Traditions of Science Cross-Cultural Perspectives

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Item Code: IDK976
Author: Purushottama Bilimoria and M K Sridhar
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8121511771
Pages: 373 (1 Color Illustrations & 16 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.8" X 6.3”

Book Description

It gives me deep pleasure to write this Foreword to this volume, Traditions of Science: Cross Cultural Perspectives – Essays in honour of Dr. B.V. Subbarayappa. It has been so ably edited, and imaginatively designed, by Professor Murushottama Bilimoria and Professor M.K. Sridhar.

The life and words of Dr. Subbarayappa attest to his vast range of scholarship: from science to philosophy of science, from history to history of science, and across other, related branches of knowledge. His numerous publications make it abundantly clear that he is a serious researcher and meticulous writer. Many offices have been offered to him, and many honours bestowed upon him, in recognition of his scholarship.

As an admirer and colleague of Dr. Subbarayappa, I am deeply impressed by the number and quality of contributions received by the editors from eminent scholars, Indian and foreign, who have gladly agreed to write in recognition of the scholarly eminence of Dr. Subbarayappa. I am sure this science, by historians of science and by scientists themselves. I wish Dr. Subbarayappa a long life in his tireless pursuit of scientific knowledge of the most excellent quality.

The frontiers of Traditional Knowledge and Science since long have attracted the minds of scientists, theologians, intellectuals and students the world over. There have been great discussions in the interstices of these two fields, in respect of their similarities and dissimilarities, apparent contradictions, and the possibility of a harmony between the two for the good, learning and welfare of human beings. In the modern West or the European world placing Science and Tradition side-by-side would be an anathema, for its thought and feverishly argued by many that in the post-Enlightenment era. Tradition has been left behind in the Age of darkness, while it is Science – i.e. the systematic scientific approach to the study and understanding of all there is – that has moved forward into the era of secular and unassailable knowledge. However in India, at least ancient and medieval India, and much of the Non-Western world, there was only one world for tradition and science, namely, Vidya. Vidya encompassed what we with a more historical sensibility nowadays call ‘knowledge-systems’. This is brought our formidably in the massive tome edited by Helaine Selin, in Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Culture (2nd edn, Springer, 2007). The division or separation between the disciplines and the epistemologies was never as sharply drawn as it is in the modern times, where Science has the status almost that of the state and Tradition that of the church. However, even that mutually impenetrable wall may be rupturing at the seams in the 21st century. For there is growing evidence that at least there can be a line of continuity as well as some common ground and interactive space between tradition and science, anywhere, but specially in the more traditional cultures: hence our choice of the title ‘Traditions of Science: Cross-cultural Perspectives’.

In this context, leading scientific and theological organizations have made enormous contributions through their seminars and symposia, dialogues and workshops in bringing diverse thinkers on one platform for this interactive explorations. Sir John Templeton Foundation, based in Philadelphia, USA, is one such international organization instrumental in convening such seminars, and sponsoring related projects worldwide.

Several individuals out of sheer academic interests if not curiosity have pursued research in these two areas thereby contributing to the growth of this exploratory knowledge and generating this new genre of literature where the horizons of science meets the sea of traditions. Prof B.V. Subbarayappa is one such eminent individual who has relentlessly pursued and in his quiet way stimulated the fusion of disparate minds in this area. He is hailed as a pioneer in the History of Science movement in India and abroad, and his contributions in this field are without match and have earned him a name among scientists, science historians, philosophers and intellectuals all over the world. We are inspired by Prof Subbarayappa’s monumental work and sheer humanity to find a way of honouring him. The present volume is a small token in that direction.

It is now our duty also to acknowledge those who have helped with this project at various stages and contributed to its fruition from its inception. Our first gratitude goes to the scholars from around the world who amidst their busy academic schedules were kind enough to send essays from their current research work and patiently going through edited galleys and persevering with inadvertent delays in bringing out the publication in the anticipated time.

We are beholden to Prof D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Chairman, Center for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, for his Foreword to the Volume, and to Prof. J.N. Mohanty of USA, for a highly reflective Open Word.

