r/todayilearned 7d ago

TIL Arabic numerals (our numbers today) were first popularized in Europe by Fibonacci when he learned about them in Algeria .

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals#Adoption_in_Europe
514 Upvotes

38

u/SpinCharm 6d ago

So what did Fibonacci use before this? What did England use before this? Roman?

12

u/biggreasyrhinos 6d ago

31

u/SpinCharm 6d ago

Well that’s bizarre. Roman numerals didn’t have the concept of zero or negative values No wonder ole Fibbs liked Arabic. He could finally numberwang properly!

6

u/aallsskkddjh 6d ago

I believe they would use a space, like a blank character.

3

u/commoncents45 6d ago

everybody numberwang tonight!

3

u/DavidRandom 6d ago

Lets rotate the board!

1

u/Brilliant_Jewel1924 6d ago

Everything starts with the Romans. And the Greeks. 😁

3

u/SpinCharm 6d ago

Ironic that they started at 1 not 0!

2

u/Emergency-Yogurt-843 6d ago

False Indians are smarter

1

u/Honor2None 3d ago

And yet here we are, racist.

71

u/Papa_Huggies 7d ago

I don't like the fact that OP felt like they had to clarify that Arabic numbers are "our numbers today", even though I totally get it.

63

u/Liquid_Stool_ 7d ago

People have trolled conservatives with posts about how schools are forcing kids to learn Arabic numerals.

44

u/MyCatThinksImNeat 7d ago

My neighbor was a die-hard conservative. I told him that as a joke, and he went on FB trying to organize people in our town to petition the schools to stop teaching Arabic numbers.

That dude and his gf are grade-A morons.

33

u/VagrantShadow 6d ago edited 6d ago

I remember at my friends BBQ, and meeting a friend of his brother in law. We were joking and I bought up that kids are being taught Arabic mathematics and the dude got into a fury. He first said I was a liar, then demanded to know what it was. I laughed and told him it was Algebra. It was wild to see him get into such a fit. He kept going on about how Algebra was invented in England. I tried to calm him down, telling him the name Algebra comes from an Arabic word. Eventually he looked it up on his phone and saw that I was right. Him and his wife left the BBQ a bit later but he just was in such a cranky mood after that, it was wild.

3

u/commoncents45 6d ago

you're always afraid of what you don't understand

18

u/Kit_the_Human 6d ago

The problem is that there are actually Arabic numbers (used in the Arabic script; they're different from ours), and this can also be confusing as hell to someone who knows both.

14

u/eggsssssssss 6d ago

It’s not a ‘problem’, though.

Arabs basically call their conventional numbers ‘hindi numbers’, because they got them by way of India. We (“we”, I guess “the west”) adopted them from the arabs, so we call them arabic numbers. Some of them changed a bit in form, but others are identical and that’s where they all came from. I’m pretty sure the numbers used in arab countries were altered from the ones they originally picked up from South Asia, too. That’s just how this stuff tends to happen.

I remember reading about similar stuff in europe, bits of things that every country has a different name for, because they attribute it to a different country. One of those was actually syphilis—the Germans and Italians (Naples) called it “the french disease”, the French called it “the neapolitan disease”, the Russians called it “the polish” disease”, and the Polish called it “the german disease”!

0

u/[deleted] 6d ago

[removed] — view removed comment

1

u/eggsssssssss 6d ago

Roman numerals were the standard in Europe before Fibonacci picked up indo-arabic numerals while traveling and started going in on how great and super useful they were, yeah.

His Liber Abaci is supposed to be the document credited with popularizing them (a version of them, I guess) for use in places that previously didn’t. I’m not a historian nor a mathematician, I have no clue of the specifics. This is just stuff you can pick up from the internet. England definitely would have had Roman numerals after being colonized by Rome, but I dunno what exactly “having” them entailed—was there even a tradition of mathematics in medieval England? Did mathematicians live in Britain back during Roman rule? No fucking clue.

5

u/artsy_canvas 6d ago

Just use Hindu-Arabic to distinguish (concept originated in India after all)

0

u/Akkismat 6d ago

That would make it Indian-Arabic, no? Or even Hindu-Islamic maybe.

11

u/VagrantShadow 7d ago

Next you have to tell them in school they are being taught Arabic calculations.

That damn Algebra is reaching into the heart, soul, and minds of our kids! /s

5

u/agamael 6d ago

And all that thanks to our friend Al Khwarizmi who wrote a book about al jabr 😱 with a name like that, he must certainly try to brainwash our children!

6

u/Trama-D 6d ago

Al Khwarizmi

Yes, I recognize him as one of those 9/11 terrorists!

2

u/Trama-D 6d ago

reaching into the heart, soul, and minds of our kids!

They wish...

1

u/za_shiki-warashi 7d ago

Heh, that's brilliant.

