Sciences of the Ancient Hindus – Book review

Modern science and medicine would be unrecognizable, and far more primitive, without the immense contribution of the ancient Hindus.  Even the most brief list of their discoveries and inventions would include such everyday essentials as our numerical system (incorrectly known as “Arabic” numerals), place value notation in base ten with zero as a numeral, the sine function and much of trigonometry, the concept of the atom, and the diurnal motion of the Earth.  In the domain of technology and medicine, the early Hindus developed the first iron-making processes and, later on, advanced steel-making, plastic surgery, cataract surgery, and yoga.  These and many other advances attracted scholars from Greece, China, the Middle East, and Europe and had an impact throughout the ancient and medieval world.

Sciences of the Ancient Hindus covers various topics in the natural sciences and systematically uses Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern accounts dealing with the ancient Hindus. The works of noted scholars, Aristotle, Megasthenes, and Apollonius of Tyana among the Greeks; Al-Biruni, Al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Labban, and Al-Uqlidisi among Islamic scholars; Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang, and I-tsing among the Chinese; Leonardo Fibbonacci, Pope Sylvester II, Roger Bacon, Voltaire and Copernicus from Europe, provide the direct testimony of the immense contributions of the ancient Hindus. In the modern era, thinkers and scientists as diverse as Goethe, Emerson, Thoreau, Jung, Oppenheimer, and Schrodinger, to name a few, have acknowledged their debt to ancient Hindu achievements in science, technology, and philosophy.

Alok Kumar is a professor of physics at the State University of New York at Oswego. He was born and educated in India. Later, he taught at California State University at Long Beach. He has been teaching in the American higher education for over three decades. At Oswego, Kumar has received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the President’s Award for Creative and Scholarly Activity and Research.  Kumar is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany and NOVA/NASA fellowships. About 100 articles are published in the popular media that discuss Kumar’s scholarship. These media outlets include The Washington Post, Family Life, The Scientists, and India Abroad.

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