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Mathematics in India - varnamvarnam
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Mathematics in India

Last year Communist ideologue P Govindapillai wrote an article in the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubumi about Eurocentrism and lamented that Europeans did not give sufficient credit to Muslim scientists. In the article Govindapillai conveniently left out mathematicians from his own state — the Kerala School of Mathematics — and their discoveries. This lead to an Op-Ed in Mail Today.

In his review of Kim Plofker’s Mathematics in India, David Mumford, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, writes that the prosperity and success of India has created support for new Western scholars who are looking at India without the old biases. I have not read the book yet, but the review is positive.

Chapter 7 of Plofker’s book is devoted to the crown jewel of Indian mathematics, the work of the Kerala school. Kerala is a narrow fertile strip between the mountains and the Arabian Sea along the southwest coast of India. Here, in a number of small villages, supported by the Maharaja of Calicut, an amazing dynasty17 of mathematicians and astronomers lived and thrived. A large proportion of their results were attributed by later writers to the founder of this school, Madhava of Sangamagramma, who lived from approximately 1350 to 1425. It seems fair to me to compare him with Newton and Leibniz. The high points of their mathematical work were the discoveries of the power series expansions of arctangent, sine, and cosine. By a marvelous and unique happenstance, there survives an informal exposition of these results with full derivations, written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala, by Jyes.t.hedeva perhaps about 1540. This book, the Gan.ita-Yukti-Bhasa, has only very recently been translated into English with an extensive commentary.18 As a result, this book gives a unique insight into Indian methods. Simply put, these are recursion, induction, and careful passage to the limit.[Mathematics in India via IndiaArchaeology]


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