Author: changabula

Indian Inventions, Discoveries and Other Contributions   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-6-20 07:55:47 |Display all floors
"India is the world's most ancient civilization. Nowhere on earth can you find such a rich and multi-layered tradition that has remained unbroken and largely unchanged for at least five thousand years. Bowing low before the onslaught of armies, and elements, India has survived every invasion, every natural disaster, every mortal disease and epidemic, the double helix of her genetic code transmitting its unmistakable imprint down five millennia to no less than a billion modern bearers. Indians have demonstrated greater cultural stamina than any other people on earth. The essential basis of Indian culture is Religion in the widest and most general sense of the world. An intuitive conviction that the Divine is immanent in everything permeated every phase of life," says Stanley Wolpert.

Indic civilization has enriched every art and science known to man. Thanks to India, we reckon from zero to ten with misnamed "Arabic" numerals (Hindsaa - in Arabic means from India), and use a decimal system without which our modern computer age would hardly have been possible.

Science and philosophy were both highly developed disciplines in ancient India. However, because Indian philosophic thought was considerably more mature and found particular favor amongst intellectuals, the traditions persists that any early scientific contribution came solely from the West, Greece in particular. Because of this erroneous belief, which is perpetuated by a wide variety of scholars, it is necessary to briefly examine the history of Indian scientific thought. From the very earliest times, India had made its contribution to the texture of Western thought and living. Michael Edwardes, author of British India, writes that throughout the literatures of Europe, tales of Indian origin can be discovered. European mathematics  - and, through them, the full range of European technical achievement – could hardly have existed without Indian numerals. But until the beginning of European colonization in Asia, India’s contribution was usually filtered through other cultures.

"Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago." - Grant Duff British Historian of India. Dr. Vincent Smith has remarked, "India suffers today, in the estimation of the world, more through the world's ignorance of the achievements of the heroes of Indian history than through the absence or insignificance of such achievement."
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Post time 2007-6-20 07:56:49 |Display all floors
Introduction to Hindu Culture

According to American Historian Will Durant The Story of Civilizations - Our Oriental Heritage ISBN: 1567310125 1937 p.391-396:

"From the time of Megasthenes, who described India to Greece ca 302 B.C., down to the eighteenth century, India was all a marvel and a mystery to Europe. Marco Polo (1254-1323) pictured its western fringe vaguely, Columbus blundered upon America in trying to reach it, Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to rediscover it, and merchants spoke rapaciously of "the wealth of the Indies."

" It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future. As invention, industry, and trade bind the continents more closely, and shall absorb, even in enmity, some of its ways and thoughts."

"The indications are that Mohenjadaro was at its height when Cheops built the first great pyramid; that it had commercial, religious and artistic connections to Sumeria and Sir John Marshall believes, Mohenjadaro represents the oldest of all civilizations known."

The medieval Arab scholar Sa'id Ibn Ahmad al-Andalusi (1029-1070) wrote in his Tabaqat al-'umam, one of the earliest books on history of sciences:

"The first nation to have cultivated science is India. ... India is known for the wisdom of its people. Over many centuries, all the kings of the past have recognized the ability of the Indians in all the branches of knowledge... The kings of China have stated that the kings of the world are five in number and all the people of the world are their subjects. They mentioned the king of China, the king of India, the king of the Turks, the king of the Persians, and the king of the Romans... They referred to the king of India as the "king of wisdom" because of the Indians' careful treatment of ulum (sciences) and all the branches of knowledge. ... The Indians, known to all nations for many centuries, are the metal (essence) of wisdom, the source of fairness and objectivity. They are people of sublime pensiveness, universal apologues, and useful and rare inventions. ... To their credit the Indians have made great strides in the study of numbers and of geometry. They have acquired immense information and reached the zenith in their knowledge of the movements of the stars (astronomy).... After all that they have surpassed all other peoples in their knowledge of medical sciences.."

