There are many theories and speculations regarding who invented zero. One of the most persistent is that the number was first used in 9th century AD India. According to some legends, the number was invented by the Indian mathematician Aryabhata.
Not all historians agree. Some are of the opinion that it was created by Pingala the Indian scholar. Together with other researchers, they used certain Sanskrit words that when translated was zero. There are also suggestions that the number did not originate in India.
According to some accounts, the number was employed by the Mayan civilization in their calendars. There are also groups of scholars who hold that the number zero dates back to 300 BC during the time of the Babylonians.
Usage in Europe
While the question of who invented zero is still in doubt, its origin in Europe is clearer. It didn’t come into usage until 800 AD. It was courtesy of the Arabs who began trading with the Europeans. The word itself is taken from the language of the Arabs. Around 130 AD, there is evidence the number was expressed using a circle with an over-bar. The symbol was used on its own in some instances. Unlike in the Babylonian system, it was not just a placeholder.
Ptolemy’s use of the number in 130 AD is the earliest documented application of it in the Old World. However, it was used only as a factional component of a number. It was not until the later years when it became an integrated part of the system. This took place around the year 70.
There is evidence that zero was included in Roman numerals by the year 525. The first person recorded to have used it was Dionysius Exiguus. However, the Romans did not have a specific number or symbol for it. They simply used the word nulla to express nothing.
Recorded Written Usage
The oldest text to have the word zero is the Jain text of India. It dates from 458 AD. The oldest known symbolic use of zero is a stone inscription dating from 876 AD. It is also from India.
Anyone who wants to discover who invented zero will hear about the Persian scientist Khwarizmi. He was one of the first to use it in mathematics. His book on arithmetic in 825 AD included the number. The work is notable for explaining how the number zero is used.