Saturday, March 10, 2007

We taught them Mathematics.....

In an earlier post, I had quoted some passages from a book, which gave a fascinating insight into India’s role as the epicenter of global spice trade for centuries.

A recent entry in the Brittanica Blog suggests that a by-product of the spice trade was that there was exchange of scientific knowledge, and in the process, mathematical discoveries of the ‘school of Madhava’ could have been passed on to the Europeans:

"As historical research on mathematics has improved, other claims to priority have been put forth for China and South Asia. Among the most interesting stories concerns the Indian mathematical school in Kerala, along the Malabar Coast. This region has been associated with the spice trade for thousands of years. Vasco da Gama arrived in India in 1498, and European traders were soon accompanied by Jesuits (after the order’s formation in 1540) intent on exchanging scientific knowledge—in particular, knowledge about navigation and how to reform the increasingly inaccurate Julian calendar. Among the most famous visitors was Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit missionary instructed in astronomy and mathematics, who is best known for his 30-year sojourn in China. Less well known are the events of his two-year stay in Cochin, Kerala. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the mathematical discoveries of the school of Madhava in Kerala, such as infinite series (hundreds of years before Europeans would even consider infinity) for trigonometric functions, may have been transmitted through Jesuit reports, which were disseminated throughout Europe. Some Indian scholars go further, claiming that the calculus was actually discovered in India and that the priority dispute between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz is therefore moot. "

Good to know about the glorious past. Now, to create a glorious future....

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