A binary number system like that used in modern computers was first developed by Polynesians on the island of Mangareva according to research reported on Dec. 16, 2013, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller, both with the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen in Norway.
The binary system used by the residents of Mangareva may be 1,500 years old and predates the binary system developed and refined by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz between 1646 and 1716 by a minimum of two centuries.
The binary system used in Mangareva is an addition of three binary steps to the base ten or decimal counting system developed by many cultures due to the number of fingers on people’s hands. The binary system developed by ancient Polynesians is capable of performing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The binary system was developed by the Polynesians as a pragmatic method of counting groups of objects quickly and efficiently. This system of numbering was determined to be culturally expedient for this small group of people.
The researchers propose the numbering systems are an innate human creation and that culture and necessity are the prime drivers of the development of different systems of numbering.