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1.1 Introduction
1.2 Linking Past with Present
Why Search the Past
b What is History of Science
1.3 Some Aspects of Science
The Institution of Science
The Method of Science
The Tradition of Science
The Social Function of Science
1.4 Summary
1.5 Terminal Questions
1.6 Answers


Science is a human endeavour. Human beings, from prehistoric times, attempted to control
nature for their own welfare. For this, they had to observe and understand nature. Out of
such an understanding, they found the means to make nature yield goods according to their
needs. While this understanding led to useful applications, it also opened up further
questions and avenues of enquiry, enriching the stock of knowledge. And this. in turn, led to
improved techniques for satisfying their needs.
This process of understanding nature and using that understanding to control nature, is what
may be called "science". The process is certainly not without ups and downs. The story of
the ups and downs in science, as it grew in society, is very interesting. As we have said
earlier, in this block we shall relate this story. But surely, by now, you may be wondering
why you should know the history of science. And, for that matter, you may ask, what do we
mean by the 'history' of science? Will it mean memorising a lot of dates, names and places?
Well, in the first unit we'll provide you with the answers to these questions. We will also
discuss, in brief, some aspects of science in the present-day society.
The roots of science, as we know it today, lie in the life of primitive human beings.
Therefore, in the next unit, we shall start the story of science right from the beginning, that
is, from the dawn of human society. We shall see how the transition from a primitive society
to an agricultural society had led to the birth of science and how it grew in the ancient world.

After studying this unit you should be able to :
explain why one should be aware of the history of science,
explain what is meant by the history of science,
describe some aspects of science in the present-day society.


The history of human civilisation shows that the progress of science has not always been
steady. There were tremendous advances in mathematics in India about 2000 years ago, and
in medicine about 2500 years ago. But, no comparable developments have taken place here
in the last 2000 years. When sophisticated calculations and observations were being made
In India in ancient times, Europe generally was in the primitive stage. On the other hand,
while India was being ruled and exploited by the British, there was a flowering of the
History of Science Industrial Revolution in Europe. The picture is complex, but we cannot deny that science
and human affairs are closely connected and together they give rise to, what we call, human
Today, many questions related-tc life and happiness, like the following, worry us.
i) How is it that, in spite of the development of science and technology in our country, the
vast majority of our people do not even have clean drinking water, basic health care, or
the simplest facilities for education? Why is it that only a tiny minority enjoys the fruits
of science and technology? While the latest techniques of surgery are available to a tifiy
minority, most people do not get even basic medical care. Why are essential medicines
so expensive in our country?
ii) How is it that our science and technology is not as advanced as that in the West or in the
socialist countries? In spite of glorious beginnings thousands of years ago, why have
we fallen so far behind?
iii) How is it that a group of countries in the West have advanced and sophisticated
machines, excellent health care, and good standards of !iving, while we do not have
iv) Is it true, as some in our country now say, and some of the colonisers have said in the
past, that science and India have nothing to do with each other? Our culture, they say, i s
purely spiritual : science brings misery and spirit solace. Hence, we should concern
ourselves mainly with scriptures and not with test tubes. Does this correspond with
reality? Can we really do without science?
v) While science has brought enormous benefits to human beings, it has also been used as
a means of destruction. For example, today an important question facing US is how to
control and eliminate the threat of total destruction which a nuclear war may cause.
How to establish a world where the relations between nations and people will be
You could think of several more such questions. All such questions arise because,
consciously or unconsciously, we have come to accept science as a part of our lives, and
cherish the hope that it will bring us a better life. While we cherish the hope. we find
impediments which either distort the true purpose of science, or divert the fruits of science
for a small minority of our people.

1.2.1 Why Search the Past

How do we answer these questions which are of vital interest to us?
One approach is that characterised by the famous statement of Henry Ford, "History is
bunk". According to this approach, all the earlier knowledge that is useful is absorbed in the
present state of knowledge. What has been left out are only the mistakes, about which we
Henry Ford was a famous should not bother. But this approach does not answer the basic questions. For example, let
American innovator and us take the last question that we have posed in the previous section. To understand why
industrialist who pioneered science is being misused to produce more and more deadly weapons, it is not good enough
large-scale industrial to blame the scientists who are at present engaged in defence research. Instead, we have to
manufacture of automobiles.
look at history in order to see how knowledge, including scientific knowledge, has been
used to further the narrow interests of dominating groups. Whether in tribal life, or in
agricultural societies, or in industrialised countries, competition for economic domination
has led to destructive use of science. Although new discoveries enriched science, they too
were employed, in course of time, for expanding empires, winning markets and controlling
natural resources. And this has always benefited very small sections of people or only a few
The same approach is applicable to all the other questions listed above. It can be easily seen
that none of the questions which arise out of the intimate interaction of science with our
lives or with society in general, can be answered without due reference to history of science.
Thus, in order to draw full benefits from science, we have to understand how science is
related to social and economic factors.
Science is the means by which the whole of our civilisation is rapidly being transformed. In
the past, science grew steadily and imperceptibly. But now science is progressing by leaps
and bounds, for all to see. The fabric of our civilisation has changed enormously in our own
life times and is changing more and more rapidly from year to year. To understand how this
is taking place, it is not sufficient to know what science is doing now. It is also essential to
be aware of how it came to be what it is; how it has responded in the past to the successive
forms of society, and how, in its turn, it has served to mould them. In science, more than in
any other human institution, it is necessary to search the past in order to understand the
present and to control the future. In other words, we have to know the history of science.' But
then. what is the !i~storyof science? We will shortly answer this question. But before going
further, you mdy like to try the following SAQ!
State v-nether the following statements are true or false. Write either T or F in the boxes
a) The correct approach, to answer the important questions we face today, is to
ignore all that has been done in the past.
b) We have to refer to the history of science if we want to understand the matters
which are today intimately connected with science and with our lives.
C) It is not necessary to concern ourselves with any of the issues related with science
and society.
d) To understand how science has helped in t;ansforming our civilisation, we must
know about the interactions between science and society in the past.
e) If we want to understand the present and control the future for the good of all, we
will have to search the past.

1.2.2 What is History of Science

The history of science is not a chronological description of events of scientific discovery. It
is a story of an ongoing process of the interaction of science and society. It begins in the
primitive human society and threads its way through different ages which have seen
different forms of society, upto the modern times (Fig. 1.1). It is a story of how social

Fig. 1.1: Three societies belonging to different epochs-the Stone Age. the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
(a) Primitive human beings depended on food gathering and hunting for their survival and mainly used stone tools:
some Stone Age tools; primitive human beings; @) the Bronze Age is marked by the practice of agricultureand
the use of bronze tools: sowing of crops using ox-drawn plough and reaping with a sickle; an Egyptian Pharaoh
Tutenkhamen. fourteenth century B.C.; (c) the lron Age is marked by the discovery of iron and its widesprtad use
for making tools and implements. It was also a period of constant war between societies: a slave working in a
black-smith's shop; a hoplite- infantryman of the warring Greek states
and economic pressures arising out of a given form of society necessitate particular
History of Scwnre inventions and innovations. These innovations are gradually used and absorbed by
dominant social forces to stabilise their domination. The stability eventually leads to
social stagnation. In the period of stability, new ideas in science and technology do
arise. These ideas may be ahead of their times, and it may not be possible to put all of
them into practice, in the prevailing socio-economic conditions. Later on, new social
groups and forces take shape, often out of the frustrated and exploited sections of the
society. These new groups press for full utilisation of the new ideas, inventions and
discoveries. Out of such demands and struggles arises a new society, with new forces as
the dominant section. The process is not an endless circle, as with each phase science
takes society to a qualitatively higher phase. Each higher phase has more complex
problems and social relations, creating even more complex and difficult problems for
science to solve.
While the above picture has a rough universal validity, the actual story has interesting
variations. For example, stagnation in a given geographical area or society does not always
lead to radical changes in the same area or society. New ideas are sometimes transmitted
through human interaction, due to trade and other means of communication, to other
geographical locations. There, the society may be more conducive to a rapid change. Again,
in a given society, successive changes may be rapid in a particular epoch (period of time). In
a different epoch, in the same locality, changes may be extremely slow. You may wonder
why it is so. To understand this, we have to understand the specific social, cultural and
economic conditions of a given society. We also have to understand the world situation in
which such a society functions.
It is in this perspective that we are going to study the history of science. Science, as it is
today, is not a product of disinterested search for truth by a few gifted individuals. Nor is it a
monument where one brick is simply placed on top of the other to pain magnificence. The
history of science is a story of human life. It is a story of human striving in ull its failings.
frailties and strengths. It is a story of the interac.tion of science with other forces in sociery
such as economics, politics, psychology, culture andsocial organisation (Fig. 1 . 2 ) . OnIy
through such a study of the past can we understand the present so as to control the
future for the welfare of mankind.

Fig. 1.2: Science inreracrs with politics, economics, psychology. culture and social organ~sation
SAQ 2 Mew as a Human
Some 4tatements. indicating how science and society interact, are given below. Fill up the Endeavour.
b l B h space\ in thc\e statements using the words given below.

a) Necessity is the mother of invention. meails that scientific . . . . . . . . . . . . . . are caused

by the ................ needs in a given society.
b) The dominant social groups use the inventions t o . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . or extend their
. . . . . . . . . . . in the society.
c ) Stable and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . position of the dominant groups may lead to stagnation in
society and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . in science.
d) . . . . . . . . . : . . . . ideas may sometjmes be far ahead of social need, and. therefore. they
.can't be used. gr they may require social and economic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . before they
can be used.
e). Sections of society which are. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . will not have a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
interest in allowing science to stagnate.

dominated, strengthen, vested, new, secure, domination, inventions,stagnation, socio-

economic, changes.


