Good for nothing! – An illustrated mathematical history of zero

24 September 2019

Zero, zip, zilch, nil, nada, nothing – we have many names for it, but who invented the curious concept of zero? And why have we spent millennia making such a big deal out of nothing at all?

  • zero

    Whether you’re a magical math-lete with or merry math-phobe, you’re invited to join us as we take a mystical journey back in time with a University of Canterbury expert in mathematics and ancient languages, Professor Clemency Montelle, to explore the emergence of one of the most interesting and elusive concepts in mathematics – the number zero.

Zero, zip, zilch, nil, nada, nothing – we have many names for it, but who invented the curious concept of zero? And why have we spent millennia making such a big deal out of nothing at all?

Whether you’re a magical math-lete with or merry math-phobe, you’re invited to join us as we take a mystical journey back in time with a University of Canterbury expert in mathematics and ancient languages, Professor Clemency Montelle, to explore the emergence of one of the most interesting and elusive concepts in mathematics – the number zero. Learn first-hand why so many scholars, both ancient and modern, have made much ado about nothing!

The use of zero as a placeholder appeared in several different ancient cultures, from cuneiform tablets in the ancient near east to Greek papyri, from Arabic numerical tables to the fluke discovery of an Indian birch bark manuscript. Associate Professor Montelle will investigate the flourishing of ancient systems of numeration and the symbols they used to capture them.

Dr Clemency Montelle is a Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the University of Canterbury’s College of Engineering. Crazy about mathematics and hooked on ancient languages, researching the history of mathematics was the perfect way to combine her two passions. A graduate from the Department of the History of Mathematics, Brown University, USA, which she completed as Fulbright scholar, Dr Montelle is currently immersed in an international project on the history of mathematical astronomy in Sanskrit sources.

UC Connect public lecture: Good for nothing! – An illustrated mathematical history of zero by Professor Clemency Montelle, Mathematics and Statistics, UC Engineering, 7pm – 8pm, Wednesday 25 September, 2019 in C Block Lecture theatre, University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus, Christchurch.

Register to attend free: http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/ucconnect/

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