Article by: Niladri Sekhar Dutta, The North-Eastern Chronicle
Visual by: Subham Kr Dey
When we talk about great Indian Scientists what are the names that first come to our mind ? C.V. Raman, the Noble Prize winning physicist, Ramanujan, the man who discovered infinity or Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam popularly known as the ‘missile man’ and many others.
But these are not only scientists we have produced, if we take a deep tour in our history we will find India was blessed with many scientists and their discoveries. But somehow the world has forgotten or don’t give them enough credits for their contribution.
Science and Mathematics were highly developed during the ancient period in India. Ancient India contributed immensely to the knowledge in Mathematics as well as various branches of Science. Here we will talk about some of the pioneers and you will be surprised to know that many theories of modern day mathematics were known to ancient Indian.
Baudhayana was the first one to arrive at several concepts in Mathematics, which was later rediscovered by the western world. The value of ‘pi’ was first calculated by him.
As we know ‘pi’ is useful in calculating area circumference of a circle. What is known as Pythagoras theorem today was already found in “Baudhayan’s Sulva Sutra” which was written several years before the age of Pythagoras.
In Baudhayana’s theorem this has been explained as Deerghachatursh(Triangle), Chetra(Square) of Rajju(hypotenuse) is equal to the sum of the Parshavani(base) and Trigyamani(perpendicular). It’s amazing how Pythagoras theorem was known in our country far back in 1000 B.C.
Aryabhatta was a 5th century, mathematician, Astronomer, Astrologer and Physicist. At the age of 23 he wrote ‘Aryabhattiya’, which is a summary of mathematics of his time.
There are four sections in his scholrary work. In the first two sections we know about denoting big decimal numbers by alphabets, and modern day mathematics such as geometry, trigonometry, algebra etc and the last two sections are on Astronomy.
Aryabhatta showed that Zero is not only a numeral but also a concept. It enabled Aryabhatta to find out the exact distance between the earth and the moon.
In ancient India science of Astronomy was well advanced, it was called ‘Khagolshastra’. Disregarding the popular belief the earth is ‘Achala'(immovable), He stated his theory “Earth is round and rotate on its own axis”. He also gave scientific explanation for solar and lunar eclipses.
Varahamihira was another well known scientist of Ancient period in India. He lived in Gupta period, and had made great contributions in the fields of hydrology, geology, maths and ecology.
He was the first scientist to claim that termites and plants could be the indicators of the presence of underground water, and go very deep to the surface of water level to bring water to keep their houses wet.
He had given earthquake cloud theory which has attracted the world of science. In the history of science he was the first to claim that some “force” might be keeping bodies stuck to the round earth. And now it is known as gravity. He had predicted the discovery of water in Mars around 1500 years ago.
In keeping with times, medical science was also highly developed in India. Charak is known as Father of ancient Indian Science of Medicine. In the court of Kanishka he was the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor).
His remarkable book on medicine is Charak Samhita in which he had given various description of diseases and gives methods of identifying their causes as well as method of their treatment. He was the first person who talked about the digestion, metabolism and immunity and also knew the fundamentals of genetics.
Susrhuta was a pioneer in the field of surgery. He considered surgery as “highest division of healing”. He studied human anatomy with the help of a dead body. In ‘sushruta samihata’ 110 diseases are mentioned including fever of 26 kinds.
Sushruta’s greatest contribution was in the field of plastic surgery and Opthalmic surgery. He has given a very step by step process of these operation. Strikingly, the steps followed by him similar to the steps followed by the modern world during plastic surgery.
It’s fascinating that thousands of years back, medical science was at such an advanced stage in India. We observed a great era in the history when the scientific temperament prevailed in the society. But with the time we lost our knowledge.
That greatness was ancient and after that India didn’t witness that scientific revolution. Very few Indians became great scientists. Those great discoveries are now the relics of past and we can just take pride in them. If we were really so great once then we should now repeat the history by achieving that feat again.