‘Indian contribution to Science is more than Europe’
Renowned scholar and Regents Professor at Oklahoma State University, USA, Prof Subhash Kak delivers 10th Chamanlalji Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Indian Foundations of Modern Science'
New Delhi: “The emerging science of consciousness represents the frontier of knowledge whether you look at it from the viewpoints of neuroscience, physics, computer science or epistemology. This is the very heart of the Vedic atma-vidya, and it is most likely that it will facilitate further progress in these fields and consequently change world society in ways that be scarcely imagined,” said renowned scholar and Regents Professor at Oklahoma State University, USA, Prof Subhash Kak while delivering the 10th Chamanlalji Memorial Lecture on March 25.
  Prof Subhash Kak (IInd from right) answering the queries of audience. Others on dais from left are Prof Rakesh Bhatnagar, Dr Harsh Vardhan and Shri Shyam Parande
The Lecture, “Indian Foundations of Modern Science” was organised by the International Centre for Cultural Studies (ICCS). Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan and Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University Prof Rakesh Bhatnagar were also present. Shri Shyam Parande, general secretary of Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad, introduced the topic of discussion and ICCS activities.
Prof Kak said the political elites in the West concede religiosity and some philosophy to India but not science. If Indians themselves are not aware of their contributions to science, it is because their school and college curricula are hopelessly out of date. “Textbooks only speak of the geometry of the Vedic altars, the invention of zero, Yoga psychology, and Indian technology of steel-making that went into the manufacture of swords. But if you read scholarly books you find that early Indian contributions to science are more impressive than that of Greece (or Europe),” he said.
He said the discovery of infinite series and calculus by Newton and Leibniz heralded the Scientific Revolution that was to change the world. But new research has shown that over two centuries ago, the Kerala School of Mathematics had already developed calculus and offer some historians suggest that this and advanced astronomical knowledge from Kerala went abroad via the Jesuits and provided the spark for its further development in Europe. Similarly, Ayurveda texts include the notion of germs and inoculation and also postulate mind-body connection, which has become an important area of contemporary research. Indian medicine was strongly empirical; it used Nature as a guide, and it was informed by a sense of skepticism. In the West, the notion of skepticism is usually credited to the Scottish philosopher of science, David Hume, but scholars have been puzzled by the commonality between his ideas and the earlier Indian ones. Recently, it was shown that Hume almost certainly learnt Indian ideas from Jesuits when he was at the Royal College of La Flèche in France.
Prof Kak further said there are also indirect ways that Indian ideas led to scientific advance. Mendeleev was inspired by the two-dimensional structure of the Sanskrit alphabet to propose a similar two-dimensional structure of chemical elements. JC Bose is considered as the true father of radio science. He also discovered millimetre length electromagnetic waves and was a pioneer in the fields of semiconductor electronics and biophysics. “Digital computer theory is normally traced to the mathematical logic of George Boole, Charles Babbage, and Augustus de Morgan in the UK to the middle of the 19th century. But Boole’s wife Mary, who was a well-known science writer in her own right, hinted that their work was based on Navya Nyaya which Mary’s uncle George Everest, a longtime Surveyor General of India, had learnt from local scholars,” he added.
He said Erwin Schrödinger, a founder of quantum theory, credited ideas in the Upanishads for the key notion of superposition that was to bring about the quantum revolution in physics that established new foundations for chemistry, biology, and electronics technology and the new world of computer hardware.