Give Indians proper credit for Algebra

Give Indians proper credit for Algebra
By Vir Gupta

During his speech on June 4 in Cairo, Egypt, President Barack Obama gave credit to Muslims for invention of many things, including algebra. I would like to bring out  the facts about the history of Algebra.

The credit for the first use of algebra probably goes to the Babylonians, who solved some quadratic problems verbally, but recognized only positive roots. During the time of Plato, Greeks used geometry to solve algebraic problems. Later, Diophantus (about 350 A.D.) wrote some rules for multiplication and division and solved some simple problems in “Arithmetica”. His algebra was syncopated and rhetorical.

 Indians have a long history of using mathematics.Fire altars were constructed using Pythagora’s theorem long before Pythagoras. A decimal system for weights and measures was used in the Indus Valley (2500 B.C.). Numbers in multiples of 2, 7, 10, 100 and even one million are found in several books, including “Narad Vishnu Purana” (1000 B.C.), “Anuyog Dwara Sutra ” (100 B.C.), “Lalitvistara” (100 A.D.) and several Mahayana Buddhist books. “Anuyog Dwara Sutra” also gives multiplication of square roots of square roots. Basic use of logarithm appears in “Satkhandagama” (150 A.D.).

The Bakhshali manuscript (200 A.D.) found near Peshawar in Pakistan includes fractions, square roots, quadratic equations, simultaneous equations, arithmetic and geometric progressions etc.

Aryabhatta (499 A.D.), a great Indian astronomer, wrote 118 verses in “Aryabhattiya” which cover several areas including arithmetic, algebra, plane and spherical trigonometry. It includes continued fractions, square roots, cube roots, quadratic equations, sum of power series and a table of sines. He introduced the Kuttaka method (breaking down of original factors into smaller numbers). He gave the circumference of Earth as 4,967 yojanas (24,835 miles) and stated that Earth moves around the sun long before Copernicus.

Brahmgupta (628 A.D.), another eminent Indian astronomer, wrote “Brahm-saphuta-siddhanta”, containing 25 chapters in which he gave several rules for arithmetical operations involving zero. He solved several quadratic equations and gave both positive and negative roots. In his book, he also solves several indeterminate problems.

In addition, he worked on trigonometry and gave the area of cyclic quadrilaterals and the interpolation formula for computation of sines. In astronomy, he dealt with lunar eclipses, etc. He introduced some symbols in algebra, but it was mostly syncopated.
Other Indians who made significant contributions to arithmetic/algebra include Varahamihir (505 A.D.), Bhaskara I (680 A.D.), Mahavira (800 A.D.), Madhva (850 A.D.) and Bhaskara II (1114 A.D.). Mahavira wrote solutions to several arithmetic operations, including fractions, permutations and combinations, and areas of ellipses. The works of Bhaskara II, include beej ganita (algebraic root extraction), astronomy, the solution to Pell’s equation, solutions to indeterminate problems by the Chakrawaat method and Diophantine problems. He broached the fields of infinitesimal calculation and integration. He postulated the existence of gurutava (gravitational attraction).

Destruction of several universities by Muslim invaders around 724 A.D., 786 A.D. and 1200 A.D. brought an end to India’s dominance in the field of mathematics.

During the 8th century A.D., several Sanskrit works were translated into Arabic in Baghdad. (Baghdad means “gift of God” in Sanskrit.) During the 9th century A.D., Caliph al-Mamun established a “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad and invited scholars from many countries, including India, Persia, and Greece, etc., to translate mathematical and other works into Arabic. Persian scholar al-Khwarizmi wrote about half a dozen books on astronomy and mathematics.

His most famous work, “Hisab al-jabr wa’l muqabalah”, was written around 830 A.D. It consists of six chapters, each dealing with a different formula. Muslims give him credit for the invention of algebra. As per O’Connor and Robertson, researchers at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, al-Khwarizmi visited India and took with him several mathematical works to Baghdad. His book on algebra was based mostly on the works by Brahmgupta (628 A.D.). Most of his algebra can be described as rhetorical.

Muslim scholars never developed symbols, which were necessary for advancement. They also rejected negative roots of quadratic equations, although they had learned from Hindus, as per O’Connor and Robertson. However, they improved upon the Hindu number system and the positional notations. Other notable Muslim scholars include al-Karkhi (953 A.D.), Omar Khayyam (1050 A.D.), al-Tushi (1135 A.D.) and Jamshid al-Kashi (1380 A.D.). The work of al-Khwarizmi and other Muslim scholars reached Europe around 1200 A.D. and they mistakenly gave credit for the invention of zero and other numerals – and algebra – to Muslims.

On the whole, Muslims’ contribution to the advancement in algebra is very small.

The real credit should go to Indians. As far as Obama is concerned, he should present only the facts.

Shree Vir Gupta is a nuclear/chemical engineer with a deep interest in Hinduism and Buddhism.


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13 responses to “Give Indians proper credit for Algebra

  1. Anonymous

    great post! exposing something few outside india know much about!

