Indian Art and Culture GK notes: Scientists of Ancient India
This article lists the contributions of India to the world in the field of Mathematics and Science. It contains the information about the contributions made to knowledge by ancient Indian scientists like Baudhayan, Aryabhatta, Brahmgupta, Bhaskaracharya, Kanad, Varahamihira, Nagarjuna, Susruta, Charak, Patanjali and their achievements in the field of Science and Technology.
Mathematicians of Ancient India:
- The value of pi was first calculated by Baudhayan.
- Pythagoras theorem is already found in Baudhayan’s Sulva Sutra, which was written several years before the age of Pythagoras.
- 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 this scholarly work.
- In the first section he describes the method of denoting big decimal numbers by alphabets. In the second section, we find difficult questions from topics of modern day Mathematics such as number theory, geometry, trigonometry and Beejganita (algebra). The remaining two sections are on astronomy.
- Aryabhatta showed that zero was not a numeral only but also a symbol and a concept.
- Discovery of zero enabled Aryabhatta to find out the exact distance between the earth and the moon.
- Evidently, Aryabhatta contributed greatly to the field of science, too, particularly Astronomy. In ancient India, the science of astronomy was called Khagolshastra. Khagol was the famous astronomical observatory at Nalanda, where Aryabhatta studied.
- Contrary to the popular view that our planet earth is ‘Achala’ (immovable), Aryabhatta stated that ‘earth is round and rotates on its own axis’
- He also correctly stated that the moon and the planets shined by reflected sunlight.
- He also gave a scientific explanation for solar and lunar eclipse clarifying that the eclipse were not because of Rahhu and/or Ketu or some other rakshasa (demon).
- He is a 7th century Mathematician.
- He used place value in almost the same way in his methods of multiplication as it is used today.
- He introduced negative numbers and operations on zero into mathematics.
- He wrote Brahm Sputa Siddantika through which the Arabs came to know our mathematical system.
- Bhaskaracharya was a 12th Century Mathematician .
He is famous for his book Siddanta Shiromani. It is divided into four sections: Lilavati (Arithmetic), Beejaganit (Algebra), Goladhyaya (Sphere) and Grahaganit (mathematics of planets).
- Bhaskara introduced Chakrawat Method or the Cyclic Method to solve algebraic equations. This method was rediscovered six centuries later by European mathematicians, who called it inverse cycle.
- In the nineteenth century, an English man, James Taylor, translated Lilavati and made this great work known to the world.
- Jain Literature contains an elaborate description of mathematics in (500 B.C -100 B.C).
- Jain gurus knew how to solve Quadratic Equations.
- They have also described fractions, algebraic equations, series, set theory, logarithms and exponents in a very interesting manner.
- Jain Guru Mahaviracharya wrote Ganit Sara Sangraha in 850A.D., which is the first textbook on arithmetic in present day form.
- Least common Multiple (LCM) of given numbers was also described by him. Thus, long before John Napier introduced it to the world, it was already known to Indians.
- Kanad was a sixth century scientist of Vaisheshika School.
- His original name was Aulukya. He got the name Kanad, because even as a child, he was interested in very minute particles called “kana”.
- According to Kanad, material universe is made up of kanas, (anu/atom) which cannot be seen through any human organ.They are indivisible and indestructible.
- This is, of course, what the modern atomic theory also says.
- Varahamihira lived in the Gupta period.
- Varahamihira made great contributions in the fields of hydrology, geology and ecology.
- He was one of the first scientists to claim that termites and plants could be the indicators of the presence of underground water.
- He gave a list of six animals and thirty plants, which could indicate the presence of water.
- He gave very important information regarding termites (Deemak or insects that destroy wood), that they go very deep to the surface of water level to bring water to keep their houses (bambis) wet.
- Another theory, which has attracted the world of science is the Earthquake cloud theory given by Varahmihira in his Brhat Samhita. The thirty second chapter of this samhita is devoted to signs of
earthquakes. He has tried to relate earthquakes to the influence of planets, undersea
activities, underground water, unusual cloud formation and abnormal behaviour of animals.
- Another field where Varahamihira’s contribution is worth mentioning is Astrology.
- Varahamihira was one of the nine gems, who were scholars, in the court of Vikramaditya. Varahamihira’s
predictions were so accurate that king Vikramaditya gave him the title of ‘Varaha’.
- Nagarjuna was a tenth century scientist.
- The main aim of his experiments was to transform base elements into gold. Even though he was not successful in his goal, he succeeded in making an element with gold-like shine. Till date, this technology is used in making imitation jewelry.
- In his treatise, Rasaratnakara, he has discussed methods for the extraction of metals like gold, silver, tin and copper.
Medical Science in Ancient India:
- Ayurveda is the indigenous system of medicine that was developed in Ancient India. The word Ayurveda literally means the science of good health and longevity of life.
- A treatise on Ayurveda, Atreya Samhita, is the oldest medical book of the world.
- Charak is called the father of ayurvedic medicine and Susruta the father of surgery.
- Susruta, Charak, Madhava, Vagbhatta and Jeevak were noted ayurvedic practitioners of Ancient India.
- Susruta was a pioneer in the field of surgery. He studied human anatomy with the help of a dead body.
- In Susruta Samhita, over 1100 diseases are mentioned including fevers of twenty-six kinds, jaundice of eight kinds and urinary complaints of twenty kinds.
- Over 760 plants are described. All parts, roots, bark, juice, resin, flowers etc. were used. Cinnamon, sesame, peppers, cardamom, ginger are household remedies even today.
- In Susruta Samhita, the method of selecting and preserving a dead body for the purpose of its detailed study has also been described. The dead body of an old man or a person who died of a severe disease was generally not considered for studies. The body needed to be perfectly cleaned and then preserved in the bark of a tree. It was then kept in a cage and hidden carefully in a spot in the river. There the current of the river softened it. After seven days it was removed from the river. It was then cleaned with a brush made of grass roots, hair and bamboo. When this was done, every inner or outer part of the body could be seen clearly.
- Susruta’s greatest contribution was in the fields of Rhinoplasty (plastic surgery) and
Ophthalmic surgery (removal of cataracts).
- Susruta Samhita also gives a description of 101 instruments used in surgery. Some serious operations performed included taking foetus out of the womb, repairing the damaged rectum, removing stone from the bladder, etc.
- Charak is considered the father of ancient Indian science of medicine.
- He was the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor) in the court of Kanishka.
- His Charak Samhita is a remarkable book on medicine. It has the description of a large number of diseases and gives methods
of identifying their causes as well as the method of their treatment.
- He was the first to talk about digestion, metabolism and immunity as important for health and so medical scienc.
- In Charak Samhita, more stress has been laid on removing the cause of disease rather
than simply treating the illness.
- Charak also knew the fundamentals of Genetics.
- The science of Yoga was developed in ancient India as an allied science of Ayurveda for healing without medicine at the physical and mental level.
- The term Yoga has been derived from the Sanskrit work Yoktra. Its literal meaning is “yoking the mind to the inner self after detaching it from the outer subjects of senses”.
- Yoga is physical as well as mental. Physical yoga is called Hathyoga. Generally, it aims at removing a disease and restoring healthy condition to the body. Rajayoga is mental yoga.
- The credit of systematically presenting this great science goes to Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Aum is spoken of as the symbol of God. He refers to Aum as a cosmic sound, continuously flowing through the ether, fully known only to the illuminated.
- Besides Yoga Sutras, Patanjali also wrote a work on medicine and worked on Panini’s grammar known as Mahabhasaya.