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Alphabe Thursday … Z is for Zero

May 16, 2013


Since I did not study mathematics beyond ‘O” level in 1966; I think I can be forgiven for not knowing too much about the relatively new mathematical sign ‘0.’

Zero did not appear in the European understanding until it became necessary in the 14th century.  According to Brian Rotman in Signifying nothing : the semiotics of Zero; the sign for nothing originated in Central India and was established by the 10th century as the ‘distinguishing element’ in the now familiar Hindu system of numerals.  By the 1300s the Arab merchants had adopted it readily in their culture.  Meanwhile the Christians of Europe dismissed its use as it was incomprehensible and unnecessary.  

Numbers, were until then were bound to the confines of the church; the educated clerks remained devoted to the holy Latin orders.  While the merchants, artisans and architects; speakers of the local languages needed to become familiar with the arithmetic of trade and technology.  It was important for them to understand the Arab mathematics and in particular Hindu numerals

It was the need for accuracy and the zero balance for double entry book-keeping that broke down any barriers to the ‘infidel symbol’ of zero.  By the end of the 17th century the Hindu numerals had completely replaced the holy Roman ones and became the dominant mode for recording and manipulating numbers throughout Europe.  

Please note the letter press image was provided by Diana Milne 

alphabet thursday

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2013 9:50 am

    zero such a negative number , its how much weight i lost this week

    • May 16, 2013 10:00 am

      Oh dear, there was me thinking I would bring some cheer!! I am following you now and will watch that you keep up the good work !! _/\_ xx Thanks for dropping byxx

  2. May 17, 2013 2:15 am

    Zero is about what we have left after paying our bills! At this rate I will need to work to 100 because I am sure the government will find a way to force us to work longer and harder for less!
    Your post was interesting and I always enjoy seeing what everyone is offering! I did not think of this word myself. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend!

    • May 17, 2013 7:15 am

      I know what you mean!! I have got comfortable with Zero … sort of a balance. But there is zero for the rainy day. You also have a good weekend and see you net week with an ‘A” xxx

  3. May 17, 2013 4:25 pm

    Hmmm…I never realized there was a time when “0” wasn’t part of everyday life. Thanks for such an informative post.

  4. June 2, 2013 3:21 am


    I love painting that number.

    I hate finding it in my checking account!

    This was a fun wrap-up to Alphabe-Thursday!

    Thank you so much for participating!


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