Monday, October 19, 2009

¿Quién Inventó el Punto Decimal?

9. Who invented the decimal point?

The decimal point goes along with place-value notation. According to Edward deBono's very comprehensive book Eureka, [12] place-value notation goes back at least to the Sumerians in Babylonia in the 18th century BCE, who wrote numbers in base 60 with cuneiform script. They had no zero symbol, however, merely leaving a space where a zero should be. This source claims that Indian mathematicians picked up the Babylonian place-value idea and adapted it to decimal notation. Quoting deBono:
Indian mathematicians simplified the Babylonian number notation and changed from base 60 to base 10, thus creating the modern decimal system. Very little evidence exists of the chronology of Indian number symbols but it seems that, like the Babylonians, the Indians for a long time saw no need to write a symbol for zero. The earliest example of Indian use of the decimal system with a zero dates from AD 595. The earliest definite reference to the Hindu numerals beyond the borders of India is in a note written by a Mesopotamian bishop, Severus Sebokht, about AD 650, which speaks of `nine signs', not mentioning the zero. By the end of the 8th century, some Indian astronomical tables had been translated at Baghdad and these signs became known to Arabian scholars of the time. In 824, the scholar al-Khwarizmi wrote a small book on numerals, and 300 years later it was translated into Latin by Adelard of Bath. Some historians believe that these number symbols came to Europe even before they arrived in Baghdad, but the oldest European manuscript containing them dates from AD 976 in Spain.
From the same source:
Far away from the mainstream of Western history, the Mayan culture of Central America, which died out at the end of the 9th century, developed a place-value system of notation with a symbol for zero. Mayan numbers were written vertically and are read from bottom upwards. The Mayans worked in base 20... It is conjectured that the Mayans first used their zero symbols at about the same time as the Babylonians used theirs on the other side of the earth, but the oldest Mayan numerical inscription dates from no earlier than the end of the 3rd century AD.
But there's still the question of the decimal point. Francesco Pellos (or Pelizzati) of Nice used a decimal point to indicate division of a number by a power of 10, in his 1492 book on commercial arithmetic. The 16th century German mathematician Bartholomäus Pitiscus (or Petiscus) (1561-1613) uses a decimal point in his book on trigonometry. [13]

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A Science History Quizz

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Math-History Timeline

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