5 Stunning Ancient Indian Scientific Achievements

Ancient Indian scholars and sages made discoveries that shaped modern science. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
Ancient Indian scholars and sages made discoveries that shaped modern science. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

India is known today as a third world country. But despite this negative image, India in ancient times made some stunning contributions in the fields of scientific knowledge from mathematics to the heliocentric theory.

The number system

Ancient India’s contribution to the field of mathematics is legendary. The numbers that we use today, including decimal notation, were invented in India. The Indian number system was used by the Arabs, who called it Hind numerals. Later, Europe adopted the system from the Arabs. The concept of zero as a mathematical function was also a contribution from India, without which science would never have progressed to the extent it has now.

The binary number system, which is the bedrock of computing languages, was described first by an ancient Indian mathematician called Pingala in his book Chandahśāstra. In the 7th century A.D., Brahmagupta introduced the cyclic algorithmic method to solve indeterminate quadratic equations, including what is known as the Pell’s Equation. Even the famed Fibonacci numbers, which were discovered in the West in the 13th century A.D., are mentioned by Pingala around 200 B.C.

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The numbers that we use today, including decimal notation. were invented in India. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Atomic theory

Think the atomic theory is just a couple of centuries old? You are wrong. An Indian philosopher, Kanada, proposed atoms and molecules way back in the 6th century B.C., a full 2,000 years before John Dalton introduced the concept to modern Europe.

Kanada theorized that the visible world is made up of small, indivisible particles that he called parmanu (atom), which cannot be seen with the naked eye. These parmanus were said to combine with one another to form a dwinuka (molecule), whose properties were similar to those of the paramanu that had created it.

“His theory of the atom was abstract and enmeshed in philosophy as they were based on logic and not on personal experience or experimentation. But in the words of A.L. Basham, the veteran Australian Indologist, ‘they were brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world, and in a large measure, agreed with the discoveries of modern physics.’” according to Ancient Origins.

Wootz steel

This steel is characterized by a pattern of bands and was famed across the Middle East and Europe during the medieval period. The well-known Damascus swords, known to be so sharp as to cleave a falling silk cloth with ease, were essentially made from Wootz steel. The steel was largely manufactured during Southern India’s Chera Dynasty. To produce the steel, black magnetite ore was heated in combination with carbon in a sealed clay crucible that was placed inside a charcoal furnace.

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Wootz steel made in India was famed across the Middle East and Europe during the medieval period. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Plastic surgery

India was very popular for its expertise in plastic surgery. The Sushruta Samhita, a medical text written in the 6th century B.C., contains information about rhinoplasty, or the reconstruction of the nose. The author of the text, Sushrutha, is said to have conducted cataract surgeries using a curved needle.

Earth’s orbit and heliocentric model

Surya Siddhanta, a book written between the 4th and 5th century A.D., mentions the time taken by Earth to revolve around the Sun as 365.2563627 days, which is very close to the current known value of 365.256363004 days. Between the 5th and 6th century A.D., Aryabhatta proposed the heliocentric model, which stated that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the reverse.

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