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Who created scientific notation?

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Quick Answer

No particular person is credited with creating or discovering scientific notation. The origin of this term dates back to around 1961, when it first appeared in the "New International Dictionary of the English Language." Scientific notation, which is a method of easily expressing either large or small numbers in exponential form, evolved over time.

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Full Answer

Rene Descartes was the first person to use the concept of exponential notation in 1637. He used superscript to express exponents, such as 2x, where x is any power. However, scientific notation uses 10 as the base. Mathematicians use positive powers for large numbers and negative powers, or exponents, for very small numbers.

Mathematicians and scientists often use scientific notation to express large numbers, such as distances between celestial objects. A number like 1,000,000,000 can be written in scientific notation as 1.0 x 109. Similarly, an infinitesimal number, such as 0.00000056 is given as 5.6 x 10-7.

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