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Writing in 449 CE, the Indian astronomer-mathematician Âryabhata created a code that provided an ingenious solution to the problem of writing mathematics in terse verse.

In Âryabhata’s system, the 25 ‘classified’ consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet, k to m, stand for the numbers 1 to 25; the eight unclassified consonants y to h stand for the numbers 30 to 100 in steps of 10. The place value is indicated by the nine vowels a to au progressively from 1000 to 1008 in steps of 100.

Huge numbers can in this system be represented by short, synthetic words.

Reference: Nature 414, 851 (2001)

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