Liber Abaci

Prior to the introduction of Leonardo Fibonacci’s Liber Abbaci or the book of calculation, it was the Roman numeral system that dominated the system of accounting in commerce.  The Roman system made the simple task of adding and subtracting very time consuming. This is due to the fact that there are multiple characters involved just to write the number 1,999 which includes the letters MDCCCCLXXXXVIIII. The system is somewhat hard to read as the figure goes into the millions.  The way Roman numerals are read and the basic task of multiplying and subtracting proved to be tedious, multiplication and division would get into a point where it seemed to defy their very basic rule. Leonardo Fibonacci travelled with his merchant father, Guglielmo Bonaccio in the North African port city of Béjaïa, Algeria. Its in this region where Leonardo acquired most of his education.

Béjaïa was once a Roman territory and the Roman numeric system was extensively used. The Islamic conquest in the city converted the region into the new faith. At that time, the Islamic empire is scientifically advanced due to their extensive collection of books acquired from the rest of the known world. Among these scientific advances was the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. This system was adopted by Persian and Arab mathematicians from India in 825-830 CE. The use of place-value notation in a decimal system made is easier to read and perform complex mathematical calculations compared to the Roman system. As Leonardo Fibonacci realized the superiority of the Hindu-Arabic system over the Roman system, he published and introduced the method of the Indians in Liber Abbaci upon his return to Italy. In the book, Leonardo placed great emphasis on the superiority of the Indian system over the Roman numeric system which no longer required the use of an abacus because of the decimal marker feature. It took a great amount of time before merchants and academics were convinced that the new system is far more superior than the one that they are currently using.
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