Did the Arabs Create the Numbering System We Use Today?

You might think Arabic numerals got their start in an ancient Middle Eastern civilization, but you'd be wrong. Our numbering system, known today as Hindu-Arabic numbers, has long been attributed to two mathematicians from India, Aryabhat and Brahmagupta. These mathematicians lived in the 5th and 6th centuries BC, before the rise of the Arab Empire.

In the West, the system was originally known as Arabic numbers because the Arabs had already adopted the system, almost certainly through East-West trade. From Arabia, it spread to Europe and beyond. Early Europeans credited the numerals to the Arabs, but the Arabs referred to them in ancient writings as Hindu numerals.

More facts about Hindu-Arabic numbers:

  • The digits 0 through 9 are the most common numerical representation in the world.

  • Widespread European acceptance of Hindu-Arabic numbers was accelerated by the invention of the printing press.

  • There is some evidence that the numerals we use today evolved from Arabic letters.

Follow wiseGEEK:

More Info: Number Theory and Its History

Discuss this Article

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?



Free Widgets for your Site/Blog

Mary Kenneth Keller, a Catholic religious sister, was the first American woman to earn a PhD in computer science.  more...
September 23 ,  1949 :  US President Harry S. Truman publicly announced the US had lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons.  more...