Welcome back! In the first part, we came to know about the five gems of ancient India who shaped history and civilization through their remarkable work in the realm of science. The sole purpose of these articles is to make you understand that India was nowhere less than any other nation — not even when we talk about science. Many brilliant minds had achieved unprecedented success in solving unknown and enigmatic problems of science and mathematics. We discussed the works of Sushruta, Charaka, Kanada, Patanjali, and Aryabhatta. Let’s move through the list of the next five one by one.
Varahamihira: (वराहमिहिर) Varahamihira was born in the year 499 in a village near Ujjain. His father, Adityadasa, gave him the knowledge of astrology. However, when he went to Patna, he met Aryabhatta, and the meeting changed his life. He made astrology and astronomy his life’s only goal. King Vikramaditya appointed him to his committee of “nine-gems” after becoming aware of Varahamihira’s profound knowledge. Varahamihira also traveled to foreign lands, including Rome. He used to believe everything based on science and not on superstitions. He was the first to assert that there’s something that keeps objects stuck to the Earth’s surface (later known as gravity). Just like Aryabhatta, Varahamihira accepted that the Earth isn’t flat but round. He also gave various commentaries on subjects like ecology, hydrology, and geology.
Brahmagupta: (ब्रह्मगुप्त) He was the mathematician who first derived laws for the operation with ‘zero.’ Brahmagupta was a connoisseur in numerical analysis and devised solutions for indeterminate equations like ax + 1 = y^2. He amended a book of astronomy, “Brahma-Siddhanta,” that continued to be an exceptional work for centuries to come. He contrived many rules for the usage of zero in calculations. Brahmagupta also gave principles to solve arithmetic and geometric progressions. He was the first to accept the classification of math into two categories — arithmetics and algebra. Brahmagupta is widely renowned as the father of arithmetic, but he also used algebra extensively in his works.
Nagarjuna: (नागार्जुन) There haven’t been many myths for any other scientist as there were for Nagarjuna. Born in the year 931 in Gujarat, Nagarjuna was an alchemist. People used to consider him as a person who could confabulate with the demigods. He dashed off a book, “Rasa-Ratnakar,” underpropping that surmise of people. In this book, there are experiments for the amalgamation of the element mercury. He jotted down the processes of extracting from ores and refining various metals like gold, silver, tin, and copper. Nagarjuna also worked on many acids to use them for variegated purposes in alchemy. He devised statements for distillation, liquefaction, sublimation, and calcination processes. One of the most “mysterious” things he used to effectuate was to turn other metals into gold. Nagarjuna precepted this process in his book.
Bhaskar: (भास्कर) Born in the year 1114 in Karnataka, Bhaskar received education from his father. After reading a book by Brahmagupta, he decided to devote his entire life to mathematics. He wrote a book named “Siddhanta-Shiromani” in which he dedicated an entire chapter to his daughter, Lilavati. This book remained a sought-after math textbook for four centuries and also got translated to Persian two times. A general belief was that whosoever had read that book, or even the chapter ‘Lilavati,’ would’ve been able to count the number of leaves on a tree precisely. Bhaskar worked in many aspects viz. algebra, circles, planetary math, inverse cyclic equations, integral calculus, triangles, etc. He is considered the father of differential calculus. As an astronomer, he made a name for himself for his “instantaneous velocity” principle to find the accurate speed of planets. He also put together his second book, “Karan-Kutuhal,” at the age of 69.
Sawai Jaisingh II: (सवाई जयसिंह द्वितीय) Jaisingh II was a normal king until a princess, who also loved him, asked on an evening, “How far are the stars and the moon from here?” The incident awoke the dormant astronomer inside the king, and he took the plunge to answer this question. He gathered all the astronomy books and resources from India, Portugal, Arabia, and Europe to study them. An order also went around for the development of ‘king-sized’ telescopes. With this, Jaisingh II rectified mistakes in previous writings of various astronomers. He built Jantar Mantar in 1724 in Delhi and published his book a decade later, in 1734. He was responsible for the construction of many observatories across the country. Many instruments got erected under his guidance, one of which was a solar clock to calculate the time based on sunlight. Another use of it was to know the conditions of equinoxes and solstices. King’s findings were more accurate and advanced than many of his western counterparts.
Despite coping with centuries of invasions and colonization, India has never stopped. When the world was in the ‘cradle,’ science was flourishing here. After independence, we have achieved more great milestones. Research and development are heightening day by day in various fields. India now has multitudinous achievements, viz. nuclear energy, space research, inexpensive healthcare, and Antarctic research. There’s still and all a lot more pending to accomplish. And, we owe our development to these scientists who paved the way for where we are standing today.