Science of matter and metals

Primitive Indian societies were surely ahead of their ages. Along with its culture and tradition, ancient India also developed fast in the science of matter, metals and energies. Many scientific philosophies, during those days, were derived from the Vedas (Shrutis); however, a range of Indian scholars – from Shankara, Sushruta and Charakha to Aryabhata, Bhaskara and Chanayka – also contributed greatly to Indian science and technological advancements.

For instance, it took quite some time for the Indians to understand the concept of atoms and molecules; while, on the other hand, in the science of acoustics, Indians made some of the earliest discoveries. Again, Vedic studies also introduced Indians to the study of phonetics, and made it easier for them to distinguish various musical tones, in comparison to their contemporaries.

If we talk about the ancient Harappan civilization, they used some of the crudest copper and bronze technologies which brought huge revolution near around 2,500 BC. Few interesting advancements made by Vedic Aryans were as follows –

  • Tanned leather
  • Fermented grains and fruits
  • Dyed scale production of copper, iron and steel, brass, silver and gold
  • Large exports of Indian steel
  • Large imports of tin and mercury

Starting from the seventh century, mention of alchemy was found in Indian literature. Indian medical chemistry eventually flourished to reach its zenith during those times.  It set milestones in the following fields –

  • Important alkalis and acids
  • Understanding the chemistry of metallic salts
  • A form of gun powder (as claimed by Bashama)
  • Specific remedies for diseases

Ancient monuments are time-tested examples of the zenith achieved by Indian engineers and metallurgists of the bygone era. To name a few the copper statue of Buddha established at Sultanganj, and the most famous Iron Pillar at Mehrauli.

Famous Ancient Inventions

Who invented Calculus?

Today, it is known to all that Newton invented Calculus. However, Calculus was present in the Indian texts written much earlier by the famous ancient mathematicians and astronomers – Aryabhata and Bhaskaracharya. The texts were scripted centuries before Newton’s invention and elaborate on the method of Calculus.

Who invented Numbers?

For that matter, who invented numbers? Of course, the Indians! The ancient Romans had no idea about the usage of the number zero. Ancient Indians were acquainted with large numbers, for instance Mahogham – 1 followed by 62 zeros; and, of course, the corresponding smaller decimal fractions.

In the 12th century AD, Paavuloori Mallana wrote Ganitha Sastram in Telugu. One particular poem in his book starts as follows:

‘Sara sasishatkachandrasarasaayaka ….’

The meaning apparently seems to be a poetic sketch of nature. However, each and every word in the poem is encrypted in a mathematical terminology. It deals with a mathematical problem. The problem is as follows –

In the first square of the chess board a grain is placed, in the second one double of that of the first is placed, and so forth. Based on the problem, how many grains have to be placed in the last square of the chess board? The poem rhythmically, and systematically, gives the solution as 18446744073709551614. It equals to 2 to the power 63.

Who invented Nuclear Physics?

In the 3rd century BC, Maharshi Kanada wrote the atomic theory in his famous text Vaiseshika Sutras. This atomic theory was first propagated by a Buddhist teacher Pakudha Katyayana. The theory has also found its mention, in equal magnitude, in Agni Purana. As per the ancient atomic theory, the smallest of all the atomic particles is called Paramaanu.

1 Paramaanu = 1 billionth part of a meter.

On an interesting note, the above mentioned value of Paramaanu corresponds to the organic molecular size as estimated by the modern western scientists.

As mentioned in the Upanishads, the five elements of the nature are –

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Air
  • Fire and
  • Akasa

However, the concept of Akasa was missing amongst the ancient Greek or Roman philosophers. It was quite easy to deduce the role of the remaining four elements as –

  • The Earth represents the solid state
  • The Water constitutes the liquid state
  • The Air forms the gaseous state and
  • The Fire constitutes of the plasma as the fourth state of matter.

The western scholars, though, failed to recognize and include nuclear state as part of a state of matter. Akasa is a nuclear state in which few nuclear parts are stable. Maharshi Gauthama, in his Sanskrit text Anu Sidhdhantam, has explained the three major models of microscopes under which the atoms and electrons can be clearly seen, observed and examined.

Who were the first to calculate the Velocity of Light?

In the Rig Veda Bhashyam by Sayana Madhava, the following slokah praising the Sun is mentioned:

Yojanamsahasredve, satadve,

Dvechayojane Ekenanimeshardhena kramamaana na mosthuthe

1 Yojana = 15788.8 meters

½ Nimesha = 8/75th fraction of a second

Thus, based on the above formulae, the velocity of light = 325940 km/s.

It is to be noted that the above calculated value is only an approximate value for one’s easy understanding and remembrance, similar is the case with Pi which is calculated as 22/7.

The velocity of light as mentioned above is anytime better than the one calculated by the modern Danish astronomer Ole Roemer in the year 1676. Logically, it makes more sense in mentioning that our ancestors must have taken light as standard for all length measurements; nevertheless, our modern science also conceives velocity of light as ‘universal constant’.

As stated in the above slokah, ‘kramamaana’ means ‘gradual minute change’; here, referred in a veiled fashion.

Who invented Weaving?

Many historians and scholars agree that primitive gins and spinning wheels were invented in India. Some of the earliest samples of cotton fabric were discovered during the process of Indus Valley excavations. In addition to this, samples of the oldest mordant dyeing technique for Kalamkari (a type of cotton fabric) were also found in Indus Valley. The Kalamkari technique was polished and honed up in Southern India and this unique ancient traditional method is retained till date. The spinning and weaving methods as used in the modern industries are well described in our age old Puranas.

The weaving industry had special collaborations with the domestic laborers who were paid on piece rate basis. The fiber utilized for spinning and the fabrics produced from it were most wide-ranging. Indian weaving and spinning skills thus clearly outshone others in similar fields. Records of Pliny’s Natural History states that India exported abundant of fabrics ranging from coarse canvas to finest texture textiles of woolen fabrics, sheep wool, silks, cotton clothes, and colored carpets. Indian sarees made up of the thinnest fabric were already in vogue during those times. It is believed that most British lived naked during the rule of the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, as they were deprived of the weaving method.

Who invented Steel?

‘Wootz’ steels first found its mention in the Rig Veda. The first traces of steel manufacturing were discovered in South India. Indian steel ingots were sold by Arabians to make abundant money. Indian steel making technique eventually earned a lot of fame; and, in 1746, Britain’s queen first sent a scientist-scholar named Benjamin Huntsman to India to learn the secret of steel making. However, news has it that Huntsman didn’t write the main secret to the queen and, instead, he established his own foundry at his native place. Again, after this, the Indian crucible method of making steel was adopted by the famous scholar Henry Bessemer.

Another Indian input in the European industries was the process of casting. The frames of various machine tools during that time were formed of wood. As early as 1300s, good mechanical devices clocks did exist in Britain. They were works of skilled craftsmen and were not the products of precision machine tools. It wasn’t till the construction of the machine tools that Indian casting method and their further components were explored. Exceptionally hard metals were used in the Indian steel making industry, so that high precision machine tools could be manufactured. Thus, the introduction of casting methods played an indispensable role in bringing the Industrial Revolution in Europe during 1800s.