A BBC Film Documents India’s Math Contribution

I went through this news report today that raised many questions in my mind. I am sure that many must have provided the answers of the queries raised by me today

BBC is filming a documentary film ‘The Story of Maths’ that reveals Indians creating some of the most fundamental mathematical theories. The Story of Maths, a four-part series, will be screened on BBC Four in 2008. Dr Marcus Du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, is the man behind the project. He claims that Indians made many of these breakthroughs before Newton was born.

The film talks about Aryabhatta (476-550 AD), who calculated pi, and Brahmagupta (598-670 AD). It showcases a Gwalior temple, which documents the first inscription of ‘zero’.

Du Sautoy says, “One of the biggest inventions in India was the number zero. Indians used it long before the West did. When the West had Roman numerals there was no zero and that is why they were so clumsy. On the other hand, Brahmagupta was one of the key mathematicians in the world because he invented the idea of zero.”

The documentary also features the history of Kerala-born mathematician Madhava (1350-1425) who created calculus 300 years before Newton and German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz did. “We learn that Newton invented the mathematical theory calculus in the 17th century but Madhava created it earlier,” says Du Sautoy.

Chennai-born Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) also features in the film. “He contacted English mathematician G.H. Hardy, who persuaded him to come to Cambridge. They began a collaboration between the analytical maths of the West and the intuitive maths of India, and together produced brilliant theories and amazing results.”

Why can’t some Indian mathematician from IISc, IITs, or from so many of Indian universities where mathematics are taught, go for such an endeavour?

Why couldn’t India produce a mathematician of the reputation of Ramanujan in 60 years of post-independence period?

Who are the five top Indian mathematicians today?

Is it the lack of environment in the universities or as all our teachers have gone for making money and coaching the students to succeed in IIT’s entrance examination?

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