When we look at science today, it appears as an organised and specialised human activity.
This chafacter of science is, however, not more than 300 years old. Before that, science was
a part of the general culture, often indistinguishable from other areas of knowledge. As you
will see in she following units, in the olden days, a philosopher, an artisan, a priest, or a
magician could at the same time be a scientist. However, today, science is a multifaceted
activity. It has its own body of knowledge, organisation, experts, tasks and methdds. It is
important that we discuss these aspects before briefly going into the history of science.

1.3.1 The Institutiod of Science

Science, in the modem times, is a collective and organised activity, in which hundreds of
thousands of men and women are actively involved. They work with apparatus, which
appears strange and even mysterious to a layman. They perform complex calculations and
speak a language which the common pcople find difficult to understand. Scientists are
generally thought of as a set apart in society. The large and diverse scientific activity, which
is well organised, gives science the nature of an "institution".In Fig. 1.3, we show you
some of the activities in which scientists are involved.
While the influence of science on our daily lives has grown, it has not become easily
understandable to most of us. These days. scientists limit themselves more and more to
narrow areas of specialised activity. What is more, the specialisation is so narrow that often
one section of the scientific community fails to understand the other. For example, scientists
specialising in the study of insects may not know much abaut other areas of life sciences
such as the study of worms, snakes or monkeys.
Specialisation in science means a deep study of a limited range of questioi~sor phenomena.
Thus, it may help in rapid solution of some problems. However, too narrow a Specialisation
often leads to loss of broad scientific understanding. It inhibits the scientist's ability to see
the relation of one set of questions to another set, thus hampering the growth of knowledge.
Specialisation also leads to the use of special terms and phrases or what may be called
jargon. This prevents common pcople from understanding science and using it for their
benefit in everyday life. Very often it leads to stagnation and decay of scientific activity.
When we think of science as a social institution, then the objectives of science are, in a
general sense, social objectives. The general economic and ideological atmosphere of
society determines the broad motivation for scientific activity. And the specific areas of
social life. such as trade or "markets". industrial development, agriculture, natural resources,
health etc., set definite problems for scierlce to solve. Unfortunately. military activity has
also been one of the major social goals for science throughout history. Such goals do not
lead to human welfare and, in fact, pervert scientific activity Most scientists in modem
time have taken a position against such a perversion of theirwork. The stand taken by scientists
all over the world agaiinst using space to instal deadly weapons is an example of this.
History of Science

Fig. 1.3: The institution of science may be used to solve the problems of a society or to satisfy individual
curiosity. (a) Blast off of rocket ASLV (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle): (b) control rmm to monitor the
launching of ASLV; (c) an agricultural scientist explaining the advantages of a new wheat variety to farmers;
(d) late Vikram Sarabhai, former head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), inspecting plans with
fellow scientists: (e) scientist handling sophisticated apparatus at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay.
Bombay: (f) tiny electronic devices being assembled.

Thus, science. as an institution, is used to solve specific problems in diflerent areas. within
the broad ji.amework of existing social conditions. The fruits of scientific labour can be usec'
for human good or they may be misused. It depends upon the historical epoch and the
interests of dominant groups in a particular society. For instance, science, in a society based
on private profit, would lead to production of goods which can be sold for profit rather than
those which are really needed. And if weapons can be a source of profit, in such a society
weapons will be produced rather than medicine for the ailing. All of us and scientists, In
particular, need to be continuously aware of this.
In the final analysis, it is we, the common people, who are the ultimate judges of the
meaning and vulue of:cience. There'f~re,science should not he kept U J a mystery in the
hunds of u fenp.The scope of science und its nfor-king us an institution hus to he understood
by all of us. Only then will we he able to demand that science he linked with our needs and
he used for- common welfare.
In the following sets of statements. tick the correct ones and cross the wrong ones :
a) Science is a social institution. This means that,
i) scientific activity is carried out in a large number of huge buildings
throughout the world.
ii) scientific activity is carried out by a large number of people bound together
in an organised way.
b) Narrow specialisation in science implies,
i) an in-depth study of a specific problem in a given area.
ii) that the specialist is able to acquire a broad understanding of several inter-
related questicns f&m different areas.
iii) using a readily understandable language to express scientific ideas.
iv) that the ordinary people are unable to understand and use scientific
knowledge for their betterment.

1.3.2 The Method of Science

We have seen above that science is a social institution, in which a large number of people,
all over the world, are involved in an organised way. They carry out certain tasks in society,
such as extending the frontiers of knowledge or applying science to solve practical
problems. The methods and the practices that they follow can be broadly described as the
"method of science". The methods of exploring and enlarging scientific knowledge are
continuously evolving through a complex interplay of mental and practical activity. Science
cannot be given a purely intellectual character. For, removing it from the din and dust of
practical life, and from physical and manual work, distorts science in the Img run.
T h e method of science is made up of a number of operations, some mental, soine manual. You will atudy a more detailed
Observation and experiment are essential for science. Now, everyone, whether a scientist description of the method of
or not, observes things and phenomena. Rut, to a scientist, the important question is what to science in Unit 8 of this wurse.
observe and how to observe it. Scientists also have to make sure that observations are. as far
as possible, independent of their sentiments and wishes.
However, systematic observation alone does not tell us "why things are as they are". Based
on previous knowledge or observations,a speculative framework or a hypothesis is
generally built to answer the question 'why'. Experiments are set up to prove the first
hypothesis. or to find under what conditions the idea is valid. This leads to formulation of
more reliable laws and lheories which, of course, are not considered unchangeable. Each law
is valid within certain boundaries or conditions. Application of laws to real life brings out
these limitations, and leads to new hypotheses, further experiments and better laws.
Strategy of Science
So far we have talked of using the method of science to solve problems and to ensure that
the solutions are satisfactory. But, how do problems arise? Why should a problem be
solved? In a broad sense, economic and social necessitiespose problems to be solved. For
example, the need to cure common diseases, or to produce food for all in a given climate and
soil are some such problems. In a capitalist society, the desire to sell a product may also
pase problems. For an individual scientist, however, the problem he solves is often a logical
extension of the work of an earlier scientific worker. I t is also to be noted that important
advances in science are made by people who are just curious and who want to resolve the so
called mysteries of nature. Some of the great scientists of the past like hewton, Darwin and
Einstein belong to this category.
a) Using the words given below, fill up the blanks in the following statements describing
the strategy of science :
The problems to be solved with the help of science arise due to the general social and
...............necessities. The need to provide. .............. or to provide
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to all are some such problems in our times. Problems may also arise
due to an indbidual's . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . about the mysteries of the. ..............
Problems solved by an . . . . . . . . . . , .... scientist may often be an extension of the
work done by .........&.....scientists.
housing, universe, earlier, individual, drinking water, economic, curiosity.
. ........ ............
Ilistory of Science b) In Fig. 1 . 4 have
~ shown the individual components of the method of science. From
what you have read earlier, connect them in their logical sequence by drawing an
arrow from one box to the other. We have shown the first link in this loop.

b) Bees arc attracted by the

colour of flowers.

I Formulating laws and theories

on the basis of results. I
1) k s are attracted to the
wifcial flowers, sit on them.
but fly away in a few
2) Ekes sit on real flowers and

(dl (el
Fig. 1.4 :The Method of Science illustrated with an example.

1.3.3 The Tradition of Science

One aspect of scientific endeavour makes it different from all other aspects of social
achievement. This is that scientific endeavour, at any point of time, depends on the existence
of previous knowledge. Without the stock of previous knowledge, the methods of the
scientist would not be able to achieve much. Further, to be called scientists, scientific
workers have to add to previous knowledge. Scientists constantly strive to change the
accepted truth. In this sense, they uniquely differ from other professionals such as lawyers,
priests and administrators who mainly interpret and use previous knowledge.
Science is cumulative, that is, science at any time is the total result of all that science has
been up to that date. Further, an individual scientist's contribution, howsoever great, is
absorbed into the body of scientific knowledge. The individual character of a scientist's
work is lost in the general history of science and knowledge. In art and music. the works of
past masters are always appreciated and sought after. In science, it is only rhe current state
of knowledge which is of the utmost importance as the past is fused into the present. For
instance, we still listen to and appreciate the music of great maestros like Ustad Bade
Ghulam Ali Khan or Ustad Fayyaz Khan. Prints and reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci's
famous painting, 'Mona Lisa', are bought by art lovers all over the world. The works of
Shakespeare and Kalidasa are read even today. But, not many people feel the need to read
Newton's Principia Mathematica or Einstein's famous papers in original. What is important,
in science, is the form in which those ideas are used today.
Art and religion appeal to personai faith and sentiment. In contrast, scientific activity always
strives to reduce the personal or subjective component and build as objective a basis as
possible. Results of science can always be clzeckcd, verified and repeated by anybody
anywhere. This gives science a "universal" character.
The truth of science lies in its application. Thefinal test of validity lies in testing scientific
knowledge in real life, in controlling nature towards some chosen ends.
s.40 5 Science as a Human
Which features listed in the column 2 below. correspond to the scientific knowledge and Endesvc~rr
which to the other aspects of sociaf life such as law. religion. art. music etc.. given in
column 1. List them under suitable headings. For example. scientific knowledge as well as
law is based on reason.

a) Scientific Knowledge i) Non-involvement of perional feelings and

(ii). views.
i i ) Based on reason.
Other a\pects wch a\ i i i ) Great works of the past are sought after.
b) Law iv) Using and interpreting previous knowledge .only.
(ii). V) Open to change.
L') Religion VI) The ~ndividual'swork is*absorbed in the
general tradition.
vii) Creating new knowledge.
d ) Art and music viii) Results can be verified by anyone anywhere.
i x ) Personal faith and beliefs matter a lot.