Sir William Wilson Hunter author of the book, The Indian Empire, said India," has even contributed to modern medical science by the discovery of various chemicals and by teaching you how to reform misshapen ears and noses. Even more it has done in mathematics, for algebra, geometry, astronomy, and the triumph of modern science -- mixed mathematics -- were all invented in India, just so much as the ten numerals, the very cornerstone of all present civilization, were discovered in India, and are in reality, Sanskrit words."

Beginning with the earliest known Indian civilization, the Indus Valley, with its pottery wheel, cotton textiles, Indus script, and two wheeled carts, there is a good deal of material and texts to work from. By the beginning of the third millennium B.C. in India, as in China, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, scientific development was well advanced. Excavations carried on at the sites of the Indus civilization have revealed remnants of an ancient civilization unsurpassed in civil engineering accomplishments, particularly baths and drainage. Whilst much is known of the hygienic measures of the period, little is known of the scientific knowledge upon which it was based. From the town Planning and Great Baths of Indus Valley it is evidence in the neat arrangement of the major buildings contained in the citadel, including the placement of a large granary and water tank or bath at right angles to one another. The lower city, which was tightly packed with residential units, was also constructed on a grid pattern consisting of a number of blocks separated by major cross streets. Baked-brick houses faced the street, and domestic life was centered around an enclosed courtyard. The cities had an elaborate public drainage system, Sanitation was provided through an extensive system of covered drains running the length of the main streets and connected by chutes with most residences. In the valley of the Indus River of India, the world's oldest civilization had developed its own system of mathematics.

This civilization is known for its well planned cities, brick built houses, excellent drainage system and water storage tanks. Benjamin Rowland (1904-1972) author of Art and Architecture of India wrote: "Indeed it could be said that the population of the Indus cities lived more comfortably than did their contemporaries in the crowded and ill-built metropolises elsewhere. People were literate and had their own script. Dance and music formed essential part of their daily life."

They had wide main streets and were magnificently laid out in grid form, reflecting careful town planning. They had sewers, municipal water systems, public baths, and well-fortified citadels. The private houses were well built, of fine solid baked bricks which have not crumbled over the centuries. Many of them were two stories high, and had seat latrines and chutes for refuse. Homes were built around courtyards. The people of the Indus Valley civilization had an advanced technology. They knew how to make cotton cloth and copper and bronze castings and forgings. Some of their art objects have a wonderful simple realism. The torso of one small dancing figure is so unbelievably alive that one can almost feel the easy muscles at work under the smooth skin.

(source: India: A World in Transition - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb p. 20).

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-6-21 06:12 AM ]
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Post time 2007-6-20 08:01:53 |Display all floors
"Mohenjo-daro had some of the most advanced toilets and sewers, with lavatories built into the outer walls of houses. There were “Western-style” toilets made from bricks with wooden seats on top. They had vertical chutes, through which waste fell into street drains or cesspits. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the director-general of archaeology in India from 1944 to 1948, wrote: “The high quality of the sanitary arrangements could well be envied in many parts of the world today.”

Nearly all of the hundreds of houses excavated had their own bathing rooms. Generally located on the ground floor, the bath was made of brick, sometimes with a surrounding curb to sit on. The water drained away through a hole in the floor, down chutes or pottery pipes in the walls, into the municipal drainage system. Even the fastidious Egyptians rarely had special bathrooms."

The Indian architects designed sewage disposal systems on a large scale, building networks of brick effluent drains following the lines of the streets. The drains were seven to ten feet wide, cut at two feet below ground level with U shaped bottoms lined with loose brick easily taken up for cleaning. At the intersection of two drains, the sewage planners installed cesspools with steps leading down into them, for periodic cleaning. By 2700 B.C. these cities had standardized earthenware plumbing pipes with broad flanges for easy joining with asphalt to stop leaks."  

The Harappans employed a variety of plumb bobs that reveal a system of weight based on a decimal scale. For example, a basic Harappan plumb bob weighs 27.584 grams. If we assign that a value of 1, other weights scale in at 0.5, .1., 2, .5, 2, 5, 10, 20 50, 100, 200, and 500. Archaeologists have found a “ruler” made of shell lines drawn 6.7 millimeters apart with a high degree of accuracy. Two of the lines are distinguished by circles and are separated by 33.5 millimeters or 1.32 inches. This distance is the so-called Indus inch.

