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History of Science in India -  Physics, Mathematics & Statistics
History of Science in India - Physics, Mathematics & Statistics

History of Science in India - Physics, Mathematics & Statistics

by Sibaji Raha

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Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture


9789381325407 - Year: 2014 - Pages: 286



Sibaji Raha
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Author: Sibaji Raha
Bikash Sinha/Dilip Kumar Sinha
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): A K Sharma/M G K Menon/M S Valiathan
Publisher: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
Year: 2014
Language: English
Pages: 286
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9789381325407



There are two ways of writing history-one, the scholarly way, where the emphasis is on details, a thorough analysis of facts and figures, which allows one to draw firm conclusions. The intended audience there is the erudite peers, who can critically evaluate the conclusions, and either agree or disagree with. The other is to tell a story. In either case, the essential requirement of objectivity cannot be dispensed with; accuracy must be maintained, of course to the best of the historian's ability.

We have adopted the second path. To the best of our understanding, the purpose of the present series is to introduce the history of science in India to the general reader who is not expected to be an expert but has a general interest in learning about India's tradition in the practice of science as a noble human endeavor, and where we stand today in the global context. The editor-in-chief of the series, Prof. Arun Kumar Sharma, entrusted us with the task of putting together the part dealing with Physical Sciences section of the Part 1 of the first volume. Keeping the intended audience in mind, we chose to dispense with details and give a flavor of the evolution of physical ideas and activities done within the Indian context. Thus, there are almost no equations or figures, though at times this has put us in some difficulty. After all, let us recall the famous quote from Einstein: Physics should be made as simple as possible but not simpler. We have tried our best nor-to deviate from facts but in some instances, some generalization or oversimplification might have crept in. Our apologies to the expert readers.

In choosing the topics for the recent activities in India, this limitation may have been the most prominent. Starting from the pioneering Physics researches in India by the likes of J. C. Bose, C. V. Raman, MeghnadSaha or S. N. Bose, the canvas of Physics research in India has broadened many-fold. Covering all of them adequately would have taken many more pages, many more years of effort and most importantly, much greater familiarity across the breadth of the various branches of Physics which any single (or two) individual(s) would be unlikely to possess. We thus tender an unconditional apology to our colleagues whose important works may have escaped mention here. The criterion we set for ourselves was to highlight the works of international standard that have been recognized to stand the test of time.

This work does not claim to be original or scholarly; we have often relied on other authors' works, which may not have been fully cited. Our apologies on this score too. The chapters on mathematics cover history of mathematical studies and activities in Indian contexts. It is designed to remind a reader of the leading changes in mathematical thoughts.

A critical hindsight into the days of mathematical antiquity enables a reader to construct afresh the historical endeavors. The interactive modes with mathematical personalities and communities abroad are also taken into account. Contemporary features of mathematical sciences, particularly basics of statistics and breakthroughs, are touched upon. About the Physical Science, in the sun centric earth, distance between moon and the sun from the earth is almost 100 times of the diameter of these bodies. In brief, historical scenarios in realms of mathematical and related sciences are found to be reassuring.

The classic source materials and works on history of mathematics in the Indian setting are acknowledged. The spadework for developing this treatise was untiringly done by Sri Devaprasanna Sinha, the Research Associate, and a distinguished Computer Scientist, to whom I am grateful. Relevant materials at Indian National Science Academy and Dyal Singh Public Library have been of substantial use in this work, and I am immensely thankful to them. Moreover, the authors are thankful to Dr. Sumona Mukherjee, who kindly wrote about the History of the Asiatic Society, and Science Academies of India that were designed to look into the interest of scientists and promote the excellence of science on this subcontinent.

As already implied above, we address ourselves in this volume primarily to high school and college students, and general readers having a rudimentary familiarity with the general concepts of science. If anyone, on reading this treatise, feels curious to read further on any of the topics, we will consider our efforts richly rewarded.

In the first introductory volume, the objectives of this series were outlined. It is targeted towards the contemporary public of very young age, preferably the school and college going children. It was desired to be written in a very simple understandable language without any ambiguity. The objective was to make our younger generation aware of the history of our science which has indeed passed through a tumultuous phase. The volumes principally deal with science during the prehistoric era, followed by science during the British monarchy, and arrival of the renaissance period. Finally, modern science as geared towards the service of mankind, has been highlighted. In fact, it is not necessarily meant for elites, the connoisseurs of the discipline, but for the understanding of younger generations.

An attempt has been made to satisfy all areas of science ranging from astronomy to molecular biology. However, it is now endeavored to highlight principally the antiquity of Indian Science in view of the fact that it has undergone serious undue criticisms based on undigested presentation of incorrect facts and incomplete understanding of ancient literature. Science in India, despite its authenticity and antiquity, has gone through a series of controversies.

The historian of the stature of John Bentley suggested that Greek astronomy is originator of Surya Sidhanta, of eleven century CE, and its origin has also been questioned. The science of Astronomy has even been considered as indigenous to Australia. Aryan invasion theory is supposed to be in 1500 BCE, but the Vedic literature ranging from 1200 BCE cover the Rigvedic era.

All the historical records of Aryabhatta could be traced to 476 BCE and Varahamihira (505-587 CE). These evidences clearly reflect that Science in India despite its antiquity has gone through undue criticisms. Later Astronomy flourished in Kerala, the most noted being Parameshara. Astronomy started its journey about six thousand years ago and dealt with heavenly objects studied by the most ancient civilization that was engaged with the analysis of the sky including changes of season, stars, and planets by sun since ages. The astronomical calendar used by the Indian society for long, including change of season, is clearly controlled by the sun and the moon.



Publisher's Note
Editorial Note

1. The Asiatic Society and Science Academies of India by Dr. Sumona Mukherjee

2. Introduction
3. Physics Research and Education in Colonial India
4. Physics Research in Independent India
5. International Physicists of Indian origin
6. Indian Physics Today in the Global Environment (1980- Present)

7. Introduction
8. Prologue
9. Glimpsing through Math of Antiquity
10. Mathematics in Vedic Civilization
11. Mathematics in the Sixth Century BCE
12. Bhakshali Manuscript
13. On Geometrical Pursuits in Indian Antiquity
14. Interlude
15. Peaks of Mathematics in Ancient India
16. Colonial Influences
17. Asutosh Mukherjee and Srinivasa Ramanujan
18. Seeking a legacy of Renaissance
19. Confluences with Western Mathematics & Mathematicians
20. Recounting the Mathematical Enlightenment: Few facets of Indo-European Interaction
21. Vicinity of Pre-Independence Phase
22. Global Impact Vis A Vis Indian Response: A Retrospect
23. Epilogue: Some Unexplored Facets
24. Onging Dimensionalization of Mathematics: Mathematical Sciences and Technology

25. Statistics in India: The Saga of a Century by Shyama Prosad Mukherjee

Bio-data of the Authors

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