1.3.4 The Social Function of Science

All the features discussed so far describe the character of science-as an institution, as a
method and as a growing and ever-changing body of knowledge. By themselves they do not
answer many questions. For instance, what is the major function of science today? Hbw
does science influence the way a society develops? What social factors help or impede the
growth of science in any society? We will now examine these questions.
Science and the Means of Production
Science Itas alwuys played a cruc~ialrole rtt ptnduction. The history of humankind, is
principally, the history of how human beings have attempted to control and transform nature
for their own use. In this, different tools and means of production have played acrucial
role (Fig. 1.5). We call the major historical epochs by the corresponding principal
m&ansof production: Stone Age. Bronze Age, and Iron Age. In the last few centuries,
the means of production have become very complex and, therefore, one now refers to
the Industrial Age, Atomic or Space Age etc. on a very different baSis.

(d) (f)
Fig. 1.5 : @velopments in science and technology have brought about tremendous changes in the means of
production. that is. in the land, transpon, resources, and the tools. machines and methods for making goods of use.
Grrr we show the chanecs in tran'inon from orimitive to modem times.
History of Science Early man strived to extract and fashion materials so that they could be used as tools to
satisfy his prime needs. Techniques were, thus, discovered. You will see, in the later units of
this block, how technique, and later science, arose in society to satisfy human needs.
Science flowered in different countries at different times. Generally, science thrived
whenever a society had organised itself to increase the production ofgoods and to create a
degree of satisfaction in its members. The development of science led to a further increase
in production. However, in a given form of social organisation, the range and level of
production have a limit. both in quality and quantity. Therefore, in this process, whenever a
saturation in production was reached, science stagnated. The unequal sharing of the produce
led to the emergence of a dominant class who wanted to keep things as they were. This was
another impediment in the growth of science.
However, societies which were more receptive to new ideas forged ahead, and science
flourished there. And, as you will see in the later units, the most fruitful periods of scientific
advance were also those in which practice and theory could be combined, either in
individual scientists, or in groups where practitioners of medicine, artisans and technicians
mixed on equal terms with learned men.
The growth q f science not only increases production but also leads to an improvement in
the methods qfproduction. And when methods of production evolve and develop to a new
stage, societies transform. For example, when agriculSturewas the prime means of
production, human habitations were scattered over large rural areas with their own lifestyles.
But, when factory-based production became common, industrial towns grew up, because a
large number of people were working in one place, with a life very different from the rural
In this process of change, societies may even break up. Soci;ll classes come into conflict in
this process and create new social organisations. In Europe, at a certain stage of
development, the big landlords who jealously guarded their territories, and the merchants
and tradesmen who wanted free passage through such territories, as also common laws for
large geographical areas, came into conflict. A few centuries ago, science and industry
developed together so that the growth of science and the improvement in the methods of
production were intimately related. In the present stage. science has grown to such a point
that it leads to the development of iddustry.
Science and Ideas
We have said above, that the practical application of science leads to its growth. But, the
advance of science depends on something more than just the praclical aspect. An equallv
essential part of science is theory and concepts, ~8hic.hhave played an importarzt role in its
advance. The theoretical framework links together the practical achievements in science and
gives them an intellectual unity. As we shall see later, major advances in science pccurred
when a particular theory was proved or disproved. However, in science, theory is intimately
linked with practice. It has often happened that an important theory became very formal and
cime to be used mechanically, without any fresh ideas or new approaches. Then a new
contact with practical experience brought forth its limitations. And it had to be modified or
rejected, leading to another major advance in science.
We have also seen that the level of practical application of science in a society depends on
the prevailing social conditions. For example, there are scientific methods to prevent births
and control population, but social conditions in many countries do not allow such an
application of science. Or, in agriculture, mechanisation could increase productivity. But, in
the regions where farmers have small pieces of land, mechanisation is not possible.
Similarly, the theories of science are also influenced by the general intellectual atmospher.e
in the society in which sc*ientists~ . o r kIt. often happens that a theory which fits into the
general intellectual atmosphere and so is accepted universally, impedes further scientific
advance. New theories based on newly discovered facts may be radically different from the
existing ones. Therefore, they come into conflict with the prevailing ideas and social
thought. This conflict has, in the past, even resulted in the persecution of scientists. For
instance, in the seventeenth century, Galileo used a telescope to see and to show others that
the mDons of the planet Jupiter, revolved around it. This was very much like what he was
proposing : that the earth revolved'around the sun. He could also show that there were hills
and valleys on the surface of the moon. But these ideas were against the prevailing concepts
that the sun revolved around the earth and that God had created the perfectly spherical
moon. This new theory when published, led to the trial of Galileo.
Nevertheless. history shows us that barring a few exceptions, new ideas in science overcame Science as p Human
opposition and came to be accepted in due course of time. This not only led to great leaps in . Endeavnur
science but also moulded the intellectual thinking in general.
a ) State. in three or four lines. two ways in which the growth of science influences the
production process in a society . Give your answer in the space provided.

