Ancient India: Advances in Science

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The Ancient Indian civilization made many signifigent advances in fields of science including mathmatics, astronomy, chemistry and medicine. In India, mathematics has its roots in Vedic literature which is nearly 4000 years old. (Ifrah 52) Indians made many advances in Mathematics and Astronomy but also made more practical advances as in the applied sciences like production technology, architecture and shipbuilding. At it's peak, Indian society was influenced by many different thinkers and these people helped create new ideas which influence our lives to this very day.

In all early civilizations, mathematical understanding appears in the form of counting systems. (Juskevic 74) Numbers in very early societies were typically represented by groups of lines, though later different numbers came to be assigned specific numeral names and symbols as in India or were designated by alphabetic letters. ( Juskevic 76) Although today, we take our decimal system for granted, not all ancient civilizations based their numbers on a ten-base system. In ancient Babylon, a sexagesimal (base 60) system was in use. (Juskevic 95) In India a decimal system was already in place during the Harappan period, as indicated by an analysis of Harappan weights and measures. (Juskevic, 98) Weights corresponding to ratios of 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 have been identified, as have scales with decimal divisions. (Juskevic 101) A impressive characteristic of Harappan weights and measures is their accuracy. A bronze rod marked in units of 0.367 inches points to the degree of precision demanded in those times. (Juskevic 106) Such scales were particularly important in ensuring proper town planning rules that required fixed widths to run at right angles to each other for drains to be constructed of precise measurements, and for homes to be constructed according to specified guidelines. (Juskevic 107) The existence of a graduated system of accurately marked weights points to the development of trade in Harappan society. The system of land grants and agricultural taxes required accurate measurement of cultivated areas. As land was redistributed or consolidated, problems of measuring came up that required solutions. In order to ensure that all cultivators had equivalent amounts of irrigated and non-irrigated land individual farmers in a village often had their holdings broken up in several pieces so that it would be fair. Since pieces of land could not all be of the same shape, local administrators were required to convert rectangular plots or triangular plots to squares of equivalent sizes and so on. Tax assessments were based on fixed proportions of annual or seasonal crop incomes, but could be adjusted upwards or downwards based on several factors. (Kumari 20) This meant that an understanding of geometry and arithmetic was very important for knowing how to distribute funds. Knowledge of astronomy ( particularly knowledge of the tides and the stars) was of great importance to trading communities who crossed oceans or deserts at night. Anyone who wished to embark on a journey was required to first gain some knowledge in astronomy. This also led to the exchange of texts on astronomy and mathematics among scholars and the trade of knowledge from one part of India to another. Virtually every Indian state produced great mathematicians who wrote commentaries on the works of other mathematicians (who may have lived and worked in a different part of India many centuries earlier).( Keh-Mu Chin 19) Astronomy was needed in order to have accurate calendars and a better understanding of climate and rainfall patterns for timely flooding and choice of crops. At the same time, religion and astrology also played a role in creating an interest in astronomy. One of the greatest scientists of the Gupta period, Aryabhatta, provided a systematic treatment of the position of the planets in space. (Keh-Mu Chin 37) He correctly posited the axial...
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