Who Discovered Zero? Explanation and FAQs – Pragyanam School

It is interesting to note how a number representing a quantity of nothing is extremely important. Yes, we are talking about zero, known variously as “Sunya,” “nil,” “zilch,” and more. Zero is a number between negative and positive numbers and represents a place with no quantity. It’s a ‘real’ number, an integer that signifies the absence of any positive or negative value, and it is the first whole number in our number system. It is intriguing to think that without ‘zero,’ there would be no financial accounting, calculus, or even the technological explosion we are witnessing today. After all, it is 0 and 1 that compose the binary code, the foundation of modern computers.

Before we delve further, let’s explore some of the crucial domains where zero plays a significant role:

  • Zero is indispensable as a placeholder in whole numbers and decimal numbers. It also holds a critical position in algebraic structures. In coordinate systems, such as Cartesian coordinates, the point (0,0) is the origin against which all other points are measured. Furthermore, zero delineates the boundary between positive and negative numbers.
  • Zero’s importance in philosophy cannot be overstated. It often represents the concepts of infinity and emptiness.
  • The technological revolution rests on zero as it forms the foundation of the binary system in the world of computers. It is the cornerstone of the digital world.
  • Zero plays a unique role in finance and accounting, representing balanced accounts where there is no difference between assets and liabilities.
  • Interestingly, zero has also found significance in astronomy. It has been employed in intricate calendar systems since time immemorial.

Who discovered zero?

It’s about time we embarked on a journey to discover who was responsible for discovering this crucial number. Numerous historians and mathematicians have undertaken rigorous studies to unravel the mystery of zero’s origins.

The earliest known concept of zero took the form of a placeholder. Several civilizations utilized zero in this placeholder format. Among these, the Babylonians, an early civilization, are recognized as one of the initial users of zero. However, their understanding of zero differed from the modern concept; zero served merely as a placeholder for them.

With Alexander’s conquests, the Greek world was introduced to the Babylonian zero concept, although it was primarily employed by Greek astronomers and did not gain widespread usage.

Another culture that claims “zero” is the Maya of South America.

The Indian Connection

You may have heard that zero was first discovered in India. How is that possible when discussing other ancient civilizations using it thousands of years ago? The reason is that India was where the concept of zero was developed into a numeral.

The first use of a Hindu mathematical word for zero dates to a cosmology text from 458. However, the earliest surviving use of a numeral for zero in India dates from 628. The discovery of zero in India is commonly attributed to Aryabhatta in the 5th century. Following Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta is credited with zero in the 7th century and began using zero in mathematical operations. What’s especially important is that, in India, zero was understood as more than just a placeholder.

From India, the use of zero spread to Cambodia by the seventh century before reaching China. By the eighth century, zero had made its way to Arab lands, and it was adopted along with the entire numeral set which we use today. The mathematician Mohammad ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi is said to have demonstrated how zero functioned in the system of formulae he called ‘al-jabr,’ widely recognized today as algebra.

One thing is clear: the discovery of zero and its evolution was gradual, involving contributions from various cultures.

How was Zero Named?

As early as 879 AD, it is estimated that the oval shape of zero, as we now recognize it, had emerged. Regarding its name, it underwent several transformations. Initially referred to as “Sunya” in India, it became “Sifr” in the Middle East and “Zefero” in Italy before ultimately adopting its modern name, Zero.

The Modern Journey of Zero

By the 1600s, zero had gained widespread acceptance in Europe. Significantly, it was prominent in Descartes’ Cartesian coordinate system and calculus. Additionally, modern physics, engineering, computers, and contemporary financial and economic theories gradually evolved, with zero playing a significant role.


While we have discussed the evolution of “Zero,” it is time to leave you with three fun riddles.

1). While some civilizations were not open to accepting zero as a concept and even considered it satanic, one community in modern times particularly dislikes zero. Can you guess which one?

Answer- You are correct. It’s the student community, for obvious reasons! After all, who wants to score a zero on an exam? It’s a much-dreaded number.

2). Which is that one popular place where we do not like to see a zero?

Answer- On the scoreboard when we are supporting our favorite team.

3). Conversely, where would you like to see some zeroes added?

Answer- On your bank balance, of course.

For more exciting journeys and concepts, stay tuned to our blog! At Pragyanam School, we believe in nurturing children who are curious about the world around them. The same applies to adults as well. After all, learning has no age, and we must remain learners for life!

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June 2024