. Far from it.

In this short ani­ma­tion, Britain’s ven­er­a­ble Roy­al Insti­tu­tion traces the his­to­ry of zero, a num­ber that emerged in sev­enth cen­tu­ry India, before mak­ing its way to Chi­na and Islam­ic coun­tries, and final­ly pen­e­trat­ing West­ern cul­tures in the 13th cen­tu­ry. Only lat­er did it become the cor­ner­stone of cal­cu­lus and the lan­guage of com­put­ing.

India, we owe you thanks.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Math Cours­es

Free Math Text­books

The Short­est-Known Paper Pub­lished in a Seri­ous Math Jour­nal: Two Suc­cinct Sen­tences

The Math in Good Will Hunt­ing is Easy: How Do You Like Them Apples?

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Narendra Nath says:

    Zero is dis­cov­ered but it is yet to be eval­u­at­ed! What its mag­ni­tude is, ‘noth­ing’. But then it is not mea­sur­able! If instru­ments can not detect it, then how to eval­u­ate it. It can then become vari­able in mag­ni­tude, depend­ing on the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the instru­ment! Thus, it can not be a ref­er­ence point like oth­er num­bers! Uncer­tain­ties in fact rule our mate­r­i­al world and we have no answer to under­stand com­plete­ly any­thing we may decide to inves­ti­gate! Ulti­mate truth does not exist and we talk only of rel­a­tive truths!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.