Our special thanks are also due to Ms Sally Percival Wood (of Sophia, Australia), Dr Andrew Irvine and Chris John Zvokel (of New York, USA), for lending a hand with desk-editing tasks at various stages. Ms Rinea (Goa), Mr. Srinivasamurthy, Mr. C. Gangadhara also helped at various stages of the preparation of the manuscript from its raw form to the publication phase.

We thank the Sir John Templeton Foundation, USA for co-sponsoring the publication, and also the Trustees of The Indological Research Foundation, Science and Spirituality Research in India Trust (SSRT), Prof Suryanatha U.Kamath, Hon Chairman, Prof B.V. Subbarayappa Felicitation Committee, Bangalore, for providing other kinds of infrastructure support.

We also thank Mr. Ashok Jain of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, for undertaking to publish this volume.

We hope that readers will gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between Science and Religion, love and respect for the traditions in these two frontiers and would find endless opportunities for pursuing such studies resulting in stimulating intellectual dialogues and research thus enhancing resulting in stimulating intellectual dialogues and research thus enhancing the quality of life and the world they live in. As an old Sanskrit adage says: “The understanding of knowledge or philosophy becomes crystal clear only by way of arguments, counter-arguments and dialogues.”

India has a rich classical scientific tradition that developed over millennia. However, no organized inter-disciplinary studies such as the history and philosophy of Indian sciences evolved even well after Independence. In such a challenging situation Dr. B.V. Subbarayappa, quite out of his own inclinations, began a study of the history of Indian sciences informed by the history and philosophy of science in the West. In fact, he spent a considerable amount of time familiarizing himself with the methodologies and concerns of this latter discipline before embarking fully on the Indian counterpart, about which he held both some hunches and healthy scepticism. But it was to be a matter of investigation, close reading of ancient and classical texts, and discoveries in the field, rather than one of armchair speculation or dismissal as many Western-trained Indian scientists were prone to do. Some three decades of this painstaking research led to numerous ground-breaking publications and major lectures.

This work on the growth of knowledge and critical appraisal of traditional sciences in India earned the recognition of the world community of historians of science. And the deserved recognition in part culminated in his election as the General President of the Science Division of the UNESCO related International union of the History and philosophy of Science, by its general assembly at Liege, Belgium on July 25, 1997. But more than such institutional and bestowed laurels, the man himself is rather more intriguing, or something of a living institution in his own right, particularly with his astute philosophic perceptiveness and a gentle intellectual disposition, as well as his deep spiritual openness from his own Brahmanic scholarly pedigree. These qualities make any subject he writes or speaks on quite more interesting than one might have otherwise thought possible: it is as though the subject-master itself comes fully endowed, thought not yet manifest, with a depth, a fascination of its own, and an elevating smile! With his singular effort in the field, the scene had become quite different and something to be celebrated, as it indeed was, on the eve of the golden jubilee of the birth and freedom of celebration through the studious contribution of Dr. Subbarayappa who, on the margins of the nascent nationalist movement, both stimulated the retrieval of the glories of ancient India and nurtured its embrace of the modern sciences. True to his quasi-Gandhian spirit. Subbarayappa has written on science’s grand phases and, more importantly, attempted to forge a conduit, a bridge, a continuum between traditional and modern sciences. He has always emphasized that in the Indian context, traditional astronomy, medicine and technology coexisted with their modern counterparts, which is an observation of considerable significance. Several essays in this commemorative volume attest to the lotus-like steps he chalk-marked quietly to demonstrate this observation from, and in his own long-ranging studies. Had Galileo lived in India, for instance, he would not have suffered as much as he did under the Catholic church of Europe: he would have been celebrated for his advancements into heliocentric theories (which had heuristic counterparts in navigational calculus) and for the impact his early discoveries had on astrology. Classical Indian astronomers were not only supported in such pursuits, their “old” endeavours were never quite abandoned in India.

