Indian scientists have shaped the course of mathematics and astronomy for the world to marvel upon. Many scientists in the USA today are Indians and more than 40% of scientists of NASA and the Silicon Valley are Indians. Indians have helped the world build intercontinental missiles, satellites, the space shuttle, stealth technology, space exploration and Deep Impact navigation. One of the very early pioneers in astronomy and mathematics was Aryabhatta.
Aryabhatta I, born 476 A.D in Patliputra in Magadha is now modern Patna in Bihar. There are several tales of claim for his origins. Many believe that he was born in the south of India around the Kerala region and lived in Magadha at the time of the Gupta rulers; time which is known as the golden age of India. There is no evidence that he was born outside Patliputra and traveled to Magadha, the centre of instruction, culture and knowledge for his studies where he even set up a coaching institute. His first name "Arya" is not a south Indian name while "Bhatt" (or sometimes Bhatta) is a typical north Indian name. The name is popular even today in India especially among the trader community of north India.
Life and Works of Aryabhata
Whatever this origins, it cannot be disputed that he lived in Patliputra where he wrote his famous thesis called the "Aryabhatta-siddhanta" more commonly known as the "Aryabhatiya". This is the only works to have survived to the present day. It contains mathematical and astronomical hypothesis that have been discovered to be quite accurate in contemporary mathematics. For example, he wrote that if 4 is added to 100 and then multiplied by 8 then added to 62,000 then divided by 20,000 the answer will be equal to the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. This calculates to 3.1416 close to the actual value Pi (3.14159). But his greatest donation has to be zero, known as the "Shunya" in his times. His other works include theorems on trigonometry, arithmetic, algebra, quadratic equations and the sine table.
He also wrote essays on astronomy. For example he was aware that the earth spins on its axis, and that it moves round the sun and the moon rotates round the earth. He discusses about the locations of the planets in relation to its movement around the sun. He refers to the light of the planets and the moon as reflections from the sun. He goes as far as to explain the eclipse of the moon and the sun, day and night, the contours of the earth, the length of the year exactly as 365 days. He also calculated the circumference of the earth as 24835 miles which is close to present day calculation of 24,900 miles.
This extraordinary man was an intellectual of immense proportions and continues to baffle many mathematicians of today. His working was then later adopted by the Greeks and then the Arabs. If one is to study the history of mathematics, Aryabhatta of Bihar outshines everyone.
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