Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 26th 2015 Contents CITY SHAME
Monday, January 26, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Indian scientific prowess was
showcased by its Mars
Orbiter Mission. It became
the first nation to land an
unmanned spacecraft on Mars
on the first attempt. What
made this even more outstand-
ing was the low cost of the
mission compared with that of
NASA for a similar endeavour.
Interestingly, the idea of inter-
planetary space travel is a tra-
ditional and accepted concept
in the Hindu perspective.
At the 102nd Indian Science
Congress held in Mumbai
recently, the Indian Minister of
Science and Technology raised
the issue of the contributions
to science and mathematics
made by ancient Indians.
Specifically the origin of the so
called Pythagoras Theorem.
Strangely, there were some
Indians who reacted negatively
But that is a recurring his-
torical problem in India. The
acknowledging of Hindu con-
tributions by those who profess
to ascribe to a secular world
It is often said, tongue in
cheek, that history is really
"his story." "His" here being
The Western World has no
doubt, since the Industrial
Revolution, dominated the
world through its technological
superiority, which is based on
its progress and expertise in
science and engineering.
To the West, Greece is the
scientific and mathematical
fountainhead upon which its
scientific culture is based.
Accordingly, its science histori-
ans generally do not acknowl-
edge pre-Greek developments
as significant; in spite of Sir
Isaac Newton s admission of
the importance of prior work
which provides the foundation
for new discoveries.
"Pythagoras" Theorem is a
fundamental theorem in
Geometry with many practical
applications, including building
science and geomatics. In
essence it states that, for a
right angled triangle, the sum
of the squares of the two sides
framing the right angle is equal
to the square of side
(hypotenuse) opposite it.
So, for instance, if the two
sides are 3 and 4 respectively
then the hypotenuse will be 5.
Professor Manjul Bhargava of
Princeton University, a winner
of the Field Medal, gave a
thorough and very historically-
balanced review of this topic.
(The official name for the Field
Medal is the International
Medal for Outstanding Discov-
eries in Mathematics.
It is awarded every four
years, at the International Con-
gress of the International
Mathematics Union, to no
more than four mathematicians
under the age of 40.)
He indicated that whilst the
idea was previously known in
both Egypt and Mesopotamia,
the first explicit statement of
the theorem was given in the
Shuba Sutra of Baudhayan.
Baudhayan lived around 800
BC in ancient India.
He gave proofs of the theo-
rem for special cases and gen-
eral numeric ones.
Some years later the Chinese
Mathematician, Gougu, gave
the rigorous proof and in fact,
in China, the theorem is
named after him.
This view is also shared by
Emeritus Professor Mumford of
Brown University. He is a win-
ner of the Field Medal and
several other prizes for his out-
standing contribution to math-
The general practice, in
mathematics, is to name the
theorem after the person/s who
would have formally stated the
theorem. Fermat s
Theorem/Last Theorem, was
named after the famous French
Mathematician, which was
never proved by him, only
stated. Similarly then, the
"Pythagoras" Theorem should
really be the Baudhayan Theo-
Sometimes named credit is
also given to those who
advance the discovery. As
Gougu is the first one to give a
rigorous proof, than it would
be reasonable for it to be called
the Baudhayan-Gougu Theo-
rem. Pythagoras lived around
57-495 BC and hence it should
not be named after him if con-
vention is to be followed.
The history of mathematics
and science must scrupulously
conform to the conventions of
the fields themselves whereby
those who first made the dis-
covery are acknowledged.
There are several other
instances of the scientific dis-
coveries of ancient India and
China that are not recognised
or properly attributed.
Mathematicians and scien-
tists are in essence seekers of
the truth. Historians must do
Last week I wrote a letter highlighting
the suffering of commuters using the
Mosquito Creek on a daily basis due to
the terrible road surface. In one week re-
medial work was carried out, restoring a
smooth surface. Credit must be given
where it is due.
It may have been in the pipeline al-
ready, however I'd like to use this forum
to give kudos to the people responsible
for the speedy and professional re-
sponse. Thanks again.
To the hard-working San Fernando
mayor, sir, on a daily basis drivers have
difficulty accessing the promenade from
behind the High Court due to vehicles
being parked directly on the corner on all
I'd hate to believe these vehicles be-
long to police officers due to the wreck-
ing crew turning a blind eye to this
All traffic in this vicinity must turn up
Lord Street because of the prison vans
blocking Harris Street. Thank you for
your kind consideration.
SCIENCE AND SOCIETY
GIVING INDIA ITS SCIENTIFIC DUE
Smooth sailing on the Creek
Iam not a civil engineer, an architect or a
seismologist. However, I could not help
noticing that the UWI (among others) is
using red clay blocks in the construction
of its new multi-storeyed buildings.
Some time ago I attended a seminar
where I learned that such blocks ought
not to be used in earthquake-prone
zones. I am subject to correction, but if
any learned person out there would care
to correct my misinterpretation of the in-
formation, I would dearly appreciate it.
Clay blocks dangerous in high-rises
Despite the promises of San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein to clean up
abandoned lots in and around the city, this empty lot on Lower Hillside
Street, San Fernando continues to be a dumping ground. The city
corporation needs to address this situation, which poses a health hazard to
residents, immediately. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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