Ancient India is known as a land of sages and seers, as well as of scholars and scientists. The contributions made by ancient Indians in the field of Mathematics, Astronomy, Science, Ayurveda, etc. are massive, and as proud Indians, we must acknowledge them.
The great Indian minds were actively contributing to the field of science, mathematics, and technology, thousands of years ago before modern laboratories were set up.
Many discoveries that are credited to the western world scholars are developed initially from ancient India. Since they ruled over most of the world for a majority time, they claimed many scientific discoveries to be their own.
We all know how Aryabhatta gave the world ‘ Zero,’ which is considered to be the most important discoveries of all time. But do you know about other prominent findings?
Let us take a look at some of the contributions made by these ten ancient Indian mathematicians and scientists.
- Sushruta: “Father of Surgery”
Sushruta was the most celebrated physician and a pioneer in the field of surgery in India. He is considered the “Father of Surgery.”
Sushruta Samhita, a book written by Sushruta in 6th century BC, describes the causes and treatments for more than 1000 diseases. The text also illustrates how different plant parts, such as root, stem, juice, etc. can be used to cure ailments. Even today, we follow many household remedies of pepper, sesame, ginger, etc., mentioned in Sushruta Samhita.
Sushruta practiced surgery of the highest division. Regarded as the first plastic surgeon of India, he used to study human anatomy by using a dead body. His book also mentions the ways to preserve a dead body for studying its inner and outer parts. Sushruta Samhita is appraised to be one of the most in-depth surgical books on ancient surgery.
The book also throws light on other operations such as repairing the damaged rectum, removing bladder stone, etc. Sushruta’s highest contribution to surgery is Rhinoplasty surgery (plastic surgery) and Ophthalmic surgery (removal of cataracts).
Plastic surgery was performed to restore the nose, ears, limbs, etc. Sushruta Samhita explains a detailed description of these operations. The process described in it is quite similar to modern surgeries.
Sushruta even performed the first Cataract removal surgery in the world. A cataract is an eye condition where the eye lens becomes cloudy or blurry. To detach the cataract from the eyes, he used a curved needle known as Jabamukhi Salaka. The needle would loosen the eye lens and force the cataract out of the field of vision.
Sushruta was a teacher, too, and taught his surgical skills to students. To impart practical knowledge, he used to perform experiments on vegetables like cucumber, gourd, etc.; worm-eaten wood, etc.; his texts were later translated into various languages and introduced to the West.
Aryabhatta was a 5th-century mathematician, astrologer, astronomer, and physicist.
Aryabhatta invented the numerical digit ‘zero’, one of the most important discoveries of all time. He created a symbol for zero, which also opened up a new aspect of negative numerals. Without his finding of zero, all the mathematical operations would have failed today.
He wrote Aryabhattiya, a summary of his mathematical and astronomical knowledge. It is divided into four sections. The first two parts comprise of modern-day mathematics topics like geometry, algebra, decimal system, etc. Another most essential achievement of Aryabhatta is givingthe closest approximate value of Pi.
Aryabhatta also put in his mathematical knowledge to make accurate astronomical predictions. The remaining sections of Aryabhattiya contain predictions about solar and lunar eclipses, the distance of Moon from the Earth, etc. The heliocentric theory ( describes that Sun is the center of the Solar System, and all the planets revolve around him) is also mentioned in Aryabhattiya.
In ancient India, the science of astronomy was called ‘Khagolshastra.’ Khagol was the name of an astronomical observatory at Nalanda University, where Aryabhatta studied.
Due to his supreme contribution in the fields of Mathematics and astronomy, India’s first satellite has been named after Aryabhatta.
- Bhaskaracharya II
Bhaskarcharya II was a noted mathematician and astronomer.
Bhaskarcharya’s works on Cosmography (the study of the universe) are studied even today. He wrote ‘Siddhanta Shiromani, ‘ which is attributed to the apex of all the astronomical works.
Siddhanta Shiromani is segmented into four parts- Lilavati (Arithmetic), Beejaganit (Algebra), Goladhyaya (Sphere), and Grahaganit (mathematics of planets).
Bhaskaracharya’s name has initially been Bhaskara, later the title of ‘Acharya’ (teacher) was added. He is known as Bhaskaracharya or “Bhaskara, the Teacher.” He became the head of the Astronomical Observatory at Ujjain, the notable mathematical institution in India at that time.
Bhaskaracharya was the first to understand the concept of division by zero and thus introduced the idea of Infinity. He formulated that the value of 3/0 is an infinite quantity. He also employed letters to designate unknown amounts, much as in modern algebra.
He founded a cyclic method or ‘Chakrawat’ method to solve algebraic equations. This method was later rediscovered by European mathematicians, called an inverse cycle.
Varahamihira was a well-known Indian scientist, astronomer, and philosopher.
Varahamihira lived in the Gupta period. King Vikramaditya, one of the rulers in the Gupta period, was impressed by Varahamihira’s prediction and gave him the title of ‘Varaha.’ He was among the nine gems in the court of Vikramaditya.
