ith a long and chequered history of education and training in pure and applied sciences dating back to over 2,600 years, India has had flourishing tradition of scientific research and technological development. Taxila (6th century BC) one of the earliest universities in the world, attracted students from across the continents. Major fields of study at Taxila included mathematics, astronomy, medicine, surgery and metallurgy. Unfortunately, most of the knowledge was lost during the medieval period. The glorious tradition of original thinking, adventure of ideas and creative innovations was completely snapped.
SCIENCE AND SCIENCE EDUCATION DURING THE BRITISH RULE
he development of modern science in India is not an organic extension of the earlier tradition. It is an implant by the British in a language that was alien to its people. As with other implants, it needed nourishment and nurturing to be absorbed in the society. Science education was lacking and science was looked upon as an appendage thrust by the British for their own benefit. Until a few decades towards the end of the British rule, the role of science education, scientific and technological research in economic growth and social transformation was rather limited. Only such developments were introduced that did not lead to a conflict with the interests of the colonial power. The only aim of education including that of science education was to turn out men competent to serve 68
the civilian administration. Consequently, science education and research was uneven and patchy with no facilities. Even those few individuals educated in science lacked opportunities for either gainful employment or for scientific research. They could only procure clerical or teaching jobs. It was only in 1857 that the universities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, modelled after the London University, were established. As a concession to the Indian aspirations the foundations for basic sciences were expanded and academic science in the universities received a fillip. It must be stressed that even under such adverse conditions, globally competitive scientific research was carried out by a few scientists like, C.V. Raman, M.N. Saha, S.N. Bose, D.N. Wadia, P.C. Mahalanobis, S. R. Kashyap, Birbal Sahni, S.Ramanujan, S. Chandrashekhar. Many of these were trained in India and carried out their research in Indian universities. The outbreak of the World War I brought about a radical change in science education and in the pattern of scientific research and technological developments. The colonial government being cutoff from Britain was forced to actively mobilize local resources of scientific and technical personnel to meet wartime needs.
POST-INDEPENDENCE PERIOD: NEHRU’S VISION
ithin a few decades of the end of World War I, major colonial empires had disintegrated and India became independent in 1947. It is indeed very
fortunate that Jawaharlal Nehru was IndiaÕs first Prime Minister. Having witnessed first hand the remarkable developments brought out through the pursuit of science in Europe and particularly in the then Soviet Union, he more than anyone else, realized the crucial importance of science for economic growth and social transformation. Addressing the then National Institute of Sciences (now INSA), Nehru stated, Who indeed can afford to ignore science today? At every turn, we have to seek itÕs aid and the whole fabric of the world is of itÕs making. He strongly emphasized the inherent obligation of a great country like India with its tradition of original thinking to participate fully in the march of science. It was equally fortunate that in laying the firm foundation of science and science education in the country, NehruÕs vision was shared by the then leaders in science who helped Nehru to realize his vision. Raman, one of IndiaÕs most eminent...
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