Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bhaskaracharya and the man who found zero

By Vasudev Ram

I came across this Wikipedia article about Bhaskaracharya or Bhaskara II, an ancient Indian mathematician and astronomer, via a chain of web links - starting from a post on the Python Pune Google group :-)

Excerpts from the article:


Bhaskara was head of an astronomical observatory at Ujjain, the leading mathematical centre of ancient India


His predecessors in this post had included both the noted Indian mathematician Brahmagupta (598–c. 665) (the man who found zero) and Varahamihira.


Bhaskara and his works represent a significant contribution to mathematical and astronomical knowledge in the 12th century


His main works were the Lilavati (dealing with arithmetic), Bijaganita (Algebra) and Siddhanta Shiromani (written in 1150) which consists of two parts: Goladhyaya (sphere) and Grahaganita (mathematics of the planets).


His book on arithmetic is the source of interesting legends that assert that it was written for his daughter, Lilavati.


Bhaskara II conceived the modern mathematical convention that when a finite number is divided by zero, the result is infinity (*). In his book Lilavati, he reasons: "In this quantity also which has zero as its divisor there is no change even when many [quantities] have entered into it or come out [of it], just as at the time of destruction and creation when throngs of creatures enter into and come out of [him, there is no change in] the infinite and unchanging [Vishnu]"


His work is outstanding for its systemisation, improved methods and the new topics that he has introduced. Furthermore the Lilavati contained excellent recreative problems


(*) Speaking about infinity, check out the Wikipedia definition of infinity; and did you know about the controversial German mathematician Georg Cantor, the creator of set theory, or about Cantor's theorem? Or about his discovery that there are "an infinity of infinities"? ...

- Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

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