# Who introduced zero?

It is believed that the zero or 'cypher' was unknown in ancient times - as an example, in the Roman counting system (using I for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50, C for 100, D for 500 and M for 1000) there was no symbol for zero and their method of using letters made any arithmetical calculation very difficult if not impossible.

It is widely believed that the Arabs (possibly around the Iran/Iraq area) from whom we took our numerical system (1,2,3 etc) based on 10s, invented the zero as a placemarker so that after counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 then the first ten would be made by placing a 1 to the left, with a place marker suggestiing that this 1 represented 'ten' rather than 'one'. This place marker became the zero. Similarly, in counting tens, after the ninth ten the tenth ten would be represented by another 1 placed further to the left again, and a second place marker - a second zero, inserted to show that this '1' did not mean '1', nor 'ten ones', nor '1 ten', but 'ten tens'. From this system we now have the system of '1' being one, '10' being 'ten'' and '100' being a hundred. Unlike the Roman system where the largest number symbol was M for 1000 , this meant that an infinite number of place markers could be inserted so that counting could go on for ever, using the same system. Also, unlike the Roman system, by placing numbers diirectly underneath each other, addition and subtraction (and other processes) could be completed easily as each column formed contained the same type of number ('1's, '10's, '100's etc) and there could be added or subtracted much more easily.

It can be argued then that modern mathematics - the tool from which the theoretical processes leading to the understanding and development microelectronics, space travel, medicine, economics, and so on - would never have developed without the modern counting system. So, with regard to the invention of the zero, we have a great deal to thank the Arabic people for.