Ben Ezra, (1092 - 1167 CE) introduced the Hindu place counting system and the circular zero into Hebrew culture. Ezra, a traveling Hebrew scholar journeyed widely in Asia and the Orient.

He described the Indian system of counting in his influential "Book of Number" and used the first nine letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet (!) to represent the Indian numerals 1 through 9 with a place value notation but retained the small Indian circle to symbolize zero, naming it after the Hebrew for 'wheel' (galgal).

Remarkably, Ben Ezra single-handedly changed the old Hebrew number system into one with a place-value notation and a zero symbol, but there seemed to be no interest in his brilliant innovation and no one else took it up and developed it.

The Indian zero symbol eventually found its way to Europe, through the channel of Arab culture. Gradually, the Indian zero was incorporated into their own sophisticated system of mathematics. The great mathematician Al-Kharizmi (in whose honor we use the term algorithm) writes of the Indian calculating techniques that "When (after subtraction) nothing is left over, they write the little circle, so that the place does not remain empty. The little circle has to occupy the position, because otherwise there will be fewer places, so that the secon might be mistaken for the first".

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.