Origin of the Null Symbol
Date: 03/05/2003 at 21:36:24 From: Jeff MacLemore Subject: What is The Origin of the Null Symbol Where did the null symbol come from? Is the zero with a slash through it a letter from another language? In short, does it relate to another distant culture in any way? Pi, for example ties in with the Greeks. Does null have the same kind of relation?
Date: 03/05/2003 at 22:49:41 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: What is The Origin of the Null Symbol Hi, Jeff. Our FAQ has a link to Jeff Miller's site on the history of symbols: Earliest uses of mathematical symbols http://jeff560.tripod.com/mathsym.html Under Set Theory, you will find this: The null set symbol (Ř). André Weil (1906-1998) says in his autobiography that he introduced the symbol: Wisely, we had decided to publish an installment establishing the system of notation for set theory, rather than wait for the detailed treatment that was to follow: it was high time to fix these notations once and for all, and indeed the ones we proposed, which introduced a number of modifications to the notations previously in use, met with general approval. Much later, my own part in these discussions earned me the respect of my daughter Nicolette, when she learned the symbol Ř for the empty set at school and I told her that I had been personally responsible for its adoption. The symbol came from the Norwegian alphabet, with which I alone among the Bourbaki group was familiar. The citation above is from page 114 of André Weil's _The Apprenticeship of a Mathematician_, Birkhaeuser Verlag, Basel-Boston-Berlin, 1992. Translated from the French by Jennifer Gage. The citation was provided by Julio González Cabillón. This letter is used in the Norwegian, Danish and Faroese alphabets. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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