Acharya Brahmagupta
The man who invented Zero.

Brahmagupta's image
Brahmagupta was a highly accomplished ancient Indian astronomer and mathematician. (598 - 668 AD)

  • Who was Brahmagupta?
  • Brahmagupta was an Indian mathematician, born in 598 AD in Bhinmal, a state of Rajhastan, India. He spent most of his life in Bhinmal which was under the rule of King Vyaghramukha. He was the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain which was the center of mathematics in India witnessing the work of many extraordinary mathematicians.

  • Contributions to Mathematics
  • One of the most significant input of Brahmagupta to mathematics was the introduction of ‘zero’ to the number system which stood for ‘nothing’. His work the ‘Brahmasphutasiddhanta’ contained many mathematical findings written in verse form. It had many rules of arithmetic which is part of the mathematical solutions now. These are ‘A positive number multiplied by a positive number is positive.’, ‘A positive number multiplied by a negative number is negative’, ‘A negative number multiplied by a positive number is negative’ and ‘A negative number multiplied by a negative number is positive’. The book also consisted of many geometrical theories like the ‘Pythagorean Theorem’ for a right angle triangle. Brahmagupta was the one to give the area of a triangle and the important rules of trigonometry such as values of the sin function. He introduced the formula for cyclic quadrilaterals. He also gave the value of ‘Pi’ as square root ten to be accurate and 3 as the practical value. Additionally he introduced the concept of negative numbers.

  • Contribution to Science & Astronomy
  • Brahmagupta argued that the Earth and the universe are round and not flat. He was the first to use mathematics to predict the positions of the planets, the timings of the lunar and solar eclipses. Though all this seems like obvious and simple solutions it was a major improvement in science at that time. He also calculated the length of the solar year which was 365 days, 5 minutes and 19 seconds which is quite accurate based on today’s calculation of 365 days, 5 hours and 19 seconds. He also talked about ‘gravity’ in one of his statements saying: ‘Bodies fall towards the earth as it is in the nature of the earth to attract bodies, just as it is in the nature of water to flow’.

  • Why is Zero important?
  • Although it may seem obvious to us now that zero is a number, and obvious that we can produce it by subtracting a number from itself, and that dividing zero by a non-zero number gives an answer of zero, these results are not actually obvious. The brilliant mathematicians of Ancient Greece, so far ahead of their time in many ways, had not been able to make this breakthrough. Neither had anyone else, until Brahmagupta came along! It was a huge conceptual leap to see that zero is a number in its own right. Once this leap had been made, mathematics and science could make progress that would otherwise have been impossible.

  • Death
  • This great mathematician died between 660 and 670. He was one of the greatest mathematicians in Indian history and his contributions to mathematics and science have made major differences to various mathematical problems by establishing the basic rules which now allow us to find their solutions. He was honored by the title given to him by a fellow scientist ‘Ganita Chakra Chudamani’ which is translated as ‘The gem of the circle of mathematicians’.