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

Unraveling the History of Decimals: The Visionary Italian Merchant and Mathematician Giovanni Bianchini

Italian merchant and mathematician Giovanni Bianchini revolutionized calculations in the 15th century with his invention of the comma. In 1440, he used the decimal point in his work, making astronomical calculations significantly easier. Bianchini’s innovative use of decimals was groundbreaking for his time and influenced later astronomers.

Bianchini worked for the Este family as a Venetian merchant and managed their wealth while drawing up horoscopes. At that time, European astronomers used the Babylonian system of sixty, which posed challenges for multiplication and other calculations. Bianchini developed a decimal system for measuring distances and dividing units into ten equal parts. His approach to decimals made calculations much simpler than working with fractions.

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

In conclusion, Giovanni Bianchini played a crucial role in shaping modern mathematics with his invention of the comma and development of a decimal system for measuring distances. His work revolutionized calculations by making them much simpler than working with fractions, paving the way for future advancements in mathematics.

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