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Need Help: Information on ancient Indian scientists

28 April 2008 7,283 views 16 Comments

Many of you may have come across this information about “Ancient Indian Scientists” before. I received it in a chain email but I shall be most grateful if any reader(s) have links or references to the original source(s).

There are many assertions and statements here that have not been verified or explained (see e.g. the entry on Acharya Bharadwaj who is credited with advances in aviation technology*). We need to source and evidence these it to make it more credible.

Some excerpts below (statements on which I need help are marked in italics):

***

ARYABHATT (476 CE), ASTRONOMER and MATHEMATICIAN

Born in 476 CE in Kusumpur (Bihar), Aryabhatt’s intellectual brilliance remapped the boundaries of mathematics and astronomy. In 499 CE, at the age of 23, he wrote a text on astronomy and an unparallel treatise on mathematics called “Aryabhatiyam.” He formulated the process of calculating the motion of planets and the time of eclipses. Aryabhatt was the first to proclaim that the earth is round, it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space – 1000 years before Copernicus published his heliocentric theory. He is also acknowledged for calculating p (Pi) to four decimal places: 3.1416 and the sine table in trigonometry. Centuries later, in 825 CE, the Arab mathematician, Mohammed Ibna Musa credited the value of Pi to the Indians… And above all, his most spectacular contribution was the concept of zero (- need help in clarifying/verifying this)

***

BHASKARACHARYA II(1114-1183 CE), ALGEBRA

Born in the obscure village of Vijjadit (Jalgaon) in Maharastra, Bhaskaracharya’s work in Algebra, Arithmetic and Geometry catapulted him to fame and immortality. His renowned mathematical works called “Lilavati” and “Bijaganita” are considered to be unparalled and a memorial to his profound intelligence. Its translation in several languages of the world bear testimony to its eminence. In his treatise “Siddhant Shiromani” he writes on planetary positions, eclipses, cosmography, mathematical techniques and astronomical equipment. In the “Surya Siddhant” he makes a note on the force of gravity: “Objects fall on earth due to a force of attraction by the earth. Therefore, the earth, planets, constellations, moon, and sun are held in orbit due to this attraction.” Bhaskaracharya was the first to discover gravity, 500 years before Sir Isaac Newton.

***

ACHARYA KANAD (600 BCE), ATOMIC THEORY

As the founder of “Vaisheshik Darshan”- one of six principal philosophies of India – Acharya Kanad was a genius in philosophy. He is believed to have been born in Prabhas Kshetra near Dwarika in Gujarat. He was the pioneer expounder of realism, law of causation and the atomic theory. He has classified all the objects of creation into nine elements, namely: earth, water, light, wind, ether, time, space, mind and soul. He says, “Every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.” His statement ushered in the Atomic Theory for the first time ever in the world, nearly 2500 years before John Dalton (- need help in verification)

…Kanad has also described the dimension and motion of atoms and their chemical reactions with each other. The eminent historian, T.N. Colebrook, has said, “Compared to the scientists of Europe, Kanad and other Indian scientists were the global masters of this field.”  (- source?)

***

NAGARJUNA (100 CE), CHEMICAL SCIENCE

He was an extraordinary wizard of science born in the nondescript village of Baluka in Madhya Pradesh. His dedicated research for twelve years produced maiden discoveries and inventions in the faculties of chemistry and metallurgy. Textual masterpieces like “Ras Ratnakar,” “Rashrudaya” and “Rasendramangal” are his renowned contributions to the science of chemistry. Where the medieval alchemists of England failed, Nagarjuna had discovered the alchemy of transmuting base metals into gold (- may be an exaggeration; needs verification).

As the author of medical books like “Arogyamanjari” and “Yogasar,” he also made significant contributions to the field of curative medicine. Because of his profound scholarliness and versatile knowledge, he was appointed as Chancellor of the famous University of Nalanda.

