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This development was highly popular among merchants, who used Fibonacci's equations involving zero to balance their books. Everything that was not was of the devil," she said.
Medieval religious leaders in Europe did not support the use of zero, van der Hoek said. Wallin points out that the Italian government was suspicious of Arabic numbers and outlawed the use of zero.
"We are of the view that in ancient India are found numerous so-called 'cultural antecedents' that make it plausible that the mathematical zero digit was invented there," said Gobets, whose organization is composed of academics and graduate students devoted to studying the development of zero in India.
"The Zero Project hypothesizes that mathematical zero ('shunya', in Sanskrit) may have arisen from the contemporaneous philosophy of emptiness or Shunyata," said Gobets.
A Persian mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, suggested that a little circle should be used in calculations if no number appeared in the tens place.
The Arabs called this circle "sifr," or "empty." Zero was crucial to al-Khowarizmi, who used it to invent algebra in the ninth century.
The Babylonians got their number system from the Sumerians, the first people in the world to develop a counting system.
According to the book "The Crest of the Peacock; Non-European Roots of Mathematics," by Dr. Joseph suggests that the Sanskrit word for zero, śūnya, which meant "void" or "empty" and derived from the word for growth, combined with the early definition found in the Rig-veda of "lack" or "deficiency." The derivative of the two definitions is Śūnyata, a Buddhist doctrine of "emptiness," or emptying one's mind from impressions and thoughts.
Al-Khowarizmi also developed quick methods for multiplying and dividing numbers, which are known as algorithms — a corruption of his name.
Zero found its way to Europe through the Moorish conquest of Spain and was further developed by Italian mathematician Fibonacci, who used it to do equations without an abacus, then the most prevalent tool for doing arithmetic.
He developed a symbol for zero: a dot underneath numbers.
"But he, too, does not claim to have invented zero, which presumably must have been around for some time," Gobets added.