Skip to content

5 Ancient Indian mathematicians whom you don’t know much about

Ancient India had one of the most diverse knowledge system in the world at that time, if not the most. It had a long tradition of astronomy and mathematics. The guru-shishya parampara produced some of the exceptional intellectuals the world had ever seen.

In this post, we will learn about few of them and what made them stand apart. Please bear in mind that these are just the few who are most famous ones. We’ll be going into complete detail of their works in future blog posts.

Baudhayana (बौधायन)

Baudhayana’s Sulbha sutras are one among many Sulbha sutras, but the most famous one. Sulbha is a Sanskrit world that means “rope”. Baudhayana published at least 6 sutras including Dharmasutra and sulbhasutra. Sulbasutra is a work on geometry.

Pythagorean theorem as stated in Sulbasutra centuries before Pythagoras was born, if he was ever a real person.

दीर्घचतुरश्रस्याक्ष्णया रज्जु: पार्श्र्वमानी तिर्यग् मानी च यत् पृथग् भूते कुरूतस्तदुभयं करोति ॥

A rope stretched along the length of the diagonal produces an area which the vertical and horizontal sides make together.

Value of square root of 2 and circling the square the other things those are mentioned in this work of Baudhayana.

Brahmgupta

Brahmagupta of Bhinmal was the first to give rules to compute with Zero. He composed many treaties Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta (ब्रह्मस्फुटसिद्धांता) among them, was the most famous one. This was the first book to give rules on summing positive, negative and zero. Few of them are:

  • The sum of two positive quantities is positive
  • The sum of two negative quantities is negative
  • The sum of zero and a negative number is negative
  • The sum of zero and a positive number is positive
  • The sum of zero and zero is zero

Podometic™ Bharatiya Mathematics developed by Jonathan J. Crabtree, an Australian historian of mathematics follows this very book. Podometic™ is Arithmetic freely updated for how laws of physics work. Brahmgupta’s work went to Europe through Al-Khwarizmi. Leonardo Pisano a.k.a. Fibonacci translated Al-Khwarizmi’s work but none of them understood the concept of zero or negative numbers. Mistakes made at that time are still taught in mathematics as fact e.g. -1 is less than 0

Vrah Mihira

He was among one of nine jewels of King Vikramaditya. Brihat Samhita is the most famous work composed by Vrah Mihira in which he deals with work on architecture, temples, planetary motions, eclipses, timekeeping, astrology, seasons, cloud formation, rainfall, agriculture, mathematics, gemology, perfumes and many other topics. According to Vrah Mihira himself, he was merely summarizing many earlier existing literature.

Vrah Mihira improved on the sine table of Aryabhat.

Acharya Bhaskar I

He was the first one to use Place value system and the current symbol of Zero. His most famous works include Aryabhatiya, Mahabhaskariya and Laghubhāskarīya. He worked on sine table and relation of sine and cosine functions

Acharya Bhaskar II

Acharya Bhaskar’s most noted work is Siddhanta Shiromani (सिद्धांतशिरोमणी). His works show the influence of Brahmagupta, Sridhara, Mahavira, Padmanabha and others. His work Lilavati (his daughter’s name) is the other one that is quite famous in which he teaches math to his daughter through dialogue.

en_USEnglish