Thursday, September 30, 2021

History of ancient fraction

The word fraction actually comes from the Latin "fractio" which means to break. Many cultures have developed fractions (and decimals) independently.

Around 1800 BC: Fractions were first studied by the Egyptians in their study of Egyptian fractions.

Very few scrolls remained which found their way to antique collectors. The Lahun papyrus forms part of the Kahun Papyri and dates back to c. 1825 B.C. It contains an incomplete table of Egyptian fractions 2/n (n=3,…,21) (a complete version is in the Rhind Papyrus).

The huge disadvantage of the Egyptian system for representing fractions is that it is very difficult to do any calculations.

Around 300 BC the Greeks were writing fractions using their alphabet to represent the numbers. The number 2 was written as β and the number 5 was written as ε .

In Ancient Rome, fractions were only written using words to describe part of the whole. They were based on the unit of weight which was called the as. One "as" was made up of 12 uncia so fractions were centered on twelfths.

The Babylonians had one of the oldest written records of fractions and decimals, dating from around 2000 BC. While the current number system uses base 10 (that is, there are 10 digits that make up all our numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9), the Babylonian’s number system was organized around the number 60, so current system say it is base 60.

By about 500AD, the Indians had developed a system from a way of writing called brahmi, which had nine symbols and a zero. The knowledge of fractions in India can be traced to ancient times. The fractions one-half (ardha) and three-fourths (tri-pada) occurred already in one of the oldest vedic works the R. gveda (circa 1000 BC). In mathematical works Sulba-s´utras (circa 500 BC), fractions were not only mentioned, but were used in statements and solutions of problems.