5 of India's contributions to science

22nd October 2010

One of India’s most exciting scientific projects - a multi-million dollar observatory studying neutrino particles - has been given the go-ahead. Here’s a look at some of the top contributions India has made to the science world over the centuries.

1) Atomism

The earliest mention of the concept of the atom dates back to India. A couple of popular schools of thought dating back to the 6th century BC developed theories about how atoms combined to form more complex objects. References to atoms in the West emerged about a century later.

2) Zero

Zero was recognized as a number and not merely a symbol of separation amongst all other numbers in India. Basic calculations – including multiplications and divisions were already carried out considering zero as any other number from the 9th century AD.

3) Trigonometric functions

The functions of sine and cosine can be traced back to India. Although the study of trigonometry can be dated back to the ancient times, there is evidence that these two values were being used in the 5th century AD.

4) Modern decimal system

What we use as the modern decimal system was compiled in its entirety in India. Although other cultures had introduced some features of the numeric system beforehand, it was completed in India by the 9th century AD.

5) Chandrasekhar Limit

Indian Nobel Prize-winning physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar discovered the calculation used to determine the future of what would happen to a dying star. If the star’s mass is less than the Chandrasekhar Limit it will shrink to become a white dwarf, and if it is great the star will explode, becoming a supernova.