Where and when did the use of zero begin?

This is a great question a student might try to stump any Math or Philosophy teacher with.

The origin of the mathematical zero has a cloudy history. Some historians believe the Sumerian’s were the first to use a zero figure in their computations, while others state the Hindu and Mayan cultures may have been the first to use a zero figure. The historical time line is jaded and murky at best within text books of various acdemic fields.

The word origin of zero derives its meaning from the Arabic word ‘sifr’ meaning “empty”,

which comes from a Sanskrit word “sunya” meaning “empty”.The English word form of zero comes from an Italian word ‘zefiro’.(page 330, Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus, Pub. Houghton and Mifflin, 2004). Unfortunately the etimology of the word does not help establish its origin, either.

We can state acurately that zero was created and then the world began to change!

The significance of zero is critical to math and life. We can probably thank Leonardo of Pisa(Fibonacci) for the integration of the concept of zero into the evolution of mathematics and the schema of modern living. It is recorded he went to Africa to learn about their system of mathematics and the use of a ‘placeholder” known as zero. He brought this concept of math back to Europe and it changed life in ways that have had far reaching effects upon modern civilization.

The concept of zero took divergent paths gradually: one as a ‘placeholder’ figure in mathematical computation and theory….the second, as a ‘null value’ concept, that would eventually evolve into a philosophical as well as mathematical life stream. Mathematics and computations began to fill the minds of science explorers. Money became a fixation where men amassed coinage and where zero’s ultimately designated who owned the most coins. Those people with the most zeros behind a number were designated as wealthy and rich. Then again zero also became associated with being broke and having no coins, especially if their were no numbers in front of the lonely zero.

It is extremely important to realize without zero there would most likely be no binary code system and no computers! And how would we balance our bank accounts-trade registers- and know exactly what our national debt was! Hmmmmmmm, there would probably not be any billionaires or millionaires without zero, also.