Article ID: CBB025167369

Gerbert of Aurillac and the Transmission of Arabic Numerals to Europe (2021)


The French clergyman Gerbert of Aurillac, later to become Pope Sylvester II, is said to have represented all numbers with only “nine symbols” on his abacus and is therefore regarded as the one who brought the Arabic numerals to Europe. In his own writings, however, he only used the Roman numerals. Early illustrations of Arabic numerals appear in Europe around the year 1000 in the Abacus treatise of Bernelinus of Paris, who was probably a pupil of Gerbert. In two manuscripts of his “Liber abaci” the number “3” is displayed in a peculiar shape, reminiscent of the sign for “three” in Roman shorthand. Since Gerbert used this shorthand, the sign in question could be an indication of his role in the introduction of the new numbers. In the further course of the study an attempt is made to retrace the possible course of the transmission of Arabic numerals from Muslim Spain to Europe.

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Authors & Contributors
Michaela Wiesinger
Ausiello, Giorgio
Ingham, Patricia Clare
Krawietz, Birgit
Howie, Cary
Burgwinkle, William E.
British Journal for the History of Mathematics
Science in Context
Sciamvs: Sources and Commentaries in Exact Sciences
Russian History
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Journal of the History of Ideas
Codice Edizioni
Yale University Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
Diffusion of innovation; diffusion of knowledge; diffusion of technology
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Sylvester II, Pope
Fibonacci, Leonardo
Time Periods
Early modern
14th century
13th century
Moscow (Russia)
Mediterranean region

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