It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of the achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.
Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749 - 1827)
Source: H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.
Napoleon: You have written this huge book on the system of the world without once mentioning the author of the universe. Laplace: Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis. Later when told by Napoleon about the incident, Lagrange commented: Ah, but that is a fine hypothesis. It explains so many things.