***

ACHARYA CHARAK (600 BCE), MEDICINE

Acharya Charak has been crowned as the Father of Medicine. His renowned work, the “Charak Samhita”, is considered as an encyclopedia of Ayurveda. His principles, diagoneses, and cures retain their potency and truth even after a couple of millennia….In the “Charak Samhita” he has described the medicinal qualities and functions of 100,000 herbal plants (source/ reference? ).

He has emphasized the influence of diet and activity on mind and body. He has proved the correlation of spirituality and physical health contributed greatly to diagnostic and curative sciences. He has also prescribed and ethical charter for medical practitioners two centuries prior to the Hippocratic oath. (source/ reference? )

***

ACHARYA SUSHRUT (600 BCE), PLASTIC SURGERY

A genius who has been glowingly recognized in the annals of medical science. Born to sage Vishwamitra, Acharya Sudhrut details the first ever surgery procedures in “Sushrut Samhita,” a unique encyclopedia of surgery He is venerated as the father of plastic surgery and the science of anesthesia. When surgery was in its infancy in Europe, Sushrut was performing Rhinoplasty (restoration of a damaged nose) and other challenging operations…(evidence/ source? )

In the “Sushrut Samhita,” he prescribes treatment for twelve types of fractures and six types of dislocations. His details on human embryology are simply amazing. Sushrut used 125 types of surgical instruments including scalpels, lancets, needles, Cathers and rectal speculums; mostly designed from the jaws of animals and birds. He has also described a number of stitching methods; the use of horse’s hair as thread and fibers of bark. In the “Sushrut Samhita,” and fibers of bark. In the “Sushrut Samhita,” he details 300 types of operations. The ancient Indians were the pioneers in amputation, caesarian and cranial surgeries. (- need help in verifying this )

***

VARAHAMIHIR (499-587 CE),�ASTROLOGER and ASTRONOMER

A renowned astrologer and astronomer who was honored with a special decoration and status as one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya in Avanti (Ujjain). Varahamihir’s book “panchsiddhant” holds a prominent place in the realm of astronomy. He notes that the moon and planets are lustrous not because of their own light but due to sunlight. In the “Bruhad Samhita” and “Bruhad Jatak,” he has revealed his discoveries in the domains of geography, constellation, science, botany and animal science. In his treatise on botanical science, Varamihir presents cures for various diseases afflicting plants and trees.(- scant information; more needed)

***

ACHARYA PATANJALI (200 BCE), YOGA

The Science of Yoga is one of several unique contributions of India to the world. It seeks to discover and realize the ultimate Reality through yogic practices. Acharya Patanjali, the founder, hailed from the district of Gonda (Ganara) in Uttar Pradesh. He prescribed the control of prana (life breath) as the means to control the body, mind and soul. This subsequently rewards one with good health and inner happiness. Acharya Patanjali’s 84 yogic postures effectively enhance the efficiency of the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems and many other organs of the body. Yoga has eight limbs where Acharya Patanjali shows the attainment of the ultimate bliss of God in samadhi through the disciplines of: yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dhyan and dharna…

***

ACHARYA BHARADWAJ (800 BCE), AVIATION TECHNOLOGY

Acharya Bharadwaj had a hermitage in the holy city of Prayag and was an ordent apostle of Ayurveda and mechanical sciences. He authored the “Yantra Sarvasva” which includes astonishing and outstanding discoveries in aviation science, space science and flying machines. He has described three categories of flying machines: 1.) One that flies on earth from one place to another. 2.) One that travels from one planet to another. 3.) And One that travels from one universe to another. (- need help in verification)

…His brilliance in aviation technology is further reflected through techniques described by him: 1.) Profound Secret: The technique to make a flying machine invisible through the application of sunlight and wind force. 2.) Living Secret: The technique to make an invisible space machine visible through the application of electrical force. 3.) Secret of Eavesdropping: The technique to listen to a conversation in another plane. 4.) Visual Secrets: The technique to see what’s happening inside another plane… (- fascinating but needs to be referenced and verified)