b) Use the words given below to fill up the blanks in the following statements about
science and ideas.
:Ideas and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . also play an important part in the growth of science.
:Provjng or . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . a theory of science has led to major advances in science.
'The theories are influenced by the general . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . atmosphere of the society.
New theories radically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . from the existing ones may come up.
Initially. they are not accepted because they may not agree with the . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
theories and ,the prevailingsocial ideas. However, their acceptance leads to great . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . in science. It also influences the social attitudes and . . . . . . . . . . : . . . . as
well as the intellectual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . in general.
~~~ ~ ~~- ~- ----- .......
~. ~ --

thinking. disproving. advances. different, intellectual. existing. concepts. beliefs

~ ~ ~~ - - -~

Thus., the progrehs of science depends, to a large extent. on a continuous tradition of

scientific thought intluenced by the prevailing social thought. But, this tradition should be
continually broken and remade in the light of new experience from the world around us.
Let us now sum up what we have studied, in this section, about various aspects of science as
it has came to be in the world today.
We ,have seen that science is a social institution.
There is a method of science which is used to solve problems arising either out of social
and economic needs or individual curiosity.
@ Science has a cumulative tradition of knowledge. The stock of previous knowledge forms
the basis for new knowledge, with the previoub ktiowledge merging into the new
Scienc.e has several functions in a given society. It plays a major role in the maintenance
and developmenrof production processes.
Science is influenced by the prevailing social thought. And, in turn. radical changes in
scientific ideas influence the general attitudes and beliefs in society..
In science!, theory and practice are intimately related. Hence, science progresses rapidly
in societies and in conditions, where practitioners and thinkers mix and interact. Theory
without practice is as barren as practice without theory.
What is cornrrron to all these aspects is that we are seeing science in the context of the
society. We are regarding science as a natural part of the common tradition of mankind. The
growth and change of this great tradition cannot be seen without science. At the same time.
science canr,lot be' understood without duly examining its part in this tradition. It is in this
perspective [:hat we will follow. in brief. the whole course of science from its first
appearance t o the present day. As the story of science unfolds. the apparently abstract ideas
that you have studied in this section, will become clearer and easier for you to understand.

lin this unit. we ~'luvetried to view the development of science and technology as an integral
,part of human enideavour. So far we have learnt that,
if we wish to answer questions arising from the interaction of our lives with science and
technology, we have to refer to the history of science. It is also necessary to know the
Hislory of Science history of science if we want to understand the character of science and technology in the
present-day society and wish to exercise a conscious control on their future
the history of science is not merely a description of the works of important scientists, or
the dates of important scientific events that have to be mechanically memorised. It is a
story of human life. It is a story of how science grew as an integral part of society; how
developments in science led to a change in the material conditions of the society. The
changed material conditions led to a change in the social conditions giving rise to a
higher phase in society. And the higher phase created more complex and difficult
problems for science to solve. In this way, the growth of science is intimately connected
with the development of society;
science, in the present-day society, can be seen as a social institution having its own
methods and tradition, and an evergrowing body of knowledge. Theory and practice are
intimately linked in the growth of science;
in a given society, science influences the means of production. It not only increases
production but also improves the methods of production in the society;
the ideas and theories in science are influenced by the prevailing social thought. And, in
turn, the radical changes in scientific thought influence the social attitudes, beliefs and


1) Which one among the following statements describes the history of science most
adequately? Tick the correct choice.
The history of science is :
a) a chronological catalogue of the discoveries in science.
b) an account of the contributions of great scientists.
c) a story of the interaction of science and society, how the two influence and change
each other.
d) a general description of the magnificent scientific advances that have occurred
through the ages.
2) In the space provided below, give short answers in about four or five lines, to the
following questions.
a) In a given society,
i) what factors decide the broad areas of scientific activity?

ii) what areas of activity set the specific goals for science to achieve?

b) What are the conditions that determine whether the fruits of science are used for
human good or for destructive purposes?
c) Who, in the society, should decide about the purpose and scope of science? Science as a Human

3) In the following statements we describe some social conditions which lead to the
growth of science and some which impede the advance of science. Put the letter G (for
growth) or I (for impediment) against each statement.
i) The emergence of a dominating group whose interest lies in keeping things as they
ii) The social-organisationis such that the level of production of goods is increased.
and the members of the society are largely happy.
iii) The unequal distribution of the fruits of science in society.
iv) In a given form of society, the range of goods produced and the level of their
production, both in terms of numbers and quality, are limited. A saturation is
reached in production.
V) Societies are receptive to new ideas and adopt new methods of production.
vi) Those who work with their hands and those who do only mental work, interact
freely and are treated on an equal footing.


Self Assessment Questions

1) a) F (b) T (c) F (d) T (el T
2) a) inventions, socio-economic
b) strengthen, domination
c) secure, stagnation
d) New, changes
e) dominated, vected
3) a) (i) x (ii) J
b) (i) d ( i i ) X (iii) x (iv) J
4) a) economic, drinking water. busing, curiosity, universe, individual, earlief
b) a + b + e + d + c + a
5) a) i, ii, v, vi, vii, viii
b) i, ii, iv
c) iv, ix
d) iii, iv, ix
6) a) The growth of science in a society leads to
i) an increase in production,
ii) an improvement in the methods of production such as improved tools,
machines, computers etc., in the present-day society.
b) concepts, disproving, intellectual, different, existing, advances, beliefs, thinking.
Terminal Questions
1) (c)
2) (a) (i) The broad areas of scientific activity in a society are decided by its socio-
economic conditions and the prevailing ideological atmosphere. For instance,
if, in a society, it is more important to provide for the basic needs of the
people, science will be used to first satisfy these needs. But, if a society thrives
on market economy, it will promote scientific activity in areas which increase
the profits. such as making weapons or consumer products like fancy
electronic gadgets etc. In this context, you should try to analyse the present
Indian society.
1 tiistory of Science ii) The specific areas such as trade, health, resource mapping and management,
agriculture, industry, transport, communication, military activity etc. set the
specific goals for science to a'chieve.
b) The use or misuse of science depends on, who the dominating groups in a society
are and what their interests are. As the study of this block will show you, these
things are also determined by the particular period of time, in which a society exists
and functions.
C) The vast majority of common people like us should decide, for what purposes and
how science should be used in the society. For example, in our society, science
should be used not only to make and launch satellites, build nuclear reactors, or
send expeditions to Antarctica but also to provide basic necessities, like clean
drinking water, food, shelter etc., and to improve the quality of life by providing
suitable health-care, better transport, electricity etc.
3) (i) I (ii) G (iii) I (iv) I (v) G (vi) G
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Primitive Human Society
Food Gathering and Hunting
The Material Basis of Primitive Life
Social Basis of Primitive Life
The Origins of Science
End of Stone Age
2.3 Agriculture and Civilisation
The Origin of Agriculture and Civilisation
Scientific and Technical Achievements of Bronze Age
Indus Valley Civilisation
Decline of the Bronze Age Civilisation
2.4 Summary
2.5 Terminal Questions
2.6 Answers

Tn Unit 1, we have explained why we should study the history of science and what we mean
by the history of science. We have seen what science is like in today's world. Science,
today, is a social institution. It has its own method and practices. The tradition of scientific
knowledge has certain distinct characteristics. We have also tried to'understand the
interaction of science and society at a conceptual level. Let us now see how science has
developed through the ages and reached its present stage.
We rill have to begin by looking into the origins of science. This task is easier said than
done, because, as we go farther back in time, it becomes harder to find what actually
happened. The sources that tell us the story of science in those times are hidden in the
history of human arts and institutions. They have to be searched for. It is from the life,
trades and customs of our ancestors that our science has grown. Therefore, science of the
old times has to be gathered from the social and cultural life of those times.
Historians have studied the life, social structure, customs, artefacts and culture of the ancient
world. They have found material evidence and written records of the past to reconstruct the
life of those times. From this wealth of information based on concrete evidence, we have
tried to put together the story of the origins of science, and its growth in early human
societies. Even as you read this 'story', remember that it is not fiction. Every feature
narrated to you is based on concrete evidence. And this story may change if new facts
In this unit, we will study about the features of the primitive human society that led to the
birth of science later on. We will see how the transition from the primitive society to an
agriculture-based society resulted in the birth of science and its development. The primitive
people used stone implements. Therefore, that period is called the "Stone Age". With
agriculture started another period in human history, which we call the "Bronze Age". We
will also discuss the happenings in the Indian subcontinent in those times. In Unit 3, we will
talk about the next historical epoch, namely, the Iron Age.

After studying this unit you should be able to :
identify and describe the practices, techniques and other features of life in the primitive
society that helped the emergence of rational science,
explain how the transition from the primitive society to an agriculture-based civilisation
led to the birth of science,
describe how the growth of cities, trade between cities and the corresponding socio-
economic needs gave rise to various areas of scientific activity,
outline the social changes'that led to stagnation in science in the Bronze Age.
Fig. 2.1: Some historical sources for constructing life and times of a society. (a) Stone inscription from Emperor
Asoka's time: (b) sixteenth century transcription of Surya S~ddhanta.composed about 400 A.D.: (ci stone axe:
(d) toy cart, Mohenjo-daro: (e) Sanchi Stupa: (0 Mughal miniature painting.


And now, we begin the story. To find the origins of science. we must look into the very
origin of human society. In its earliest stages. the human existence revol\ped around food
gathering and hunting. (Fig. 2.2).

2.2.1 Food Gathering and Hunting

In order to live, man needed to eat and to protect himself from the weather and animals. For
both purposes he found it better to be in groups. Wherever human beings lived, they looked
for food in plants and trees and also dug the earth for roots. In this way they came to know
what the right kind of food was, and where they could get it from. They also found out