Harappan bricks contain no straw or binding material and are still in usable shape after five thousand years. Most interesting are their dimensions: while found in fifteen different sizes, their length, width, and thickness are always in the ration of 4:2:1.

(source: Lost Discoveries - Dick Teresi   p. 351-352 and 59 - 62).
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In ancient India, as in Greece, there was much speculative thought about astronomy, mathematics, physics, and biology. But mathematics and mysticism were inextricably mixed in early Greek thought, and Greek belief in magic, divination and oracles was perhaps more pronounced than its counterpart in India.

It is therefore untrue to assert, as recent European writers particularly have done, that Greece was the home of pure science.

Both India and Greece, whilst having their own traditions, had direct and indirect effects on each other in science as they did in philosophy. In fact, long before the Greeks, the Indians had learned to employ the dialectic method to grasp empirical and transcendental truths, although in India, more perhaps than in ancient Greece or the modern West, reason and truth, logic and mysticism, the visible and invisible, have always been regarded as inseparable. The practical application of science to human affairs, was as poor in India as it was in any other ancient society. In fact, this was not achieved until the eighteenth century, until then science and technology developed separately. When it did as in the case of Galileo Galilei, who was the first to employ the modern scientific method in its fullness, he incurred the wrath of the Church and was incarcerated by the Inquisition at the advanced age of seventy. There is hardly any parallel in India where a difference in interpretation either in metaphysics or scientific thought was so unkindly suppressed.

The spirit of scientific enquiry and a rigorous correlation of cause and effect in explaining natural phenomenon were particularly evident in ancient India. The connection between Indian philosophy and medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and technology is, strangely enough seldom realized much less recognized.

Ancient Indians "measured the land, divided the year, mapped out the heavens, traced the course of the sun and the planets through the zodiacal belt, analyzed the constitution of matter, and studied the nature of birds and beasts, plants and seeds." Whilst in Western civilizations the  interest has been increasingly focused on single sciences, in the Indian world the ontological viewpoint has been generally preferred, and it would appear that "in India, through all periods,  the special sciences are rooted in and developed on the underlying cosmic concepts and presuppositions. This universal vision in India has never been lost.

India's contribution to the sciences of mathematics and medicine have been unique. In other sciences, especially linguistics, metallurgy, and chemistry, Indians made trail-blazing discoveries.

(source: An Introduction to India - By Stanley Wolpert  p. 192).

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-6-20 08:05 AM ]
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Post time 2007-6-20 08:06:39 |Display all floors
The    Vedic Shulba Sutras     (fifth to eighth century B.C. E.) meaning   "codes of the rope,"  show that the earliest geometrical and mathematical investigations among the Indians arose from certain requirements of their religious rituals. When the poetic vision of the Vedic seers was externalized in symbols, rituals requiring altars and precise measurement became manifest, providing a means to the attainment of the unmanifest world of consciousness. "Shulba Sutras" is the name given to those portions or supplements of the Kalpasutras, which deal with the measurement and construction of the different altars or arenas for religious rites. The word Shulba refers to the ropes used to make these  measurements. Although Vedic mathematicians are known primarily for their computational genius in arithmetic and algebra, the basis and inspiration for the whole of Indian mathematics is geometry. Evidence of geometrical drawing instruments from as early as 2500 B.C.E. has been found in the Indus Valley.

The beginnings of algebra can be traced to the constructional geometry of the Vedic priests, which are preserved in the Shulba Sutras. Exact measurements, orientations, and different geometrical shapes for the altars and arenas used for the religious functions (yajnas), which occupy an important part of the Vedic religious culture, are described in the Shulba Sutras. Many of these calculations employ the geometrical formula known as the Pythagorean theorem.
This theorem (c. 540 B.C.E.), equating the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle with the sum of the squares of the other two sides, was utilized in the earliest Shulba Sutra (the Baudhayana) prior to the eighth century B.C.E. Thus, widespread use of this famous mathematical theorem in India several centuries before its being popularized by Pythagoras has been documented. The exact wording of the theorem as presented in the Sulba Sutras is: "The diagonal chord of the rectangle makes both the squares that the horizontal and vertical sides make separately." The proof of this fundamentally important theorem is well known from Euclid's time until the present for its excessively tedious and cumbersome nature; yet the Vedas present five different extremely simple proofs for this theorem.

