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Enlightening SymbolsA Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers$
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Joseph Mazur

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691173375

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691173375.001.0001

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Arrival in Europe

Arrival in Europe

(p.51) Chapter 5 Arrival in Europe
Enlightening Symbols

Joseph Mazur

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how our current number system reached Europe. There is a dispute over whether or not the person most responsible for introducing Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe was Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, also known as Leonardo Fibonacci. One of the great mathematicians of his time, Fibonacci gained fame for the problem of how rabbits multiply. As a young man, Fibonacci traveled with his father around the Mediterranean, meeting priests, scholars, and merchants in Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Provence. He learned the number systems used in trade. In 1202, he wrote Liber abbaci (Book of the Calculations), a book about how to calculate without an abacus. The chapter also considers the Ta'rikh al-hukama (Chronology of the Scholars), a mid-thirteenth-century book written by Ibn al-Qifti that tells the story of how the Indian numbers came to the Arabs.

Keywords:   number system, Europe, Hindu-Arabic numerals, Leonardo Fibonacci, Liber abbaci, abacus, Ta'rikh al-hukama, Ibn al-Qifti, Indian numbers

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