The invention of decimal notation was a landmark in the intellectual history of humankind. Introduced in India during or shortly before the fifth century CE, it reached the Arab world in the following centuries and was transmitted to Europe through the Persian writings of the ninth century mathematician, Abū ‘Abdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī’.
The decimal system involves the use of ten notational signs to indicate the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Each of these numbers has an absolute numerical value of its own and a positional value. This positional value, or place value, occurs as units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and so on from the right. Thus, in the number 2,947, for instance, 7 occupies the unit position, 4 has the position of 40, 9 the position of 900, and 2 the position of 2,000. The value multiplies by 10 when a zero is added to the right, so that a zero after 25 makes it 250 and another zero 2,500.
The story of decimal notation is rather protracted. It...
KeywordsNinth Century Late Ninth Century Decimal System White Horse Century Mathematician
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