One historian, Joseph Needham, has stated, "Future research on the history of science and technology in Asia will in fact reveal that the achievements of these peoples contribute far more in all pre-Renaissance periods to the development of world science than has yet been realized."

Meticulous planning and architectural brilliance in the layout of the city are the established and striking features of the Harappan civilisation.

Recent excavations at the small township of Dholavira, in Kutch, Gujarat, have presented to the world some of the oldest stadiums and sign board.  

One of the stadiums is huge. The multipurpose structure, with terraced seats for spectators, around 800 feet in length (around 283 metres) can accommodate as many as 10,000 persons. The other stadium is much smaller in size.   

The dimensions of the town of Dholavira (777.1 metres in length and 668.7 meters in width) establishes that the Harappans had great knowledge of trigonometry.   They were also mathematical experts as all the dimensions at the site are based on squares and cubes,

(source: Oldest Harappan signboard at Kutch township -
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Ancient Indians already operated with a time span of astronomical proportions long before the earliest signs of natural science in ancient Greece. It is undeniable that ancient Indian texts present astonishingly exact scientific calculations even by today's latest scientific standards, such as the speed of light, exact size of the smallest particles and the age of the universe.

The Surya Siddhanta, a textbook on astronomy of ancient India - last compiled in 1000 BC, believed by Hindus to be handed down from 3000 BC by aid of complex mnemonic recital methods still known today - computed the earth's diameter to be 7,840 miles, the distance earth - moon as 253,000 miles. These compare to modern measurements resp. as 7,926.7 miles and 252,710 miles for max. dist. moon-earth.

Manu's texts in Sanskrit propounded evolution thousands of years before Lamarck & Darwin. "The first germ of life was developed by water and heat. Man will traverse the universe, gradually ascending and passing through the rocks, the plants, the worms, insects, fish, serpents, tortoises, wild animals, cattle, and higher animals. These are the transformations declared, from the plant to Brahma, which have to take place in the world."

Brihath Sathaka operates with divisions of the time of one day into:- 60 kalas or ghatika - 24 mins each. Subdivided into 60 vikala (24 secs.each) 60 para then into tatpara, then into vitatpara then into ima then into kasha.... the smallest unit, equal to approx. o.ooooooo3 of a second (one 300 millionth). This smallest unit (3 X 10 -8 second) is surprisingly close to the life-spans of certain mesons and hyperons, according to some Western physicist who was interviewed on the BBC World Service in the early 1990s.

The 14th century 'Rigveda of the Sun' (dated by manuscript age only), says that the sun covers 2,202 yoganas in half a mimesa - which calculates as 300,000 metres a second, fairly exactly the speed of light.

(source: Science, the Critical mind and Dissent - By Robert C Priddy).
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Post time 2007-6-20 08:08:52 |Display all floors
Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1774) France's greatest writers and philosophers, was a theist, and a bitter critic of the Church said :

" It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganges to learn geometry...But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmans' science not been been long established in Europe....We have already acknowledged that arithmetic, geometry, astronomy were taught among the Brahmans. From time immemorial they have known the precession of the equinoxes and were in their calculation far closer to the real figure than the Greeks who came much later. Mr. Le Gentil (a French astronomer who spent several years in India) has with admiration acknowledged the Brahmans' science, as well as the immensity of time these Indians must have needed to reach a knowledge of which even the Chinese never had any notion, and which was unknown to Egypt and to Chaldea, the teacher of Egypt."

(source:  Fragments historiques sur l'linde - By Voltaire  p. 444 - 445.).

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-6-20 08:09 AM ]
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