The base ten system has existed for millenniaâ€“given humans like to count on their fingers, this isnâ€™t surprising. And of course the concept of â€śnoneâ€ť is probably even older

But the idea of â€śzeroâ€ť as an actual number is much more recentâ€“Muslim mathematicians in the late first millennium CE were the first to formally use zero. It isnâ€™t intuitive that a number for nothing would be useful, though in hindsight the advantages are obvious.

Algebra was invented by the Greeks in the mid-first century BCE, over a millennium before zero, as was geometry, neither of which require it (though it helps a lot.)

Zero was necessary for more advanced mathematics, eventually leading to the development of calculus in the 1600s. Calculus, in turn, was necessary for the scientific breakthroughs of the 19th and 20th centuries. The computers and internet would not be possible without the zero.

So we all owe a debt to those Muslim mathematicians who said, why not have a number to represent nothing?