Varahamihira wrote his varying theories in the book ‘Brihat Samhita.’ It is a comprehensive collection of subjects like rainfall, planetary movements, gems, Indian traditions, etc. One of the crucial chapters in Brihat Samhita is devoted to an earthquake. It explains the signs of an earthquake occurrence, which are abnormal behavior of animals, undersea activities, and many more.
Varahamihira’s principal work is in the book ‘Pancha Siddhantika.’ Treatise on the five Astronomical Canons. It is an essential work on mathematical astronomy, which came before the time of Aryabhata. His contribution to Jyotish or astronomy is also noteworthy.
Charaka “Father of Medicines”
Acharya Charaka was a pioneer in the field of Medical Science in ancient India. He is regarded as the “Father of Ancient Indian Science of Medicine.”
eople usually regard Hippocrates as the father of medicine in the world as they are not aware of the significant contributions made by Charaka. Long before the birth of Hippocrates, Charaka mastered in the field of Medical science and wrote a manual on it called ‘Charaka Samhita.’
Charaka Samhita stresses the use of preventive medicines. Charaka believed in eliminating the cause of an illness rather than merely treating it. He introduced the concepts of metabolism and immunity.
Charaka Samhita is considered as one of the foundational texts in the field of Ayurveda. Ayurveda refers to a healthy and natural lifestyle, developed around 5,000 years ago. According to the book, branches of Ayurveda are:
Kaaya Chikitsa (Mental Health)
Shaakalya Chikitsa (Head, eye, and throat)
Shailya Chikitsa (Surgery)
Kaumarbhrtya Chikitsa (Paediatrics)
Agenda Tantra (Toxicology)
Vaajikarana Tantra (Reproductive Medicine)
Rasayana Tantra (Pharmacology)
Kanad was one of the remarkable 6th-century scientists.
John Dalton was the first to discover the atomic theory, which states that all matter is made up of indivisible particles called an atom. But it was long before that an Indian scientist developed this nuclear theory.
Kanad speculated the existence of a particle that was indivisible, indestructible, and invisible to the human eye. He termed it Anu, which literally means “atom.” He also asserted that anu (atom) has two states – absolute rest and a state of motion.
He further said that atoms of the same substance combined with each other in a particular and synchronized way to build dvyanuka (diatomic molecules) and tryanuka (triatomic molecules).
This is pretty much what the modern atomic theory says. Kanad’s arguments still surprise scientists today for his nearness to the nature of matter.
Mahaviracharya ( Mahavira the Teacher) was an 8th-century Mathematician of Jaina religion.
He is the author of ‘Ganit Sara Sangraha.’ It is considered as the first textbook on arithmetic in the current form. Some of the main chapters of Ganit Sara Sangraha are Arithmetical operations, Mixed operations, Operations involving the rule of three, etc.
Mahaviracharya believed that astronomy and mathematics are unconnected. Thus, he explained some theories of Aryabhatta more clearly.
Long before western mathematicians introduced the method of solving Least Common Multiple (LCM) it to the world, it was already discovered by Mahaviracharya.
Mahaviracharya knew how to solve quadratic equations. He had also expanded on the terms like an equilateral triangle, rhombus, circles, and semicircle and described algebraic equations, logarithms, etc.
In his book ‘Rasaratnakara,’ Nagarjuna had mentioned methods for the extraction of metals like gold, tin, silver, and copper. It also describes the preparation of metallic compounds like Mercury.
VIt is explained in Rasaratnakara how the animal or natural products can be used to transform other metals into compounds. This looked exactly like gold. Nagarjuna succeeded in making a material with gold-like shine, widely used in creating imitation jewelry.
Shreds of evidence of his experimental laboratory have been found in a village in Maharashtra.
Brahmgupta was a 7th-century astronomer and mathematician.
Brahmgupta’s contribution to arithmetic is worth mentioning. He gave rules facilitating the computation of squares and square roots, and cube, and cube-root.
He is famous for his book ‘Brahm Sputa Siddantika,’ the earliest known text to treat zero as a number. Brahmgupta understood that there could be a concept as a negative number.
He further established rules for dealing with negative numbers (e.g., a negative times a positive is a negative, etc.).
His most significant work is on the theory of cyclic quadrilaterals. The formula to find an area of a cyclic quadrilateral is known as the Brahmagupta’s Formula.
As an outstanding mathematician, Brahmagupta became the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain.
Baudhayan was a 7th-century mathematician.
It is said that Pythagoras Theorem was developed by Baudhayan. The theory has been credited to Greek mathematician Pythagoras.
The theory is mentioned in the form of a verse or shloka in his book ‘Baudhayana Sulbasutra.’ There are plenty of mathematical formulas written in the book. The aim of Baudhayana Sulbasutra was to be used as a pocket dictionary, full of recipes for quick references.
He also discovered the method of finding the square root of 2.
Aren’t these contributions made by ancient Indian mathematicians and scientists fascinating?