The invention of the decimal point dates back to at least 1440

In the 15th century, the decimal number system was revolutionized by Italian merchant and mathematician Giovanni Bianchini. Bianchini used the decimal point in his work, showcasing a remarkable understanding of astronomical calculations. At that time, European astronomers were using the Babylonian system of sixty, which made multiplication and other calculations challenging.

Bianchini’s innovative use of decimals involved developing a system for measuring distances and dividing units into ten equal parts. This approach was groundbreaking for its time and even influenced later astronomers. Using decimals in calculations made the process much simpler than working with fractions.

Mathematics historian Glen Van Brummelen discovered Bianchini’s approach to decimals while studying his treatise. He found that Bianchini’s use of the decimal point predated a German astronomer’s observation of it by 150 years. Bianchini’s trigonometric tables, which combined degrees and the 60 system with decimals, showcased his unique approach to astronomical calculations. Ultimately, Bianchini’s work demonstrated the power and simplicity of decimal numbers in mathematical calculations.

By Riley Johnson

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