India Added ‘Zero’ to Maths, Did You Know?
Are you one of those who feel why Zero existed, or for that matter the Maths subject existed at all? Or are you one of those who would work out how a 2(a+b) can be relevant in your daily life?
Well, you may fall into any category but there is no escaping the fact that Maths is indeed an important subject. You will be surprised at how it comes to use on a daily basis and yes, India has made major contributions towards the subject. Today, we explore how Maths plays a role in our lives and what has been India’s contribution.
Daily life and Maths
As you begin your day in the morning, even before you are completely awake, you would have begun using Maths. Don’t you occasionally snooze off the alarm and set a new time? There you are! You are using Maths to calculate the new time to set.
Then, you get ready to go to school or office. You know exactly the amount of time you have in hand to reach your destination or the amount of gas required in the car. You are calculating – Maths again.
At school, during a tough History paper, you are checking the number of questions attempted and the possible marks you may get. You are using Maths in a subject that seems to be not even remotely connected to Maths. History not connected to Maths? Impossible! History is filled with time durations and dates that are used to describe different eras and civilizations. All these data is evolved through Maths. Most of the subjects use Maths in some way or the other.
At work, one is constantly using Maths – right from tax calculation to salary negotiations to fixing up meetings to procuring inventory – the subject is determining and defining the moves in the office.
When it comes to savings, a good knowledge of Maths can lead to decent gains. If one is investing in the stock markets and understands the probabilities surrounding gains and risks, he can gear up to mitigate the risks.
As one goes shopping, Maths becomes an integral part of the shopping experience – right from checking out the price tags to picking up the products that are within the budget, one is using Maths. Maths also enables one to understand the finances and to chalk out financial plans.
Suppose you are a sports enthusiast, you may be surprised at how Maths plays a role there too – right from noting the scores to timing the game to declaring the winning team, Maths plays a major contributing factor in all the areas.
Coming back home to the kitchen. This is a place where Maths is really put to use – right from measurement of ingredients to the time required for cooking to laying the table, Maths is behind most of the activities performed in the kitchen.
Maths is an integral part of our life. Now, let us see the contributions that India has made towards the subject.
India’s contribution towards Maths
India has had a long pursuit with Maths and the presence of the subject in India can be traced to 3rd millennium BC.
During this era, India is believed to have been involved in the study of mathematical astronomy and is believed to have used Mathematics and Geometry to support their research and findings.
Zero was already known to ancient Indians. India gave the world Zero and that changed the entire perspective of how Maths worked.
Brahmagupta (598-668), who was the head of astronomy observatory in Ujjain, had introduced Zero to support the concept that nothingness is a reality and therefore it exists.
Before Zero came into being, it was difficult to understand numbers. For instance a 505, would be written as 5 5 (with a space in between). With the introduction of Zero, Brahmaputra is believed to have made a major contribution. Once the existence of Zero was established, the concepts of negative numbers, integers, equations and other formulas subsequently evolved.
The Indus Valley civilization showed traces of mathematics, where the sites – Harappa and Mohenjo-daro – used Mathematics developed in India to come up with some brilliant architecture. Both the sites are now in Pakistan. The Harappans used uniform system of weight and measures. Excavations reveal that they used scales and weights that had decimal numbers. Some of the scales had made use of inches even. The ruins of the buildings of the Harappan era reveal that units of lengths were accurately used in the construction.
Besides architecture, Mathematics was also found to have been used in religious texts in ancient India. The Vedic texts contained Sulbasutras or appendices that gave rules to construct altars. Religion played a crucial role in the astronomical studies in India as accurate calendars based on the positioning of the planets and the heavenly bodies had to be prepared for religious observances. For many centuries, mathematics was an applied science in India and was used to solve practical problems.
Let us now take a quick look at some of the Indian mathematicians who made great contribution towards the subject. We have already spoken about Brahmagupta, here are a few other geniuses:
Aryabhatta was the person behind the place value systems. He used letters to signify numbers and to state qualities. He was the one who discovered the position of the nine planets and formulated the theory that the planets revolved round the sun. He dispelled the earlier belief that Dhurva Rahu caused the phases in the moon and the Parva Rahu caused eclipse by covering the moon with the modern theory of eclipses. He also came up with the correct number of days in a year. Apart from astronomy, he is credited to have laid down the procedures for algebra, arithmetic, trigonometry and geometry and to also have given 3.1416 as the value of Pi.
Bhaskara is the one who came up with this concept that anything divided by zero is infinity. And infinity added to any number or vice versa is also infinity.
Srinivas Ramanujan (1887-1920)
A much celebrated mathematician of the twentieth century, Ramanujan developed a formula for partitioning any natural number. He expressed integers as the sum of cubes or squares or higher power of integers.
India’s contributions towards Maths has been immense and it can be easily summed in this quote by physicist and philosopher of science Albert Einstein.
“We owe a lot to the Indians who taught us how to count, without which no significant scientific discovery could have been made.”