A statue of Charaka in India:
Modern life has been shaped by several historical achievements, with the field of science playing some of the most important parts. There are several areas within science, of course, but the fact remains that scientists are undoubtedly among the most influential people in history.
Many people in the west will be surprised when they learn just how much of modern scientific knowledge has its roots in none other than ancient India. Some might think of this place and time as being extremely backward, but the reality is that the subject of mathematics and science saw a lot of development in this period.
Along with other kinds of sciences, Yoga and Ayurveda are among the ones most commonly known as being from that region and time. Ancient Indian scientists have given invaluable contributions to the science and medicine we know today. If we’re interested in modern-day medical technology, it would be worthwhile to delve into the scientists from Ancient India that probably made it possible. Let’s have a look at some of the best examples of such scientists below:
India’s first-ever satellite was named after this great scientist, and with good reason. Aryabhatta was active in the fifth century as a mathematician, astrologer, physicist, and an astronomer all in one. When he was a mere 23 years of age, he authored the Aryabhattiya, a summary of mathematics up to that period.
Aryabhatta was also able to calculate the value of pi accurately, coming up with 3.1416. Plus, he also proved that ‘zero’ was a symbol and concept as well as a numeral. With this, he was able to calculate the precise distance between the moon and earth. With the discovery of zero also came new concepts surrounding negative numbers.
He was known as the Father of Astronomy, as this subject was well developed in Ancient India. Aryabhatta studied in Nalanda, where the renowned astronomical observatory called Khaggol was located. The science of astronomy was then known as khagolshastra, hence the name.
Like Galileo, Aryabhatta was also a purporter of the fact that Earth is not immovable. In fact, his theory was that our planet is round, rotates on an axis, and that the sun does not move by itself from the east to the west. He explained this with examples, such as the illusion of trees moving when we travel. His achievements also include important scientific explanations of the lunar and solar eclipses. Even the most successful and impactful scientists in history must have followed in his footsteps at some point.
Mahaviracharya was a Jain Indian mathematician who lived in the 8th century. He hailed from Gulbarga, and is known for several mathematical achievements plus observations. Jain gurus, in general, were skilled in solving quadratic equations even back then. They were also knowledgeable in advanced mathematical concepts such as exponents, series, algebra, set theory, and logarithms. Jain literature has an extensive description regarding mathematics, ranging from discoveries in 500 B.C to 100 B.C.
In addition to asserting that square roots did not exist for negative numbers, Mahaviracharya also authored the Ganit Sara Sangraha. This is the first arithmetic textbook in a form similar to works in the present times. It was later translated to Telugu and became widespread in the field of mathematics within Ancient India.
When John Napier attempted to introduce the LCM method to the rest of the world, Indians were already aware of it thanks to Mahaviracharya. He was also responsible for establishing terms such as rhombus, semicircles, circles, isosceles triangles, and equilateral. Amoghavarsha Nrupatunga, king of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, greatly favored and patronized this mathematician for his valuable contributions.
Varahamihira was an Indian scientist and probably the first to theorize how plants and termite could indicate the presence of water below the ground. He was also interested in how termites destroy wooden structures in order to bring up water and keep their habitat wet. He also authored the Brhat Samhita, where he outlined the earthquake cloud theory.
In these ways and many others, Varahamihira made invaluable contributions to several scientific fields. These include ecology, mathematics, geology, and hydrology.
Along with Aryabhatta, Varahamihira was also responsible for presenting the science of astrology (also called Jyotish) in a systemic manner. It’s hence no surprise that he’s counted among the nine gems of Vikramaditya’s court in his time.
This scientist was also well-known for his predictions, which were quite accurate. In fact, the king of that period bestowed upon him the title of ‘Varaha’ for this reason.
Other notable achievements here include his theory about a kind of force that keeps us stuck to the earth. Of course, we now know this as gravity. He also proposed the theory that the moon and planets got their light from the sun. Pascal’s triangle, trigonometric formulas, binomial coefficients, water on Mars, and several other theories are also attributed to this notable scientist. These discoveries must have preceded much of the work of the greatest scientists in the middle ages as well as the 20th century.
Charaka is hailed as the Father of the ancient Indian Science of Medicine. He held an estimable position in Kanishka’s court, where he was the royal doctor, also known as the Raj Vaidya. This scientist authored the Charak Samhita, where he described several diseases plus outlined diagnosing and treatment methods.
His work dealt more with health sciences, and he was also among the first people to mention the importance of immunity, metabolism, and digestion. Fundamentals of the genetics field were also within the scope of his studies. His findings led to several contributions towards Ayurveda, which is a lifestyle and medication system developed in Ancient India. Many people throughout the world still wholly believe in Ayurvedic practices and have gained a lot of benefits from them.
5. Maharishi Patanjali
Yoga is also a branch of science, especially with regard to its connection with the Ayurvedic way of life. This system works on healing without the use of medicine, focusing more on mental processes than physical ones. We know just how popular yoga is in the West, so it’s logical to treat it as a proper science these days. This is what leads us to include Maharishi Patanjali in this list about the greatest scientist of Ancient India.
Maharishi Patanjali is hailed as the Father of Yoga and is believed to have compiled around 195 yoga sutras. He systematically presented yoga as a proper science and was arguably the first person to do so. In his Sutras, he refers to Aum as a symbol representing God and claimed that it was a cosmic sound.
Apart from the Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali also worked on a book about medicine as well as Mahabhasaya, which is known as Panini’s grammar. Additionally, he wrote essays on Ayurveda and contributed greatly to that field as well. Even today, there are Indian classical dancers that make him a part of their ritual worship and regards.
The contributions of the Ancient Indian scientists are quite massive and not to be ignored. Without their observations, theories, and research, we might not have the scientific advancements of today. While learning about modern science, it’s also important to read up on such scientists. We may gain valuable insight from their works even now.