Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/619

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613
THE HINDU-ARABIC NUMERALS

except in some countries of the far east, near where they had their origin.

Such is the story of the numerals, and such is one phase of the development of the mind of man. In the childhood of the race we see him counting upon his lips, his fingers, or his toes. Then he assigns to his ideas symbols, and finally with prodigious difficulty gives to them a value of place. But when at last this has been done, and when he understands what he has done, his mind can travel upon the wings of light. In a twinkling he is able to make calculations which in physical terms express aeons of time or stupendous distance along the pathway of the infinite. And all this he can do with ten little symbols, which can be written upon a shred of paper, or told off upon the fingers of his hands.