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In the 15th century, a Venetian merchant named Giovanni Bianchini made a groundbreaking discovery that revolutionized calculations. Bianchini, who also worked for the Este family as an astronomer and mathematician, used the decimal point in his work, making astronomical calculations much simpler than working with fractions.

Bianchini’s approach to decimals was innovative at the time. He developed a decimal system for measuring distances and dividing units into ten equal parts. This made mathematical calculations much more straightforward than they had been before. His use of decimals predated a German astronomer’s observation of it by 150 years.

Bianchini’s trigonometric tables, which combined degrees and the Babylonian system with decimals, showcased his unique approach to astronomy. Later astronomers were influenced by Bianchini’s work and continued to use his decimal system in their own calculations.

Mathematics historian Glen Van Brummelen discovered Bianchini’s innovative use of decimals while studying his treatise. The discovery revealed that Bianchini was not only an accomplished merchant but also an influential mathematician who paved the way for future generations of calculators.

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