***

ACHARYA KAPIL (3000 BCE), COSMOLOGY

Celebrated as the founder of Sankhya philosophy, Acharya Kapil is believed to have been born in 3000 BCE to the illustrious sage Kardam and Devhuti. He gifted the world with the Sankhya School of Thought. His pioneering work threw light on the nature and principles of the ultimate Soul (Purusha), primal matter (Prakruti) and creation. His concept of transformation of energy and profound commentaries on atma, non-atma and the subtle elements of the cosmos places him in an elite class of master achievers – incomparable to the discoveries of other cosmologists. (- not clear how; more information needed))

***

Related Posts:

*Pl. see Of Vimanas and Time Travel

The importance of accurate referencing

Clearing the dust off Macaulay’s famous quote

Does no one remember Indian Contribution to Mathematics – Part 2

Does no one remember the Indian contribution to Technology?

Does no one remember the Hindu contribution to Mathematics? (Part 1)

16 Comments »

  • 1. Pramod Athaley said:

    Excellent information to all those who recognise YOG after we spell as YOGA or AYURVED as AYURVEDA our knowledge & wisdom is appreciated by WEST than EAST accepts.
    Our History is called as MYTHOLOGY.
    Our knowledge VEDA is being researched & call science of today our generation goes to west to learn & validate our Vedas.
    Irony of fate what else?

  • 2. Bharat said:

    Your all above excerpts are from the links below. It is good to give the link, if it is known.
    http://www.agni.nl/cms/index.php?id=40,116,0,0,1,0
    http://www.yogaindailylife.org/download/Great_Indians.pdf

    To verify statements attached to each author, perhaps one can go through Hinduwisdom site (easier way).

    Else, you may go through papers like this one:
    The Contributions of India: The Seer-Scientists and the Renaissance in India
    by Vasant V. Merchant; International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Vol. 18, 2002

    Enjoy.
    Bharat

    *** Contd. from previous message ***

    For example, this site gives lots of info on aviation or viman technology.
    http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Vimanas.htm

  • 3. B Shantanu said:

    Bharat: Thanks a lot. I will look at the links and also hinduwisdom.info

  • 4. Dr. Sandeep Pillai said:

    His renowned work, the “Charak Samhita”

    yes CHARAK SAMHITA is a renowned and reputed work on ayurveda.

    The fact should be noted that Charak samhit is an original work of AGNIVESH who scripted the wisdom of his teacher ATREY.

    orginaly the work was known as AGNIVESH TANTRA which then was edited by ACHARYA CHARAK hence popularly known charak samhita.

    later acharya Drudbala gave it an other edition and also completed nearly one third of the book..

    so the charak samhita available today have gone through two phase of edition at different point of timeline.

    refrence to this is the samhita itself…

    [ ityagnivesha krite tantre charaka pratisanskrute apraptae drudabala sampuritae.....] this is how the chapters in chikitsa sthan ends….

  • 5. satyask said:

    Hi Shanthanu,
    I have done some work in this area and it may be useful to you.
    1. http://oldthoughts.wordpress.com/aryabhattiyam/ You can read the original Aryabhattiyam translated by a Harvard Prof here.
    2. http://oldthoughts.wordpress.com/surya-siddhantam/ This is about the Surya Siddhantam of Maysura – Ravana’s father-in-law, the builder of Tripura. It gives a link to the translation and to the summary
    3. http://ancientindians.wordpress.com/astronomical-instruments-gola-bandha-gola-yantra/
    4. http://oldthoughts.wordpress.com/astronomical-instruments-in-ancient-india/

    These are 4 of the many articles I have written referring to authentic translations of the original astronomical treatises as they are preserved. If you do a search on either site or follow all the links you can uncover much more.

    Hope this helps! Good Luck!
    Satya

  • 6. B Shantanu said:

    Thanks Satya. I will certainly have a look.

  • 7. kk said:

    Hi Shantanu,

    I have a suggestion for *new* categories on focus your blog for:

    A. Current status and future of scientific research (fundamental sciences) in India => Goal is to place India at the cutting edge of scientific research.

    B. Eradication of superstition and promoting rational movements in India. => Focus is to promote grass roots activism in developing scientific temper in the society.