which animals were dangerous and which were not, and how to protect themselves. This
knowledge had to be passed on from one generation to the next, so that the group could

Fig. 2.2: Hunting was a group activity. Cave painting by preh~storicman.

A casually picked up branch or stone aided their efforts to reach the fruit in trees or to dig Science in the Ancient World
for roots, strike down animals or provide better protection. As time passed, the primitive
tools and weapons were improved upon and regular methods for making them were
established. This spec.iulised kni-)n-ler/g~
H'NS ~ N S S 0C1 1~ill tllefi)ln~s
qf'too1.s u110tec.h~~iques
from one generation to another. Unda difficult condiwns of living, food gathering-and
hunting became a group activity. Since food could not be preserved, it had to be eaten fairly
soon. This meant that the surplus food had to be shared.
Sharing eventually became a social obligation. Especially, when it became common
experience that if more people hunted together, or looked for food together, they got more
and better food, and also had better protection. Out of this practice, small societies started to
form, with their own distinctions, syinbolised by the type of food they specialised in eating,
called 'totems'. The size of each society was restricted by the environment and the total
availability of food. In the Indian sub-continent, the stone age population density did not.
probably, exceed one per twenty five square kilometres.
These groups met each other as they moved around in search of food. "Exchanges" between
these groups or societies started as gifts. The exchange of gifts, between highly specialised
food gathering groups, led to a better diet, wider range of food, improved methods of tool
- making and tool using. The act of sharing food and also the act of exchange between
groups, were at first festive and formal occasions. Such occasions gave rise to art, dance
and music as well as social customs and rituals. It was but natural that such sharing and
exchange required verbal communication and mutually agreed terms of expression and
measures of quantity. Language, thus, arose out of necessity. Language helped in knitting
the society together and handing down of the accumulated culture to the next generation.
' So far, we have painted a very general picture of the primitive human society. In the Scientists study the ancient human
..following pages, we will fill in the details. We will go into specific areas, like the kind of socreties, especially of the prehistoric
periods, usually by excavating anclenl I
'tools and clothes that primitive people used, how fire came to be used for cooking etc. All sites. Such ~cient~sts are called
these features form the material basis of primitive life. archaeologists. The artera- ammal
and plant remains, archi~cctureetc.,
2.2.2 The Material Basis of Primitive Life revealed in these archaeological
surveys help them to reconstruct the
In the primitive society, human beings invented tools for catching animals, and for ancient history. Most objects found
collecting, transporting and even preparing food. They looked for protection against the in the excavations are later kept in
elements of nature in the form of clothing and shelter in the caves. The material basis of museums, where anybody can,go and
primitive life is reflected in the tools and other artefacts that have been found in see them.
archaeoldgical surveys. The tools are all made up of stones. This is why that era has been
named as',the Stone Age.
Implements and Tools
Stones were shaped to suit a specific purpose like digging, throwing or scraping. Their
shapes and sizes became standardised over a period of time in different gkographical
regions. These shapes and sizes becade so stable that they continue in some tribal societies
even today. You may like to compare the tools used today for hunting, digging or shaping
materials with those of the Stone Age shown in Fig 2.3. Haven't we come a long way?

Fig. 2,3: Some stone tools used by the primitive people. 1) Chopper about 7.00.000 years old; 2) cleavers for
cutting trees about 3.00.000 years old: 3) blade; 4) arrowhead: and 5) awl about 60,000 to 25.000 years old;
6) polished stone celts used for cutting trees about 4000 years old.

An interesting aspect of tool making is that the "idea" of an implement grew in the mind of.
the maker before the actual shaping of the stone was done. Archaeological evidence shows
that the tools were first shaped out of larger chunks of stone just like an engineer would
attempt to fabricate a part of a machine. You should study Fig. 2.4 to understand this better.
This process of conscious foresight was ta become. an igteaal part of designing and
planning, which are the characteristics of science, particularly of the experimental
method. This comes from trying out various methods of making an object. Similarly, these
days, we find that models or drawingb of the desired object are made first, ratha than
always relying on its straight production. The object can then be improved by trial and error.

Fig. 2.4: idea of a tool grew in the mind of the tool-maker before he actually shaped the tool. A chopping tool
with a short, irregular sharp edge is being made from a round pebble: ( I ) Tool-maker strikcs a sharp blow at thc
edge of the pebble with a hammer stone, (see dotted line and the arrow): (2 and 3) two flakes are first struck off:
(4) tool is turned over and the process is repeated: (5) when another flake i s stmck off, the tool gets a shon.
irregular sharp edge.

The major development at this stage, however, was the invention of master tools : the
implements to make implements. his created the possibility of producing many different
types of implements than could be simply selected or picked up from nature.
The process of making tools laid the foundation for our modem methods of casting,
hammering etc. When men made tools and used them for different tasks, they'also became .
aware of the mechanical propenies of many substances. For instance, they found out which
materials were strong, which could be moulded easily and which were brittle. This laid the
basis of the physical sciences.
The tools were used not only for hunting, but also provided a means of shaping and
preparing softer materials such as wood, bone and skin for decoration and art, or for
protection from cold weather. Food gathering became much more efficient with the
introduction of containers, baskets and bins. Certain refinement of tools used for making
hunting implements and the knowledge of how to handle soft materials led to pinning.
sewing, tying, twhting, twining and weaving (Fig. 2.5). These are the techniques
needed for making clothes, rugs, tents etc.

Fig, 2 5 Weaving patterns of the Stone Age from ne&v,

USSR. Note the mistakes and distortions.
Small stone tools or microliths are found at various sites in India. These tools are dated at Scknce in the Awknt World
3000 B.C. or earlier. The tools are mostly found near minor streams with fishing pools in
ancient times, though the pools are now generally silted up. Some precious stones, like.
agate or onyx, sharpened by chipping or cutting fine teeth in the edge, have also been found.
From a comparison with the current practice of African Bushmen, we may infer that these
could be parts of compound tools. These chips were set in handles of wood, horn or bone by
means of tree gum or some such adhesive, and were used for making javelins, barbed
harpoons, arrows, knives, sickles, etc. (see Fig. 2.6).

Fig. 2.6: Small stone tools or micmliths dated a b u t 3000 B.C. found in Langhnaj, Gujarat. Microliths were
hafted in a b n e or a wooden piece to make a compound tool. like a sickle.

The stone tools described above were used for various purposes like chopping wood,
digging. skinning animals, scraping off the flesh and breaking the fibres under the skin, as
well as for splitting canes for weaving baskets or preparing fish for the fire. -A good number
of narrow, sharp pointed flakes could be needles or awls (like the tool us'ed by shoemakers)
for stitching the hides, presumably with gut. We show you some stone tools and their uses,
in Table 2.1. Baskets and leather bags were used long before pottery, for grain collection
and storage which had by then become an established practice. Some pottery found at these
ancient sites in India, is dated at about 6000 B.C.
The concept of clothes might have started even before weaving, as an extension of the
practice of carrying food h d implements about. Attachments with a convenient hold in the
hair. around the neck, waist, wrist and ankles might have been used. Feathers. bones and
skins were often added to these attachments. The crucial discovery, however, was that furry
skin helped to keep people w m . The use of such clothing, together with domestication of
animals and their killing when food was needed. helpedhuman beings enormously. It
increased their mobility over wider areas, and enabled them to survive cold weather.

Fig. 2.7: Early human beings had a fair h w l e d g e o f animal

anatomy. Painting of a bison in Altamira caves, Spain.

Fire and Cookery

~ x a c twhere
l ~ and when fiie came to be used is not known. Fire, to start with, must have
been frightening thing, giving rise to many myths and legends. However, as man slowly
learned to control it, he found it very useful to keep himself wann and to frighten away wild
animals. It is easy to imagine that chance eating of burnt or charred flesh must have led to
the idea of cooking, which then made even tough meat edible and tastier. Thus, it must have
tremendously increased the number of things one could eat. It was, perhaps, from the use of
fire for cooking that fired clay pottery and melting of metals for making tools arose.
Hiqtory of Science Boiling gave rise to certain difficulties. At first, water was heated by dropping hot stones
into water in leather buckets. We find such itones, cracked by heating and chilling, around
prehistoric sites. The crucial discovery, however, was that by coating a basket with thick
clay it could be put on the fire. Eventually, towards the end of the Stone Age. it was
-discovered that coated baskets crack while heating, whereas pots made of heat-treated clay
do not crack. Fired pottery was, tlrerel'ore, a very s i g n i l i ~ a ~discovery.
lt l.'inally, as Lhc
problem of storing liquids for long periods in clay pots was tackled, the slower chemical
changes of fermentation could be noted and later used for brewing wine. From the use of
dyes, paints and tanning as found in this epoch, we can infer that the use of rudimentary
chemistry for transforking materials was also in progress in the later part of the Stone Age.

Table 2.1 : Some stone tools and their uses.

Used for cutting flesh. A polyhedral stone

SAQ 1 Science i n the Ancient World
Some practices and techniques of the primitive human society are given below. Which of
the particular areas of science, namely, physics, chemistry or technology, could each of
these have given rise to? Write your answer in the space provided a@m€eachstatement.
i) Making and using hunting tools such as javelins, barbed harpoons, arrows etc. .............
ii) Using fire for cooking. .....................................................................................................
iii)Handling soft materials like wood, bone and skin . ....................................................
iv) Storing liquids in containers. .............................................................................................
V) Using dyes, paints and tanning. ........................................................................................
vi) Invention of master tools to make other tools .................................................................
2.2.3 Social Basis of Primitive Life
In the previous section, we gave you a glimpse of how the primitive human beings faced the
problems of day to day existence and found some solutions. As their material life became
organised by the invention of tools, the discovery of fire and some protection against natural
elements, their social life also evolved. Language, customs and rituals emerged as the social
basis of primitive life. We will now briefly describe some features of their social life.
Language must have originated as several individuals in a group cooperated in hunting and
other activities related to food gathering. There must have been highly specialised sounds
specific to each group. As the groups started the process of exchanging surplus food. certain
standardisatidn of spoken word became necessary to ensure better communication. The
specialisation meant special terms for specific animals and plants available locally. The
general conceptual terms, such as 'animal' for all types of animals, and 'tree' for all types of
trees came much later. We can easily surmise this by studying the complicated grammar and
words of tribal languages spoken even to this day. This feature is also shared by Sanskrit,
