The Indian system (also known as the Indo-Arabic system) was intro- duced to Europeans by Gerbert of Aurillac in the tenth century. He traveled to Spain to learn about the system first-hand from Arab scholars, prior to being named Pope Sylvester II in 999 CE. However, the system subsequently encountered stiff resistance, in part from accountants who did not want their craft rendered obsolete, to clerics who were aghast to hear that the Pope had traveled to Islamic lands to study the method. It was widely rumored that he was a sorcerer, and that he had sold his soul to Lucifer during his travels. This accusation persisted until 1648, when papal authorities reopened Sylvester’s tomb to make sure that his body had not been infested by Satanic forces.The Indo-Arabic system was reintroduced to Europe by Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, in his 1202 CE book Liber Abaci. However, usage of the system remained limited for many years, in part because the scheme continued to be considered “diabolical,” due in part to the mistaken impression that it originated in the Arab world (in spite (in spite of Fibonacci’s clear descrip- tions of the “nine Indian figures” plus zero). Indeed, our
modern English word “cipher” or “cypher,” which is derived from the Arabic zephirum for zero, and which alternately means “zero” or “secret code” in modern usage, is very likely a linguistic memory of the time when using decimal arithmetic was deemed evidence of dabbling in the occult, which was potentially punishable by death
1. A unit is that by virtue of which each of the things that exist is called one.
2. A number is a multitude composed of units.
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