Natural number

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In mathematics, a natural number is a a number from the set {0,1,2,...} or {1,2,3...}, depending on the context and the reference.[1] Natural numbers were used initially for counting ("there are three cows in this field"), but they took on the purpose of ordering as well ("She is the 2nd fastest person alive). These are specific instances of the more general notions of cardinality and ordinality which slowly become more complicated as one treats infinite numbers as well. The set of natural numbers is countable- via bijection, this property can be used to prove the countability of the integers and rational numbers.


In the late 19th century, Giuseppe Peano (August 27, 1858 – April 20, 1932) elaborated the axiomatic system for the Natural Numbers, later named Peano Axioms in his honor.


  1. 0 is usually included in the list of natural numbers in modern textbooks (Bourbaki 1968, Halmos 1974). + Older books sometimes exclude zero, as there is a long history of people thinking that zero is unnatural or not really a number. Ribenboim (1996) states "Let P be a set of natural numbers; whenever convenient, it may be assumed that 0 in P." (Wolfram)