As a science historian of both the ancient and Raj periods in India, and a veritable witness to the development of science in the postcolonial era, Dr. Subbarayappa posits that the socio-political environment that marked the pre-independence freedom struggle was a key source of inspiration to Indian scientists. Indeed, it was a primary force behind scientific pioneers such as J.C. Bose and P.C. Roy. Post-independence a socio-political climate favouriong a public/institutional focus has veered more towards technological developments – from nuclear capability to the industrious IT revolution. Nevertheless, pure research continues to be supported and encouraged in large measure by private institutes and collective, and is carried out by Indian scientists working abroad, such as Chandrasekhar and Ramanuja.

Bidare Venkatasubbaiah Subbarayappa was born in 1925 in the town of Bidare in the erstwhile princely state of Mysore. His early High School education was at Madhugiri, after which he attended known, then Intermediate College at Tumkur. The youthful subbu, as he was popularly known, then entered Central College, a constituent of Mysore University, where he majored in chemistry with physics as a subsidiary and was subsequently awarded a subject scholarship for chemistry during his honours year. In the year of India’s Independence and soon after his graduation in 1947, Dr Subbarayappa began his career as a lecturer in chemistry in Vijaya College, Bangalore. In 1955 he joined the Central Foundation Technological Research Institute there that he developed a keen interest in the scientific manuscripts, and other primary and secondary sources, that he discovered as he scoured the library shelves. In 1962, his paper on “Indian Atomism” was specially noticed in the British Journal Nature. Two years later Subbarayappa obtained his doctorate degree from Mysore University for his thesis Studies in Indian Concepts in Physical Sciences.


Foreword by D.P. Chattopadhyayaxi
Open Word: The Philosopher’s Science by J.N. Mohantyxv
Introduction: A Life in the History of Science – Profile and Publications of Dr. B.V. Subbarayappaxix
William R. Shea
1.The Science of Our Origins1
Roshdi Rashed
2.The Invention of Classical Scientific Modernity11
Y. Maeyama
3.On the Celestial Pole21
S.M. Razaullah Ansari
4.Ibn al-Haytham, the First Proponent of the Scientific Method35
Imchio Yano
5.Pancanga, Ancient and Modern59
Raymond Mercier
6.Astronomical Computation for the History of Indian Astrology72
V. Kirsanov
7.First Russian Translation of Huygens’s Kosmotheoros 83
G. Venkataraman
8.The Spirit of a Gaint: On C.V. Raman93
Vincenzo Cappelletti
9.Towards a New Perspective in Science111
Struan Jacobs
10.A Neglected Source of the Metascientific Revolution of the 1960s115
Liu Dunn
11.A Brief Introduction to the Studies on History of Science in the People’s Republic of China125
P. Bilimoria, S. Jain, J.H. Milis, P. Murthy, and S. Percival Wood
12.Lost Souls, Troubled Minds: The Medicalization of Madness in Mysore State during the British Raj135
Sharada Srinivasan
13.On Icons, Vessels and Mirrors from South India: Tracing Early use of Tin, Zinc and High-tin Bronze157
B.V. Subbarayappa
14.Siddha Medicine: An Overview176
Ubiratan D’Ambrosio
15.The Cultural Dynamics of the Encounters: Ethnoscience and Ethnomathematics187
Anne Dambricourt
16.The Origins of Humanity and the Foundations of Ethics197
David Turnbull
17.The “Unity” of Science and its Demarcation from Other Knowledge Traditions207
Vidyanand Nanjundiah
18.The Scientific Temper225
Jonathan Shear
19.Mysticism and Scientific Naturalism235
Max Charlesworth
20.Science, Non-Science and Pseudo-Science249
B.V. Sreekantan
21.Modern Physics and Traditional Insights: And Indian Scientist Reflects262
Purushottama Bilimoria
22.A Prolegomenon for Reconfiguring Science and Theology within Metaphysics, India and the Rest272
Stephen Coleman
23.Does the Universe need Fine-Tuning?295
J.J.C. Smart
24.Of Scientific Theism - Discussion303
Brian Ellis
25.God, Chance and Necessity - Discussion311
C.S. Unnikrishnan
26.The Role of Unobservables in Modern Physics and Our Links to the Physical Universe317
Hari Shankar Prasad
27.Newton and Leibniz on Time: A Controversy between Absolution and Relationism324
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
28.The Achievements of Ibn Sina in the Field of Science and His Contributions to its Philosophy339

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