  2. Anonymous

    I did some research about Indian mathematics after reading this post and i was astonished by the facts. India was way ahead in every field of mathematics and astrology, not few years but few centuries!!! We can also see that in today’s world Indian students practice math as if its their mother language. Don’t worry about those ****ing western credits and be proud to be an Indian. Lions don’t care when a hyena eating from the remains of a buffalo hunted by the lion say to his mates that “yeah!! I was the one who discovered this buffalo. ”
    Try researching about Indian cosmic calender, Vedas and spiritual technology that existed in ancient India. You would be amazed at the theories, cosmological facts and level of technology that would even surpass today advancement of human race. mentioned in texts like Vedas, Upanishads and Purana! Archaeological excavation has proved that cities(one of them is dwarika) even bigger and well planned than Manhattan have existed more than 12000 years ago. Adding to this, satellite images of Ram-setu clearly indicates that such a perfect arrangement of gigantic stones across the sea from India to Shri Lanka cant be a natural phenomena.
    Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the father of atom bomb had stated that “Vedas are the greatest privilege that this century got. ” Now trying to understand what he said we can figure out that if Julius Oppenheimer would not have been inspired by the Vedas. Atomic energy could have never existed. When Oppenheimer was asked if this was the first nuclear explosion, he significantly replied “yes, considering only the modern times”
    Hence Vedas had mentioned in it such powerful source of energy that can engulf many cities.

    These are perfect examples of Indian mythology actually being the history on Indian subcontinent and that greatness has, is and always will dwell in India.

  3. ajay

    excellent article indians were masters of mathematics,astronomy,medicine,e.t.c.when greece was in dark age takshashila world’s oldest university was constructed in 700 bce.when whole europe was in dark age nalanda the greatest university of ancient was constructed in 4th century ad.

  4. shiv

    The ‘Mousala Parva ‘of ‘Mahabharata’ described about ATOM BOMB:
    “The unknown weapon is radient lightning ,a devastating messenger
    of death-a single projectile charged with all power of the Universe.
    An incandesent column of smoke and flame as bright as a thousand
    suns rose in all it splendour ,a perpendicular explosion with its
    billowing smoke clouds: the cloud of smoke rising after its first explosion
    formed into expanding round cirlcle like the opening of gaint parasoles.The corpse were so burned as to be unrecognisable . Hair and nails fell out ,
    pottery broke without apparent cause ,and the birds turned white.In a very short
    time food became poisonous.The the lightening subsided and turned into fine ash.”

    • katan

      A scientific paper by two reserchers-David W.
      Davenport and Ettore Vincenti-recorded the
      scholars belief’ that an archeological site they
      investigated in Mohanjodaro was destroyed
      in ancient times by a nuclear blast,’explained
      to IIT man,”When archeologists reached steet
      level during excavations of Harappa and
      Mohanjodaro ,quite often ,skeleton that had
      a redioactive level fity times greatet than normal (almost equal to Hiroshima and
      Nagasaki ) were found laying or seated in
      position indicating that an event had instantaneously wiped out civilization thete.”

  5. katan

    A scientific paper by two reserchers-David W.
    Davenport and Ettore Vincenti-recorded the
    scholars belief’ that an archeological site they
    investigated in Mohanjodaro was destroyed
    in ancient times by a nuclear blast,’explained
    to IIT man,”When archeologists reached steet
    level during excavations of Harappa and
    Mohanjodaro ,quite often ,skeleton that had
    a redioactive level fity times greatet than normal (almost equal to Hiroshima and
    Nagasaki ) were found laying or seated in
    position indicating that an event had instantaneously wiped out civilization thete.”

    • Vicjags

      I do respect the Scientific advancements of ancient civilizations.. Both Egyptian and Indian civilizations were well advanced, while former got most attention the latter was left unnoticed in world historical circles..

      But having said that, plz tell me that the above post is some kind of a crude satire !!

  6. mohit

    Quite amaging fact about development of
    neuclear science in ancient India.

  7. mohit

    This has been approved by CNR(the national reserch counsil) a public organisation
    ,it duty to carry out ,provide ,spread,tranfer and improve recerch activities in the main sector of knowledge growth and its application for scientific ,technological economical and social development of the country.
    For Devid Devanport an English of Indian origin ,experts of sanskrit a thermonuclear explosion isn’t a far hypothesis at all.
    The description of such a weapon were contained in Mahabharata section Drona Parva describing the weapon called Agneya.
    All the skeleton found (total number 44) were flatterened to the ground ,for example a father ,mother and child were found flatterened ,face down and still holding hands.
    Based on David Devenport study of many manuscript ,belives in text that 30000 inhabitant of the city were given 7 days to get out.

  8. siddhesh rane

    the thing is we should properly present our country and its work …to the world …this man has done a great job and if any body feels rude about ……let them be ……. we are aryans ,we are bhartiya………..

  9. Anonymous

    Its the duty of Own country people to recognised them shelves in true with maintaining it , simultanously learning others know how and also passing it to next generations without fear that knowlede attained is property of particular family , many concepts in science is still property of family not letting other to know

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