Greek and Finnish languages. The word 'colour', for example, originally meant 'red", the
colour of blood. It was only later that yellow, blue, green etc. also came to be called
'colours'. The transition from specialised to general language also meant a trend towards
abstraction. This led to the use of symbols. Very soon man had to let one word stand for
many different things. We have already mentioned above, the examples of 'animal', 'tree'
and 'colour'. Similarly, verbal symbolisation also came to be used for feelings, emotions
and ideas.
Social Life and Rituals
The social life of the earliest human groups or tribes revolved around food gathering. To
begin with, they must have collected anything they could eat-seeds, nuts, fruits, roots.
honey and any small animals that could be caught with bare hands. The largest food sharing
unit tended to concenuate upon a certain-tyjx of food which was easily available to them in
plenty. Thus, human groups eating one type of food came to consider themselves as 'kins' or
fellow beings of the same community or clan. Other human groups who ate different foods
were not in the kinship, and at first were not even considered human. As we have told you
earlier, this special food item is called "totem".
The act of gathering the totem was associated with special rituals (Fig. 2.8). The rituals
sometimes involved sacrifices (including human sacrifice) to secure increased food
supply. The food gathering tribes were entirely dependent on nature for their survival. Fig. 2.8: A primitive totem pole. from
Therefore, in order to avoid scarcity, they also developed certain "taboos". For Borneo. an island near Indonesia.
Primitive people probably performed
instance, taboos were enforced on sexual intercourse in order to control their some rituals with their totems around
population for the limited supply of food. Attempts were also made to control the such poles.
group population by a taboo on cohabitation within the totem clan, and by the practice
of marriage outside the clan.
Magic, Religion and Caste
You must have realised that the food gathering stage was a period of exueme hardship for
primitive tribesmen. They tried des~,ratelyto conuol and manipulate nature for their
survival. However, the techniques for this were few. Therefore, they evolved magic to fill in
the gaps left by the limitations of technique. By the use of images, symbols, and imitative
dances, they believed that the animals or plants could be encouraged to flourish and
multiply. Objects were often given inherent powers. Sometimes these were realistic, as in
the case of some stones which had the 'inherent' power to attract iron. Most often, these
attributes were imaginary. For example, gold was supposed to protect from evil or danger.
History of Science Magic of the Stone Age, in a way, helped the growth of science, as it was an attempt to
extend the existing techniques. This signified man's quest for further control of his
environment. However, magical ideas did not change with changing conditions of life.
Rather, often the later generations could not even understand what these ideas meant.
Eventually, these ideas turned into superstitions and myths without any meaning.

Fig. 2.9: Australian aborigines dancing around the

picture of an animal before hunting.

Another aspect of primitive thought was about the influence of "spirits", may be of dead
people, or of gods and demons, on the real world. Therefore, a need was felt to control or to
please them. The concept may have originally arisen out of man's inability to accept the fact
of death. There were also occurrences which he did not understand and over which he did
not have any control. For instance, a drought or a flood, an earthquake or a forest fire or
even an infectious disease, which could wipe out most of the population. All these may also
have contributed to the idea of 'spirits'.

The origin and evolution of religion is intimately connected with man's attempt at making a
living out of nature, his utter helplessness in many circumstances and the totem oriented
food gathering life. Many deities in India are simply bits of stone, coloured with red
pigment, the colour being a substitute for blood. Primitive religion can also be thought of as
man's effort to come to terms with nature, his first attempt to explain what was happening
around him and why. When agriculture became prevalent and settled life became possible,
smaller groups merged into larger groups. Their totems, taboos and cults also got merged
and the new system of beliefs became a 'religion'.

The people who were absorbed into these cults managed to retain some of their identity and
to an extent continued their previous totemic separateness. This relationship became
codified in India, in terms of castes. Caste system in India has evolved over a long period
and has imprints of many epochs and many stages of production. Totemic features are
reflected in caste names such as crocodile (Magar), horse (Vaji), peacock (More), peepul
tree (Pimple). Mores do not eat peacock flesh, the Pimples do not eat off the leaves of their
totem tree etc. Other stages of production such as agriculture with its specialised professions
are also reflected in the caste grouping, such as herb-vendors (Vaidu), diggers (Vaddars) etc.

Which three of the following uses or characteristics of language in the primitive life may
have aided the emergence of science? Tick mark the correct choices in the space provided
against each statement.

i) Communication while getting food and moving around.

ii) Communication while making and using tools and exchanging surplus food. r-7
iii) Communication while performing the rituals, dancing, singing etc.
iv) Use of symbols to describe material objects, actions and practices.
v) Use of symbols to depict emotions; dances, rituals etc.
2.2.4 The Origins of Science in (be A n c h World
We have seen that the primitive human beings acquired different kinds of knowledge from
the use of implements and tools, from cooking on fire. from hunting animals and gathering
fruits or seeds of plants for food. All this knowledge blended into one common pool and
together with the rituals and myths of society formed their culture. What we now have to
find is the origin of science in the womb of this culture. We can see developments in the
following three broad areas, which had implications for science :
a) Rational Mechanics
By making and using tools, man was transforming nature according to his deliberate will.
This laid the basis for mechanics of rigid bodies, motion and properties of materials. The
handling of bow and arrow, the javelin or the boomerang are some examples (Fig.
2.10). Again, in the use of lever, it was possible to know before hand what would
happen to one end when the other end was pressed. In the use of such devices, the
useful results of interaction with nature could be 'seen' or 'felt'. Thus, understanding
and confidence developed. A t least, in one sphere, human beings were realising how
things w ~ r k e d . ~ I

Fig. 2.10: (a) Different types of boomerangs: 1) for fighting; 2) for

hunting; 3) and 4) boomerangs that return on throwing: (b) an
Australian aborigine throwing a boomerang.

b) Observation and Description

Even without such an understanding, human beings could take advantage of nature
whenever they detected regularity. It was enough for them to know what to expect, and
when to expect it for taking advantage of a situation. For instance, they observed that earth's
fertility changed with seasons. The growth of plants and movement of animals was also
affected by the changing seasons. Fruits and nuts were ready to be picked up at certain times
but not at others. The migration of birds, buffaloes, deers etc. changed with seasons. All
these observations of the Stone Age people arose from their need for survival. This was
especially true in land masses such as India and Egypt with their sharp seasons and varied
geography. These laid the basis for bringing about the discipline of observation and careful
description of nature and environment.
Unlike in the case of mechanics, in the case of cooking or brewing, it was not possible to
predict easily what would happen as the consequence of a particular action. For instance, if a
stone was thrown up, one could be sure that it would come down. One could also aim a
stone at a fruit or an animal and be sure of hitting it. However, in cooking the result would
depend on the food being cooked, the amount of moisture in it, and how strong was the fire
on which it was cooked. Brewing was even more complex. Thus, there were many
uncertainties in these processes.
However, it was possible to know what would happen, if one tried a particular procedure,
observed the results and remembered them, so that at the second trial one was better
informed. In this field, and even more in that of animal behaviour, knowledge was
essentially traditional, handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.
However, the reasons for the phenomena observed or noted were often sought in mythical
explanations, by involving totem ancestors or spirits.
c) Classification
There were many similarities between things or phenomena which led to their classification.
The first classifications were in terms of beings (the living), things (articles and substances,
or non-living) and passions or actions. Here arose a kind of descriptive reasoning; if one of a
class behaved in a particular way, it was likely that the other in the same class also behaved
in the same way. Thus, the accumulation of knowledge and sifting of experiences had major
impact on primitive biology and chemistry.
Hiplory d Wince SAQ 3
Match the three general elements or features of science listed in column I with their
associated techniques or practices in column 2 of the table given below. We have done one
part of the exercise 'as an example.

Column 1 Column 2

i) Rational Mechanics a Throwing a boomerang

b Hunting for animals
c Study of animal behaviour
ii) Observation and d Study of living things
Description e Handling a bow and arrow
f Gathering fruits or seeds of plants in different seasons
iii) Classification g Study of non-living things
h Use of lever
i Regular cycles of seasons
j Cooking food and brewink wine
- - --

So far, we have seen that the primitive society had developed a host of techniques for their
material comfort. Archaeological records show that towards the end of the Stone Age,
primitive human beings were using many facilities such as huts. sewn garments, bags and
buckets. They had also evolved technical devices like canoes. hooks and harpoons, spears,
slings, throwing sticks, boomerang etc(Fig. 2.11). Many of these are actively being
used among some present-day tribes such as the Eskimos, African Bushmen,
Australian aborigines and some Indian tribes.


The bow for

turnmg the 'b~t'

A hollow
bonc.the 'b11' d

Fig. 2.11: Implements uscd towards the end o f the Stone Age: (a) comp)st!e bow: (h\ $kin hoat. outline from
Norway; (c) grain milling stone; (d) bow drill for boring stone; (e) weaving loom, reconstructed according to
available remains and descriptions; (f) boat hewn out of a tree trunk.

We have also tried to trace the origins of science in the primitive society in a general way.
We have seen that the making and use of implements laid the foundation for mechanics and
physics. The basis of chemistry lay in the use of fire. and that of biology in the practical
knowledge of animals and plants.
Social knowledge was implicit in language and the arts. The character of the society was Science in the Ancienl World
essentially community oriented. No marked specialisations and class divisions had as yet
arisen. Much had been done in using human intelligence to control nature by the use of
material instruments.
All this may make you wonder why the primitives were not able to maintain themselves in
that state. Indeed, some have done so, but only in the most outlying places. By and large, the
food gathering and hunting society was lost in history. Why did this happen? Why did the
Stone Age come to an end? We now seek the answers to these questions.

2.2.5 End of Stone Age

The essential feature of the hunting and food gathering society was its dependence on
nature. It could eat off nature but could not control nature to increase the food supply when
its population grew. Nor could it breed animals for the same purpose. Therefore, whenever
the food supply ran out, the population had to move or they would perish. The movement of
tribes became difficult as their population grew. Due to their lack of control over natural
disasters, at times, most of the population of a tribe was wiped out.
The end of the Stone Age was also brought about by climati; changes. In Europe and in the
northern hemisphere, with the onset of very cold conditions (also spoken of as the Ice Age),
food gathering and hunting activities became restricted and difficult. The society had to
struggle for its survival by developing a different type of production. You will read about
this in the next section.
