Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ancient Indian greats Series - Aryabhata (August 15th, 2007)

Most of you all are probably the 1st generation in your family to come to US for higher studies. Most of you all are probably the 2nd generation in your family to dwell deep into the field of
Science. But ironically and unknowingly we are just yet another generation in this field because we have been preceded by mathematicians and scientists from thousands of years. Right from the invention of Zero to the development of Calculus our ancestors have preceded everyone in the world to discover the magic behind numbers and nature. Sadly we were not exposed
to this in our history textbooks. And "Dautya" has taken it as a challenge to bring out information on the endeavors of the great Indian Mathematicians which would make you proud of the linage you are representing.

Aryabhata- the first Astronomer
The classical age of Indian mathematics and is probably the best known. His most famous work, Aryabhatiya, was the most referred book in Indian mathematical circles. The importance of Aryabhata in India's identity as a science superpower can be gauged by the fact that it’s first ever satellite was named after him.

Before we proceed to discuss the various discoveries and theories of Aryabhata, let us first try to understand the epoch to which he belonged. He was born in 476 A.D. , a period which is seen as the golden period of Indian history as a whole. The Indian civilization was nearing its peak. There were tremendous improvement in all field of life be it in music or economic prosperity of the country as such. He studied in Nalanda University, the best university of the world at that time. Conditions were ripe for someone like Aryabhata to enter uncharted waters in the field of his choice. His contributions to mathematics and astronomy are staggering.
- He laid the foundations for the development of the decimal system. He did develop a place value system but it had a base of 100 not 10.
- He gave the value of pi correct to five digits and also knew that it was irrational. Irrationality of pi was proved in Europe only in 1761 by Lambert.
- He is one of the first to develop an algorithm for solving Diophantine Equations.
- His defined and made sine and cosine tables thus paving the development of a new field of mathematics i.e. Trigonometry.
- He appears to have believed that the earth is round and rotates about its axis. Infact he calculated the circumference of earth with an error of just 0.2%.
- His calculation of the length of a year is only 3 minutes 20 seconds longer than the true value. Here it is important to note that he believed in geocentric model i.e. Sun revolving around Earth they have been referred to by later mathematicians. Imagine yourself trying to find out all that he has You would surely want some good accurate measurements to help you.

But take a look at what Aryabhata used for all his discoveries : the gnomon (shanku-yantra), a shadow instrument (chhAyA-yantra), possibly angle-measuring devices, semi-circle and circle shaped (dhanur-yantra / chakra-yantra), a cylindrical stick yasti-yantra, an umbrella-shaped device called chhatra-yantra, and water clocks of at least two types, bow-shaped and cylindrical! And just imagine how he would react to the scientific advances that have taken place in the past 3 centuries. He would be surprised surely but he would also be the most satisfied. After all mankind has not stopped thinking about thinks that intrigued him.

Source : Google and Wikipedia.

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