    Above two are absolutely necessary for India to be a serious contender in the 21st century. Current quality of scientific research is abysmal. This would probably fall under the Education category, but it deserves more attention than that. I hope FTI team also realizes this.

    Being proud of history can only take us so far. But right now – we are NOT producing Aryabhatas, Bhaskaras, Varahamihiras of the 21st century. Instead we are racing at a faster rate in the wrong direction (just look at the number of astrologers/jyotishis who have pooped up in the last few years on TV channels). Dire need of the hour is to ensure our place in the future than draw solace from past achievements.

    We need to make it happen. Ensuring a spot at the forefront of pioneering scientific research is a necessity for survival in this age. Sooner we shift our focus/energy from past to present/future the better.

    (Kindly move the comment to whichever thread you seem appropriate)

  • 8. Salil said:

    Add to the list the mathematicians Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I, Pingala. Wikipedia has a lot of info about them.

  • 9. B Shantanu said:

    @ KK: Here is an offer for you…Would you like to write a “guest post” on this subject?

  • 10. kk said:

    Shantanu,

    > Would you like to write a “guest post” on this subject?

    Thanks for your generous offer. I do not consider my self well qualified [yet!] to offer feasible constructive ideas on improving quality of scientific research in India. Writing a well-justified, well-supported article takes serious research, effort and time. In addition, original data on this topic are not easy to gather except from already existing reports. The evidence we have so to say is the end results: quality of publications and research outputs.

    But I will keep your offer in mind and may be I will work in parallel to come up with something which can ignite the discussion (even a collection of articles by others which have raised this point)

    On (B), There are many anti-superstition, anti-black magic movements in India: Prabir Ghosh, Narendra Nayak, Maharashtra Andha Shradha Nirmulana Samiti and many more. Most notably Basava Premananda who passed away 2 weeks ago. In the blogosphere, there are a few Indian researchers who keep track of such things (Ex: Dr. Abhinandanan’s blog ).

    I would like to say one more thing on this topic.

    Shantanu,
    We take immense pride in how Hinduism tolerates (for the most part) questioning and in a way promotes scientific enquiry. I want concerned minds to take up a challenge on this matter: Can we get telescopes in our temples? Let us demonstrate to the world that we indeed support scientific enquiry not by making powerpoint slides, but by living it. Oh, what an example it shall be to the world!

    One telescope per temple is a pet dream project of mine like your demo temple with reverse castes. A telescope will ignite young minds, nullifies caste/religion based pettiness to some extent with constant reminder of our [in]significance in this universe!! :)

  • 11. Kaffir said:

    =>
    Dire need of the hour is to ensure our place in the future than draw solace from past achievements.
    =>

    Classic which-comes-first-chicken-or-egg? problem.

  • 12. Kaffir said:

    =>
    Eradication of superstition and promoting rational movements in India. => Focus is to promote grass roots activism in developing scientific temper in the society.
    =>

    One superstition you can add to the list, that needs to be removed, is the irrational hostility of the so-called rationalists towards practices of yoga and ayurveda. These idiotic armchair warriors haven’t even done one pose or given yoga a chance, yet wax eloquent on how “unscientific” (whatever that means) it is. You can find many posts along these lines on Nirmukta (sic).

  • 13. B Shantanu said:

    @ KK: Hurried comment: Before I get a telescope, I would want clean public toliets in EVERY temple – for men, women and children.

    …and “past achievements” can give solace but also be a source of inspiration, no?

  • 14. kk said:

    Shantanu,

    You are right about the public toilets. I agree 100%. My point about telescope was in reference to current context in this thread (science).

    Also, yes past achievements can definitely be a source of inspiration.

  • 15. internationalhindu said:

    The following is a link to an article titled ‘Modern Vedas and Lagging Science – Vedic Knowledge Scores Over Science’ which might be of interest to you sir.

    http://www.hindu-blog.com/2011/10/modern-vedas-and-lagging-science-vedic.html

  • 16. B Shantanu said:

    Placing these here for the record, a 57-min video on “Ancient India’s Engineering Skills”

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