I am indeed happy that the National Academy of Science, India has decided to sponsor the publication by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture of ‘Introduction to History of Science in India’ –a multivolume series commenmorating the centenary of Indian Science Congress Association and sesquicentennial Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda—one of the principal initiators of Institutional Science in India. This series , of which the present one is and introduction, I understand, would start with our science heritage followed by its growth in successive phases culminating in the present challenges, written in a language meant for the common readers.
I sincerely hope that this commendable venture would indeed generate interest and awareness of all concerned towards the basic objectives of Science—the search for eternal truth, enrichment of knowledge and alleviation of misery of the humanity as a whole.
The present volume provides with a glimpse of a few of our revered scientists who laid the foundation of modern science and explored new horizons in the field.
I wish the venture a grand success.
The year 2013 marks the initiation of the centenary of the Indian Science. Congress Association, the first session of which was held in 1914, and was presided over by Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, a noted mathematician and the then Vice Chancellor, University of Calcutta, in British India. Incidentally, the year 2013 coincides with the 150th year of Swami Vivekananda whose thoughts also coincided with the beginning of Science Renaissance in Modern India. In fact the initiative of Swami Vivekananda led to the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore through the generous donation of Sir Jamshedji Tata.
In order to commemorate these historic events, coupled with the fact that our Hon 'ble Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared the year 2011 as the 'Year of Science', and declared 'Science and Technology for the future', as the theme of this Congress. Later, Science Academies in India called a meeting to discuss in detail the Prime Minister's message. It was proposed, along with other programmes, to bring out a comprehensive but easily understandable treatise for the general readers covering the 'History of Science in India'.
The National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), Allahabad, decided to collaborate with, and entrust the preparation of this treatise spreading over different volumes, to Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata in view of their legacy of Swami Vivekananda; and also in view of their established experience in publishing such treatises as 'Cultural Heritage of India' in several volumes, among which one is entirely devoted to science.
The contents of the proposed volumes of 'History of Science in India' would cover the status of Science and Technology in India through successive phases of growth, the first phase covering:
i. Science in the historic past (but not prehistoric), such as the era of Aryabhatta, Charaka and Susruta, amongst others. In other words, this phase serves as an index of the legacy of Indian Science from the recent past.
ii. The second phase, the Renaissance Phase, includes the past 100 years or more of our scientific achievements, including the pre-Renaissance period. This phase covers the regime of the East India Company and colonial rule as well as a large number of scientists from Britain such as Sir Ronald Ross, William Carey, J. D. Hooker, Albert Howard, R. B. Seymour Sewell, N. Annandale, Sir Sidney Burrard, I. D. Simonsen, William Roxburgh and others people, who came to India to serve in different capacities in the government. During their stay, they not only served as torch bearers of Science but also created the infrastructure of science in several areas in the then British India, and became associated with the Indian Science Congress Association. It would be relevant to note too that Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor served as the first President of INSA in 1935, then termed as the National Institute of Sciences.
iii. The final or third phase would deal with the strategies adopted through Science and Technology in facing the present day challenges in life, such as hunger, diseases, pollution, education and other problems related to our existence. In fact, it is called 'Contemporary Science'.
The entire series starts with the present volume 'History of Science in India: An Introduction', which begins with an article on Swami Vivekananda's scientific temper and understanding of science. It covers also only the contributions, in brief, of some of the Indian scientists of the Renaissance phase. These savants of science were responsible for laying the foundations of modern science through their original contributions, discoveries, formulation of basic theories, as well as for building up schools of research, institutes, councils of research and science departments in this subcontinent. This volume, in fact, serves as a supplement to the Second Phase, that is, the Renaissance Period.
In this volume, only a few Indian scientists have been included, who, in addition to their eminence and contributions, established the science departments or institutes and/or were conferred on very high distinctions by the Academies and Associations of both India and abroad.
In order to meet the criteria listed above, the names of several doyens of science and their contributions during the Renaissance phase could not be included in this brief introductory volume much as we had wished it. But their contributions, in detail, would be dealt with in the respective subject-volumes of this series.
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