Science is written in the universal language of mathematics. But the development of that language into the agreed system of symbols and notations that we take for granted today took centuries to develop.
A leaf displayed here from an Indian manuscript dating from no later than the twelfth century contains early forms of today’s familiar ‘Arabic’ numbering system, and includes the earliest surviving use in a manuscript of the zero (represented by a dot). Shown with it is the earliest use in an English printed book of the plus and minus signs, and the first use anywhere of the equals sign.
Also exhibited here are two foundational mathematical works: the Elements of the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, which right up to the twentieth century was the standard mathematical text taught in all schools; and Isaac Newton’s revolutionary Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, which proved in words and equations that the universe works according to mechanical – and comprehensible – principles.