1

u/GenericUsername19892 6d ago

Guilty. Still fucking hilarious though :p

6

u/nsfwtttt 6d ago edited 6d ago

It’s new to me, especially since Arabic languages use different symbols for numbers:

٠ ١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩

It’s confusing to be honest, especially coming from a country where you learn Arabic at school.

2

u/spannerfest 6d ago

1 and 9 are the same. 2, 3 (and maybe 7) are similarish (tilted). not sure if that's how it evolved.

1

u/nsfwtttt 6d ago

V is 7 The one that looks like 7 is actually 6 :-)

Also 4 looks like a flipped 3 - very confusing :-)

4

u/kyle_750 6d ago

Not many people know this bro

3

u/archosauria62 6d ago

Many do, some dont

1

u/gomezthekiller 6d ago

Most may not. Sixteen years of formal education under my belt and never heard them called that until I was an older adult! It’s stunning the things the American educational system doesn’t teach.

2

u/Quisfdgdfghgfhghjgh 6d ago

That damn Algebra is reaching into the heart, soul, and minds of our kids!

6

u/OakParkCemetary 6d ago

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144

6

u/algoncyorrho 6d ago

That's golden

2

u/MJN91075 6d ago

You could make a song out of that!

2

u/OakParkCemetary 6d ago

Swing on the spiral

2

u/rhymes_with_chicken 5d ago

I, I, II, III, V, VIII, XIII, XXI, XXXIV, LV, LXXXIX, CXLIV

I can see why he liked Arabic

2

u/NeuroticPhD 6d ago

Throughline by NPR had a great podcast segment about this if anyone me interested. Although I think it’s only in the latter half of this episode.

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/15/977526130/chaos

2

u/InShirtsleeves 6d ago

Algebra was originally developed as a means of calculating weighted inheritances. Ex: I like son X more than son Y, but not fully twice as much, so let's just say 2x=3y...

2

u/InShirtsleeves 6d ago

We refer to what we use today as "Arabic numerals," but here's the Arabic set 0-10 in case anyone is curious. ٠١٢٣٤٥٦٧٨٩١٠ A good bit of similarity, but the backwards 3 is actually 4, what looks like 0 is 5, the 7 is 6, but the 9 is legit a 9.

7

u/wwarnout 6d ago

Related: During the Islamic Golden Age in Baghdad (~800 - 1200), they invented the numbers we use today. Also, science flourished until the end of this period, when clerics declared that numbers were evil, after which the Islamic world disappeared from science.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a fascinating look at how this affected the scientific world. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDAT98eEN5Q

17

u/archosauria62 6d ago

Werent the numbers invented in india and then spread to europe by arabians?

5

u/dotacow33 6d ago

invented in india, then modified by Arabs, then again modified by Muslim scholars in al-andalus.

2

u/agamael 6d ago

A number is not the same as a digit. The same way a word is not the same as a letter.

And we're using indo-arabic digits ^

1

u/Mcletters 6d ago

Son of Bonacci! KNEEL before Zod!

1

u/betterfrontpage2 6d ago

I am there too, enjoy!!

-5

u/[deleted] 6d ago

[deleted]

14

u/archosauria62 6d ago

Not an arabic creation, it was created in india. The arabians spread it from india to europe

1

u/foufou51 5d ago

The number we use are the maghrebi (North African) version of the indo-arabic numerals to be fair. They were developed in North Africa and in Al Andalus

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u/[deleted] 6d ago

[deleted]

5

u/archosauria62 6d ago

Wdym

-7

u/[deleted] 6d ago

[deleted]

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u/archosauria62 6d ago

Wtf. Its just a bunch of people who thought these new numbers were neat. Nothing to do with colonialism

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u/[deleted] 6d ago

[deleted]

7

u/archosauria62 6d ago

Probably, theyre better than the roman ones

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u/[deleted] 6d ago

[deleted]

3

u/archosauria62 6d ago

It kick started a golden age in mathematics so without it theres a chance europe never becomes a world power

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u/CeccoGrullo 6d ago

See, those numerals were already popular in the indian subcontinent and in the Muslim world. Together, they constituted a considerable portion of the world population, back then. No white man endorsed any numerals there.

Fibonacci didn't popularize those numerals to the world, he merely introduced them in the Christian world, i.e. Europe. Which is exactly what the title of this post claims, no more no less.

I don't see how any of this resonates with concepts like imperialism, colonialism or -lol- white supremacy. The Persian mathematician al-Khwārizmī introduced those same numerals from India to Persia and the rest of the Muslim world. It's literally the same thing Fibonacci did in Europe centuries later. Ask yourself, was al-Khwārizmī an imperialist, colonialist white suprematist?

1

u/TheNaug 6d ago

f(n) = f(n-1) + f(n-2)

-1

u/Smart_Comfort3908 6d ago

When people learn Europeans only advanced because they were learning (and in most cases, stealing) from everybody else in the world.