The New York Times

Who Invented 'Zero'?

Carbon dating of an ancient Indian document, the Bakhshali manuscript, has recently placed the first written occurrence of the number zero in the third or fourth century A.D., about 500 years earlier than previously believed. While the news has no practical bearing on the infrastructure of zeros (and ones) underlying our high-tech civilization, it does remind us how indebted we are for this invention. But to whom is this debt owed? And how should it be repaid?

Chauvinistic politicians might loudly trumpet India’s role (as they have, more controversially, in the case of the Pythagorean theorem), but the history of zero

This article originally appeared in .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The New York Times

The New York Times5 min readSociety
The Word May Be Toxic, but Amnesty Is Everywhere
The biggest taboo in the immigration debate is the idea of an “amnesty.” Immigration opponents routinely paint amnesties for immigrants living illegally in the United States as catastrophic blows to the rule of law. The implication is that the only p
The New York Times4 min read
Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?
Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why? According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of American
The New York Times11 min read
Why Surge Prices Make Us So Mad
When Bruce Springsteen decided to do a run of shows at a Broadway theater with fewer than a thousand seats, he appeared to reject the laws of economics — or at least what would seem to be in his financial best interest. He limited ticket prices to $7