It must be mentioned at this stage that the Ice Age in the Indian subcontinent (including
parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Burma) was neither so harsh nor so extensive as in
Europe. Therefore, food gathering was much easier here in terms of quantity and variety
than in Europe. Whereas only half a d o ~ e ncereals, peas and beans made up almost the entire
variety of European staple food, even a region of average fertility such as Maharashtra had
over forty kinds of indigenous staples: This had a profound influence on subsequent
developments in these two locations.
This fortunate event, however, also meant that the Stone Age mode of production continued
in this subcontinent over a much longer period and over a wider region than in Europe.
People could and did survive in the food gathering stage when their immediate neighbours
had been forced to move on to agriculture for food production. This meant that, unlike in
Europe, the old culture with its elementary ideas of science and techniques survived here for
centuries, well into the new epoch. There was also some contact between the two parallel
cllltures and modes of production, which sometimes turned into a conflict between them. For
instance, as we shall see in Unit 3, the search for cultivable land often led to conflict
between the Aryans and primitive tribals. The tribals were pushed into the interior regions.
In turn, the old beliefs and customs influenced the practices which were characteristic of the
new mode of production.
The following statements explain why the Stone Age came to an end. Fill up the blank
spaces using the words given below to complete the sentences :
The end of the . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . came mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, there was
not enough ............... to feed the increasing population. This happened because
primitives were unable to control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to satisfy their needs. Rather, they were
............... on nature. Secondly, natural . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . also affected the growth
of population. The onset of Ice Age was one such disaster. Food gathering and hunting
became impossible in the . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . conditions. Society had to adopt a . . . . . . . . . . .
mode of production to survive. Thus, a transition from the . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . society to an
agricultural society came about.
calamities, different, Stone Age. primitive, nature, cold, food, dependent
-- - ---- -- - -- - --
. - -- .- - -- - - -- -- - --

With this, we end our description of the Stone Age. In this section, we have tried to give you
some idea of the lives. practices, customs and culture of the Stone Age people. We have
also seen how the techniques that arose from their daily struggle for existence laid the
fouildation for many areas of science. At this point, we advise you to take a break. Have a
-up of tea and reflect on what you have studied so far.
History of Science
The next period in the evolution of human society is known as the Bronze Age, named after
the new alloy which replaced stone during this period. This period was, in fact, the
beginning of a new type of productive aciivity, namely, agriculture. We will now study how
the practice of agriculture changed the society. We will also see how the rise of cities and
the changing socio-economic needs led to the birth of science. The growth of cities brought
about a change in the social organisation which later affected the growth of science in
Bronze Age cultures.

2.3.1 The Origin of Agriculture and Civilisation

There is no historical evidence to tell us exactly how agriculture arose. We can only
imagine what may have happened. Cultivation of grain may have arisen without any violent
break from food gathering. In regions well stocked with wild grains, enough seeds would
get scattered around to produce crops worth reaping. Agriculture, probably, resulted from
the understanding that plants could be grown from seeds and that the crops had some
relation to the seasons. And, probably, the availability of water helped in this process.
Cultivation, however, marked a break from the primitive era, as human beings stopped
being dependent on nature and started to control their livelihood and destiny.

Cultivation necessarily meant permanent or semi-permanent settlements around regions that

were climatically and soil-wise suitable for crop production. These settlements grew into
Fig. 2.12: Stone ring used in villages, with some community life and leisure. It is but natural that the settlements
primitive agricultural practices. A
stick was inserted in the hole. The established in regions most suitable for cultivation, developed the fastest. Thus, we see that
tool was used to break clumps of in this period, from about 4000 B.C. to 1500 B.C., the four great civilisations of Egypt,
mud. Mesopotamia. India and China came into existence in the wide river valleys of the Nile, the
Tigris and the Euphrates, the Indus, and the Hwang H o respectively (Fig. 2.13). The
Indus Valley Civilisation, of which we are the descendants, is dated between 2700B.C.
to 1750 B.C.

Fig. 2.13: Four major river valley civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), India and China.
Shaded area shows Greek civilisation of the Iron Age.

Growth of Cities
The people of those times came to understand very well the advantage afforded by the river
for food production. They also came to realise that if the river could be systematically used
through natural and artificial irrigation, food production could be increased manifold. (Fig.2.14).
However, this could be achieved best, not by one village alone but by several 'villages
getting together. Further, barter trade led to some places being identified as meeting places
for the exchanges. Convenient sites were chosen for displaying goods and exchanging grain
for cloth or spices, or shopping for better tools and implements made by expert artisans.
Some evidence suggests that cities were founded by bringing together population of several
villages. The growth of cities led to the rise of an administrative class who could organise
and coordinate production and exchange, but did not take part in it directly.
We find that the growth of cities was helped by another feature of this new mode of
production. Man started producing much more than he could consume locally. Therefore.
all people in agricultiural Societies did liot have to be agriculturists. They could produce
other useful goods and even excel in music or dance. The surplus could be used to support
craftsmen who made the agricultural implements and storage vessels, masons who built
shelters, wheel-wrights who made pottery, and others who made carts. There were still
others who worked as administrators and priests, and who were not directly invqlved in the
process of production. These groups of people came to live in the cities.
The population of cities used to be supported, as today, by agriculture in the neighbouring as
well as distant villages. This resulted in a division between villages and cities. between Fig. 2.1 4: An t p y p r ~ a nl a m e r l ~ l l l n g
uarcr h Ioucring a cone-shaped .
those who produced and those who supported production through work of other kinds; those Icarhcr huchcl u hich hang\ from a
who worked with their hands. and administrators or priests who mainly used their mental hearn. h~~lanccd acro\s a pillar. The
skills. This division had a very definite effect on the development of techniques and uciphr ar the other end helps the i a m e r
science. For the first time, specialisation of occupations and professions had taken place. l o l ~ i rhc
r iillcd buchel wilh le,ss effort.
Sketch from ii tomb pa~nrinpahour
As there was enough food available. society could support even those who did not produce. 15(Xl R.C. In India, even rtxlay such a
Such people had leisure to think. to improve their crafts. to create art and beauty. and to d c ~~ c callctl
c 'dbcnAl~'is u\cd.
devclop abilities to lcad society through institutions of religion and administration.
The surplus also had to be transported by land, rive;land sea in exchange for other
necessities of life and even luxury goods. This provided tremendous impetus for the
development of transport, such as rafts, boats and small ships, which brought about new
dimensions of trade, cultural contact and exchange of techniques and science among
different societies.
Changes in Social Organisation
We find that the above trend in social organisation led to a tendency which eventually stifled
the progress of these civilisations and led to their decay. The surplus. or whatever was left
of food production after the consumption needs of the society were met, came to be
appropriated by a small group of administrators. They eventually became priests and kings
and formed an exclusive group. The successors of the original administrators gradually lost
touch with agriculturil ilechniques, as well as with knowledge and techniques related to
production of other articles of consumption and trade. They gave their time and attention to
building monuments. temples and palaces of leisure to impress the rest of the society or to
emphasise their exclusiveness. They raised armies to take over more and more productive
land. Their priestly influence also grew. They cultivated the idea that they had divine
powers and were created by God to'show the way to the common people and be their natural
leaders. Thus, society got divided into exclusive classes of producers and appropriators.
The tragedy of this process was that those who used knowledge.and technique in the
beginning to increase production became isolated from the basic production techniques and
knowledge which had given them power. Recourse was taken increasingly to magic and
spreading of false beliefs instead of scientific observations and use of technology to solve
material problems. The farmers and the craftsmen who used the techniques to produce
goods were weighed down with the daily problems of existence. They had very little
resources for innovations. Thus, the practitioners could not improve the techniques to solve
the problems they faced; and the appropriators who had the time, resources and power to do
so were no longer interested in these things. As a result of these developments, the progress
of technique was thwarted and science stagnated.
In historic periods, stagnation led to the complete decay of civilisations, as in the case of the
Indus Valley Civilisation. Sometimes there was readjustment of societies due to their being
conquered by others, as in Europe where weak and stagnating cultures and societies were
subjected to barbarian invasions. In both cases, the centre of progress shifted
geographically, to other locations.
So far. we have given you a broad overview of the social conditions prevalent in the Bronze
Age civilisations. We will now indicate a few technical and scientific achievements of that
age. which came to have profound influence on subsequent developments. .
History of Science 2.3.2 Scientific and Technical Achievements of Bronze Age
The major technical advance that accompanied the rise of cities was the discovery and use of
metals, particularly copper and its alloy bronze. Simultaneously,trade between societies
flourished and gave rise to better forms of transport. The wide range of services involved in
the operations of a city gave rise to a qualitative change which marks the beginning of
conscious science. This was possible, because this initial phase of development required
that the practitioners of techniques and the priests who did only mental work solve problems
together. Recording of numbers or quantities of goods, standardising their measures,
counting and calculating, making of calendars etc. form the basis of quantitative science in
the Bronze Age. We shall now study each of these features, in brief.
The Use of Metals
Human beings were attracted by shiny gold and copper which are found free in nature and
used them originally as ornaments. Bits of metal have been found in necklaces and other
ornaments of Stone Age. However, copper nuggets beaten to different shapes were not of
much practical use as tools and weapons, as they were too soft. With the development of
fire kilns needed for making pottery, copper ores which could be easily reduced were used
to produce copper metal. Later, an alloy of copper and tin was discovered. It was harder
and stronger than copper and could be cast into tools and weapons. Casting was done by
pouring molten copper and tin mixture into vessels or "moulds". When the mixture was
allowed to cool, it took the shape of the pot. Some of the tools thus made were found to be
far superior to stone tools and weapons, and were easier to produce. The use of this new
metal meant revolution in many techniques, such as carpentry, masonry, making tools,
vessels, vases etc.

(a) (b)
