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

The use of decimal numbers has revolutionized mathematical calculations and made them much easier. A recent study revealed that the comma, used in decimal numbers, was invented by Italian merchant and mathematician Giovanni Bianchini in the 15th century. In 1440, Bianchini used the decimal point in his work, displaying a remarkable understanding of astronomical calculations.

Bianchini, a Venetian merchant who also worked for the Este family, managed their wealth and drew up horoscopes. At that time, European astronomers used the Babylonian system of sixty, which posed challenges for multiplication and other calculations. Bianchini’s work involved developing a decimal system for measuring distances, dividing units into ten equal parts.

Mathematics historian Glen Van Brummelen discovered Bianchini’s innovative use of the decimal point while studying his treatise. Bianchini’s approach to decimals was groundbreaking for that time and even influenced later astronomers. Using decimals in calculations made the process much simpler than working with fractions.

One significant discovery was that Bianchini’s use of the decimal point predated a German astronomer’s observation of it by 150 years. His 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 Samantha Jones

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