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How Ancient India Contributed to Mathematics

  • 14 May 2019
How-Ancient-India-Contributed-to-Mathematics

European mathematicians initially found it hard to accept certain theories.

The number zero has been used since the 3rd century in India. There are numerous evidences that Indian mathematicians made mathematical discoveries centuries before the Europeans did. They had contributed to the advancement of trigonometry, algebra, arithmetic and negative numbers. Even the decimal system employed today originated from India.

Rules for negative numbers

Mathematician Brahmagupta called positive numbers "fortunes" and negative numbers "debts", which he described as "A fortune subtracted from zero is a debt," and "a debt subtracted from zero is a fortune".

This is the current rule used in modern mathematics, where if you subtract a negative number, it is the same as adding a positive number. Brahmagupta taught that the product of a debt and a fortune is a debt – a positive number multiplied by a negative is a negative.

European mathematicians were reluctant to accept negative numbers because they view numbers solely as a count method and negative numbers can't be used in that way. Indian and Chinese mathematicians, however, saw it as a way to calculate debts.

Basis for calculus

This reluctance to adopt negative numbers, and the number zero, held European mathematics back for years. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was one of the first Europeans to use zero and the negatives in his development of calculus in the late 17th century. Calculus is used to measure rates of changes and is especially important in modern physics.

Indian mathematician Bhāskara had already written about many of Leibniz's theories 500 years earlier. He had also spoken about the Doiphantine equations, that would not be rediscovered in Europe centuries later.

Photo source: Detechter



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