The Evolution of the Number Zero

London Science Museum's Roger Highfield tells George just how important the number zero is to modern society.

The London Science Museum's Roger Highfield believes modern life owes everything to zero.

Christmas is almost upon us, and Roger would argue that 'zero' provides a sort of antithesis to the materialism that can prevail at this time of year.

An example of the usefulness of ‘zero’ is that Jesus should have been born in year zero. But zero did not exist when a sixth-century monk, Dionysius Exiguus (“Dennis the Short”), came up with Anno Domini, year of the Lord. By his reasoning, AD 1 immediately follows 1 BC. Does that mean Jesus was born in 1 BC? Zero removes this confusion.

Also, the first to devise rules to compute with zero was the seventh-century Indian mathematician and astronomer, Brahmagupta.  Following on from that, ‘zero’ allowed Isaac Newton to invent calculus in the mid-17th century, and of course mathematics is central to how modern economies work.

Hear Roger explain in full by clicking below.