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  • Martin.Sheffield

    Martin.Sheffield April 27, 1998, 10:26 p.m. (Message 11826)

    Re: Millennium etc

    >The concept of zero was invented by the Phonecians and named 'zero' by the
    >Arabs.  Sorry, but I don't know when Europeans accepted zero as a number.
    My library tells me that the first known use of the zero was in Babylon at
    the end of the 3rd millennium, but that it was only in the 4th/5th
    centuries AD  that the sytematic use  of the nine figures + zero, with
    their positions deciding their value (as powers of ten) appeared.
    The oldest known text showing this system is in sanskrit and dates from AD
    458. Within a centrury, the system used by Indian astronomers became
    exactly what we still use today, and its use gradually spread to other
    cultures. Adopted by the Arabs  (while the Europeans were still juggling
    with MDCXVI), it finally arrived in Europe in the Middle Ages. The earliest
    known use was in Muslim Spain, and two texts from the 10th century show the
    modified forms closely ressembling our own (which are different from the
    arab numerals used in the east). The Spanish had difficulties with the f
    sound, and reduced the Arabic name "sifr" to "zero".
    Two centuries later, mathematicians of non-muslim Europe were learning to
    replace pebbles and counters by the written symbols 0 to 9.
    By the 18th century, the Scots had learned to count to 32, thereby fixing
    the lenght of their most popular dances.
    The Phoenicians' main contribution to our dance form was their development
    of the alphabet, without which ...
    >Should we have a dance for zeros?
    If you wish, but don't ask me to join in.
    More appropriate would be a 2000-bar reel, to which an extra bar should of
    course be added for those not celebrating until the following year.
    Refs: Georges Ifrah, "Histoire universelle de chiffres"
      Grenoble, France.

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