PREFACE So familiar are we with the numerals that bear the misleading name of Arabic, and so extensive is their use in Europe and the Americas, that it is difficult for us to realize that their general acceptance in the transactions of commerce is a matter of only the last four centuries, and that they are unknown to a very large part of the human race to-day. It seems strange that such a labor-saving device should have struggled for nearly a thousand years after its system of place value was perfected before it replaced such crude notations as the one that the Roman conqueror made substantially universal in Europe. Such, however, is the case, and there is probably no one who has not at least some slight passing interest in the story of this struggle. To the mathematician and the student of civilization the interest is generally a deep one; to the teacher of the elements of knowledge the interest may be less marked, but nevertheless it is real; and even the business man who makes daily use of the curious symbols by which we express the numbers of commerce, cannot fail to have some appreciation for the story of the rise and progress of these tools of his trade. This story has often been told in part, but it is a long time since any effort has been made to bring together the fragmentary narrations and to set forth the general problem of the origin and development of these numerals. In this little work we have attempted to state the history of these forms in small compass, to place before the student materials for the investigation of the problems involved, and to express as clearly as possible the results of the labors of scholars who have studied the subject in different parts of the world. We have had no theory to exploit, for the history of mathematics has seen too much of this tendency already, but as far as possible we have weighed the testimony and have set forth what seem to be the reasonable conclusions from the evidence at hand. To facilitate the work of students an index has been prepared which we hope may be serviceable. In this the names of authors appear only when some use has been made of their opinions or when their works are first mentioned in full in a footnote. If this work shall show more clearly the value of our number system, and shall make the study of mathematics seem more real to the teacher and student, and shall offer material for interesting some pupil more fully in his work with numbers, the authors will feel that the considerable labor involved in its preparation has not been in vain. We desire to acknowledge our especial indebtedness to Professor Alexander Ziwet for reading all the proof, as well as for the digest of a Russian work, to Professor Clarence L. Meader for Sanskrit transliterations, and to Mr. Steven T. Byington for Arabic transliterations and the scheme of pronunciation of Oriental names, and also our indebtedness to other scholars in Oriental learning for information. DAVID EUGENE SMITH LOUIS CHARLES KARPINSKI PRONUNCIATION OF ORIENTAL NAMES I. EARLY IDEAS OF THEIR ORIGIN II. EARLY HINDU FORMS WITH NO PLACE VALUE III. LATER HINDU FORMS, WITH A PLACE VALUE IV. THE SYMBOL ZERO V. THE QUESTION OF THE INTRODUCTION OF THE NUMERALS INTO EUROPE BY BOETHIUS VI. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NUMERALS AMONG THE ARABS VII. THE DEFINITE INTRODUCTION OF THE NUMERALS INTO EUROPE VIII. THE SPREAD OF THE NUMERALS IN EUROPE INDEX CHAPTER I EARLY IDEAS OF THEIR ORIGIN It has long been recognized that the common numerals used in daily life are of comparatively recent origin. The number of systems of notation employed before the Christian era was about the same as the number of written languages, and in some cases a single language had several systems. The Egyptians, for example, had three systems of writing, with a numerical notation for each; the Greeks had two well-defined sets of numerals, and the Roman symbols for number changed more or less from century to century. Even to-day the number
The Hindu-Arabic Numerals
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