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I was reading this BBC article that ends with this sentence:

The creation of zero was one of the "greatest breakthroughs" in mathematics, Prof Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford said.

Why isn't it

The creation of zero has been one of the "greatest breakthroughs" in mathematics, Prof Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford said.

instead?

The action of "creation of zero" took place a long time ago and is since been terminated. "Was" gives me the impression that the writer means that the action took place recently, and not in the "3rd or 4th century".

Additionally, but here I might be projecting, "was" gives me the impression that is also meant that is not a "greatest breakthrough" anymore, while "has been" doesn't.

What am I missing?

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    Because it's referring to a single point in time rather than a continuing reference. Neither is wrong; the choice of one over the other is just a matter of style, and of what the author chooses to emphasize. – Robusto Sep 14 '17 at 14:19
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    Incidentally, it's not the "was" that makes you feel the statement has cast doubt on the assertion, but the "scare quotes" around "greatest breakthroughs"—scare quotes tend to hold a statement at arm's length, the way the word "purports" might do. – Robusto Sep 14 '17 at 14:28
  • Those are not scare quotes, though they may unintentionally be viewed as scare quotes and thus has the same effect. But if you use quotes to mark the fact that something is a direct quote, that's not scare-quoting in itself. Scare-quoting is when you use the quotes to distance yourself, and sometimes the item scare-quoted isn't even a direct quote. – rjpond Sep 14 '17 at 18:17
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Your understanding of the implications of the past tense is incomplete:

"Was" gives me the impression that the writer means that the action took place recently

No, the simple past means "in the past" it does not imply that the action was recent.

"was" gives me the impression that is also meant that is not a "greatest breakthrough"

No, it just means that the "creation" event occurred at some point in the past.

On the other hand:

The creation of zero has been one of the "greatest breakthroughs"

Could suggest that the creation process continues up to the present. For speaking of events that occurred in the past, use the simple past tense.

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