Though we may often marvel about the march of science in the contemporary world, we should not forget that ancient India contributed to some of the complex scientific achievements that people boast today. No wonder Albert Einstein, the legendary physicist eulogized the country in the following manner.
“India is at the origin of everything; intellectually, religiously or politically where even the Greek heritage seems pale in comparison”
However, let us take a sneak peek at some of ancient India’s inventions in science and technology.
The celebrated 7th Century Indian mathematician and astronomer Bramhagupta was considered as the first to define rules in regard to computing with Zero. He further enunciated its use, such as ‘when zero is added or subtracted from a number, the number remains unchanged – a number multiplied by zero remains zero. Bramhagupta is also reputed for his dealing with Positive (Fortune) and Negative (Debt) numbers.
According to modern day mathematics, a Negative Number is a real number which is less than zero. Negative numbers also represent opposites. When positive represents an inclination towards right, Negative represents the same towards left. If positive represents something above m.s.l. (mean sea level), negative represents something below m.s.l. Similarly, if positive indicates a deposit, negative point towards a withdrawal. These are often utilized to represent the degree of deficiency. A debt that is owed may be considered as a negative asset, while a decrease in some quantity is considered to be a negative increase. For instance, in medical terminology, while fighting a tumor (malignant or benign) an expansion is considered as a negative shrinkage.
If you think that the 17th century avant-garde mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz invented the binary numeral system, then you are wrong. As a matter of fact, Binary numbers were first described in Chandashutram written by Rishi Pingala in 100 BC. However, Pingala is the established name of the author of the Chandaḥśāstra, the earliest known Sanskrit treatise on prosody. The Chandaḥśāstra presents the first known description of a binary numeral system in connection with the systematic enumeration of meters with fixed patterns of short and long syllables.
Although English Physicist John Dalton (1766 – 1844) is often credited with the development of atomic theory, this is believed to have been formulated by Indian sage and philosopher Acharya Kanad 2,500 years ago.[However, some controversy revolves round the atomic hypothesis since westerners reckon that ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus (5th Century BC) were responsible for divulging the basic theory, while at the same time others believe that ancient Indian invention influenced the Greeks]
As appearing in The Sushruta Samhita (by Sushruta) in 6th Century BC, is an ancient Sanskrit text on medicine and surgeries which played a vital role during those ancient days. The Sushruta Samhita contains many treaties including plastic surgery of nose practiced at that time which today is known as Rhinoplasty. The first Cataract Surgery was also performed by Sushruta in the same era. No wonder that Plastic Surgery and Cataract Surgery were performed by ancient Indians long before such surgeries were in practice later.
This age-old therapy is believed to be the oldest healing science ever produced by ancient Aryans. While the word Ayurveda stands for “Science of life”, the concept originated in India more than 5000 years ago and is currently called ‘whole healing’ as it treats the patient, not the disease.
Incidentally, Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya who has just completed a mid-career PhD in Ayurveda at Banaras Hindu University, India has degrees in medicine from the universities of Harvard, Columbia and Pennsylvania. She tells all her patients why the discovery of the ancient Hindu system of medicine, Ayurveda, changed her life. She also tells why she has lost her fears about cancer since Ayurvedic therapy can cure most cancers.