cogito ergo vagus

February 14, 2006

The history of mathematics and astronomy

Filed under: crypto,security,software,tech — vagus @ 9:49 pm

While on my daily web surf I stopped by the 2006 RSA Conference (running Feb 13-17) site to see the keynote agenda. A portion of the entry for one of the speakers, Dr. Subhash Kak, caught my eye:

he has also researched the history of mathematics and astronomy. He is the author of 15 books that include “In Search of the Cradle of Civilization”, “Computing Science in Ancient India”, “The Astronomical Code of the Rgveda”, and “The Architecture of Knowledge”.

So I did the customary web search to get some links and started off at the Wikipedia page on Subhash Kak. Clicking around his official LSU homepage you find one of the links – Indian Mathematics. I’m including the abstract from the May 2002 piece by Ian G. Pearce:

Mathematics has long been considered an invention of European scholars, as a result of which the contributions of non-European countries have been severely neglected in histories of mathematics. Worse still, many key mathematical developments have been wrongly attributed to scholars of European origin. This has led to so-called Eurocentrism. The neglect of non-European mathematics is no more apparent than when studying the contributions of India. Contrary to Euroscentric belief, scholars from India, over a period of some 4500 years, contributed to some of the greatest mathematical achievements in the history of the subject. From the earliest numerate civilisation of the Indus valley, through the scholars of the 5th to 12th centuries who were conversant in arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, geometry combinatorics and latterly differential calculus, Indian scholars led the world in the field of mathematics. The peak coming between the 14th and 16th centuries in the far South, where scholars were the first to derive infinite series expansions of trigonometric functions.
In addition to mighty contributions to all the principal areas of mathematics, Indian scholars were responsible for the creation, and refinement of the current decimal place value system of numeration, including the number zero, without which higher mathematics would not be possible. The purpose of my project is to highlight the major mathematical contributions of Indian scholars and further to emphasise where neglect has occurred and hence elucidate why the Eurocentric ideal is an injustice and in some cases complete fabrication.

edit (feb21) : doh, i didn’t know this before: every year there is a theme and this year it was “vedic mathematics” :-)



  1. It would be fascinating to know more about India’s contributions to world mathematics. Pearce’s assertion are very strong. Did the scientific revolution in Europe have an Indian ancestry?

    Comment by Gigi — February 19, 2006 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

  2. Hey, first comment on this blog! Thanks for stopping by.

    Yes, these topics really are very fascinating. Perhaps calling it “ancestry” would be another strong assertion, it might be more like the European scientific revolution was “influenced by” the contributions out of India.

    There’s even a Wikipedia page on the topic ( ) and the “Binary numeral system” link there is interesting too, and I didn’t see binary mentioned in the pages where the decimal system and “invention” of zero is mentioned along with Pingala‘s name.
    See the “history” section at

    Comment by vagus — February 20, 2006 @ 2:27 am | Reply

  3. Found another blog post about the keynote speech –

    Comment by vagus — February 20, 2006 @ 2:56 am | Reply

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