Fig. 2.15: (a) Copper axe and a form of casting it; (b) copper tools and weapons: 1 ) tip of a spear;
2) axe: 3) fish hooks; 4) saw: and 5) dagger.

In the Bronze Age civilisations in different parts of the world, the new metal was widely
used for making weapons and tools and it became a commodity of distant trade. In India,
the copper ore came from Rajasthan and was available in sufficient quantity for export to
Babylon. The problem of carrying ores from inaccessible parts to cities, and to distant
places was solved by the development of transport.
Science in the .Ancient World

Fig. 2.16: Technology from the tomb of Rekhmire, an Egyptian king. about 1470 B.C. Crafts and works
illustrated show: (a) cabinet making (note use of bow drill, chisel, saw and hammer); (b) brick making and
building (note balanced loads): (c) bronze casting (note foot operated bellows and use of tongs); (d) finished
vases and weighing precious metals (note similarity of balance to brick canier). Notice also the writings abgut all
these activities.

River Valley civilisations were characterised by settlements along the rivers and growth of
cities which needed, among.other things, stones and wood from distant places to make
houses and monuments. Cities also signified that everyone need not depend on land. There
was surplus production so that some people could trade or take up other occupations. The
surplus had to be traded for goods produced in different pans of the world. For example, we
have evidence that Mesopotamians traded extensively with India through Bahrain. Besides
copper, the Indians exported peacocks and apes, ivory and ivory combs, pearls and some
textiles. In return, thev received silver and other commodities. Trade, as well as the'desire
to control large territories, led to the need for efficient transport. Since the rivers were easy Fig 2-17: Oldest known depiction of a
sad appears in this 5,000 year old
flowing, water transport was most probably developed first (Fig. 2.17). Egyptian drawing of a Nile river boat.

Fig. 2.18: A bullock can in India. Norice the leather straps holding the wheel supports.

We also find evidence to suggest that dugout canoes and rafts made of reed and bamboo
were used for canying goods in bulk. At some early date, the sail was invented marking the
first use of inanimate power for locomotion. When river transport was extended to the sea, In those times, the boats &led
along the coast. If thc crew lost
it posed new problems of boat construction and navigation. Stronger winds meant stronger sight of land, they would release
f a b k s for making a sail, and construction of heavy frames and structures to hold them. a crow, which would fly towards
Woodwork had to be very strong and durable, too. The river went in a known direction, it the nearest point of the coast.
was like a road, but one could easily lose one's way on the high seas. New ways of finding Thus. the direction of its flight
would indicate where the -st
location and direction had-tabe searched. The most primitive method was of the 1m.i was. Ycr may have read Noah's
finding bird. Navigation by sun and stars had also become a common practice. story in the Bible. He first
released a crow from the A* to
The rise of cities would alsb have required heavy goods to be uanspomd over s b n find out in'which direction the
distances by land. This may have been done by the use of sledges to begin with. Heavy land lay, and then a homing
sledges could be eased downhill. However, along the plains, tree trunks came in handy as pigeon to make'sure that the land
was fenile.
rolleis.- he discover. of wheel revolutioclised land transport, thoubh it is not possible for us 35
to say, from historic evidence, where the wheel was first invented. Its use for making carts
which transported goods and passengers was possibly one of the most significant
developments of the Bronze Age. The real ingenuity in developing this mode of transport.
was in joining the solid roller or wheel to the body of the cart in such a way that it could turn
without coming off. In other words, the wheel and the axle were twins from birth. Carts
pulled by animals soon developed in Mesopotamia, lndus Valley and much later in Egypl
where the boat remained the main mode of transport. In early Mesopotamian carts and evcn
in some present-day Indian carts, the axle turns and is held in place by leather straps (see
Fig. 2.18).
The motion of the wheel, use of the lever to dislodge boulders. use of the inclined plane to
push things up or slide them down in the construction of granaries and temples, provided a
great impetus for the understanding of mechanics. Mechar~icswas to have a dramatic
impact in increasing man's mobility. Today, we can move anywhere on earth at high
speeds, span the oceans, fly in the sky and go out into space.
- Quantitative Science
With the availability of surplus in agriculture and the production of non-agricultural goods
by craftsmen, exchange and trade became a part of life. With the passing of time. exchange
dealt with increasingly different types of commodities as well as increasingly large
warrior whip walk
quantities of these commodities. Therefore, what should be exchanged. with what. and in
what quantity, could no longer be,simply memorised. Some standards, such as numbers

the sun
weep go upstream
and measure of amounts of grain etc., and $eights, became necessary so that proper
quantities of goods could be set apart or marked off for collection and exchange.
For the record, the symbol for measure was followed by a picture or shorthand symbol of thc
particular object which was to be traded. Gradually, symbols were introduced to cover
actions as well as'objects, and so writing emerged. Writing developcd, either as a sketched
symbol standing for a whole idea as in Chinese, or symbols and sound; going together as in
Fig. 2.19: (a) Wriling materials in Mesopotamian cuneiform or the Egyptian hieroglyphics (Figs. 2.19,2.20). The
ancient Egypt: ink-pot, sharpened reed
and jar for water: (b) some Egyptian standardisation of exchange in the form of weight led to the use of balance, a scientific
hiemglyphs. invention of great consequence. Exchange also necessitated simple calculations such as
addition and subtraction of numbers, which led to arithmetic.
The use of bricks for building houses gave rise to the ideas of right angle,and the straight
line, which led to the birth of what we call geometry. A strong school of modem historian\
and archaeologists, such as Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya of Calcutta and Allch~nof Oxford.
believe that the base of geometry was also laid at this time in the Indus Valley Civilisation.
rhe geometrical ideas of this civilisation were followed by the Greek geometricians of the
Iron Age, and thus, these came to profoundly influence modern geometry. The practice of
building in brick also gave rise to the concept of areas and volumes of figures and solids,
which could be calculated from the lengths of their sides. At first, only the volume of
rectangular blocks could be estimated. Later, in Egypt, mathematics became sufficiently
advanced to make it possible to calculate the volume of a pyramid.
The ability to count and calculate found immediate use in certain other areas such as
making of calendars and in the consequent development of astronomy (Fig. 2.21). We
have seen earlier in this section how the study of the stars, the sun and the moon was
Fig. 2.20: Mesopotamian cuneiform: .needed for navigation. The need for practical astronomy was also,felt in planning
the laws of king Hammurabi (about
1800 B.C.) o f Mesopolamia. carved on
a pillar. The top of the pillar shows the
Sun god offering the code of laws to
Hammurabi and below is the code. A
replica of this pillar is kept at the
National Museum. New Delhi.

Fig. 2.21: Early Egyptian ideas about the universe. The star sludded
figure at top is the sky goddess Nut. Beneath Nut is Shu, the god of air.
shown holding symbols of immortality in his hands. Under him lies the
earth god Geb, his body covered with leaves. The boats on each side o f
the drawing camed the sun on its daily journey across the sky.
t Science in the Ancient World
agriculture on a large scale. Crops had to be planted and harvested in the right season.
I Floods were a recurrent phenomenon in the river valleys, for which it was essential to
be prepared beforehand. The observation of sun and stars to fix the length of a year
became so precise that already in 2700 B.C., the Egyptians were able to fix it at 365.2422
A lunar year consists of 354 days
Sumerians and their successors in Mesopotamia adjusted t'he solar (sun-based) and lunar (12 x 29;). This has lo be
(moon-based) calendars through accurate observations. They invented the sexagesimal adjusted to rhe solar year of 366
system of 360 degrees in a circle (near enough to the days in a year), 60 minutes in an hour, days, by adding 12 days each
60 seconds in a minute. The exercises were carried out using mathematical tables and ied to year, or a thiFeenth month o f 30
days every 25 years.
algebra and arithmetic of the later epochs.
Another occupation that came to be very prestigious with the growth of cities was that of
medicine. Although the practice of medicine was limited to treating wounds, dislocations,
fractures etc., the practitioners could successfully diagnose many diseases. They could
compare cases with one another, notice different diseases and record them. From such
descriptions, orally passed on to later generations, arose the sciences of anatomy and
physiology. Practitioners of medicine also had the knowledge of plants and mineral
substances to prepare drugs for various diseases. They grew plants and herbs for this
purpose. It is from this source that the science of botany arose later.
The basis for chemistry was laid in the observations and practices of jewellers, metal-
workers and potters. They knew about at least nine chemical elements-gold, silver,
copper, tin, lead, mercury, iron, sulphur and carbon, and also about a variety of dry and
liquid reagents. The process of smelting ores, of purifying metals, of colouring them, of
adding enamel%-al involve complex chemical reactions that were learnt by many trials and
experiments. However, chemistry never rose to the rank of a recognised science in the
'Bronze Age.
To sum up, we have seen that the socio-economic needs of growing cities and trade between
cities gave rise to many broad areas of quantitative science, such as standardisation of
measures, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, medicine etc. The base for the future
development of many other areas such as chemistry, algebra, anatomy and physiology,
botany etc. was also laid in this era.
In the following table, we have listed the variety of services required in the operations of a
city, together with the scientific and technical adGances that helped in carrying out those
services. FilI in the blanks that we have left in the table. To illustrate, we have filled in the
first blank.
- -

Services or needs of the Corresponding scientific and

city based civilisations technical advances

i) Requirements of tools for Discovery of copper, its alloy

agriculture, carpentry, bronze and their use in
masonry, etc. casting various tools.
ii) Exchange of a large number
of different types of
goods in large quantities.
iii) Use of bricks for building
houses; planning the layout
of cities.
iv) ................................................................


vi) The an of making jewellery,

the crafts of pottery, metal-
work, etc. ............... .......................
i .............................
History of Science So far, we have not talked much about the level of scientific and technical achievements of
the early'civilisationsin the Indian subcontinent. With the help of archaeological and other
evidence from the Indus valley Civilisation, we will now try to visualise the growth of
science in India in those times.

2.3.3 Indus Valley Civilisation

The great cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, now in Pakistan, were discovered in the
1920s. They were the first evidence of a fairly advanced civilisation in the Indus Valley.
Subsequent excavations at other sites such as Kalibangan, Ropar and Lothal have shown that
this civilisation spread as far as the present Haryana to the east and as far as Gujarat to the
south. You can see all these sites in the acconipanying map (Fig. 2.22).

Fig. 2.22: Extent of lndus Valley Civilisation, showing some major cities.

The ancient cities in the Indus Valley show town planning of a truly amazing nature. Some
of the city houses are multi-storeyed and palatial. They are built of well baked burnt bricks
and supplied with such amenities as excellent bathrooms and lavatories. These obviously
belonged to the rich. The town layout was in rectangular blocks of about 200 yards x 400yards.
with wide main streets and good minor lanes. The straight streets met at perfect right angles.
There was a superb drainage system for carrying out rain water, and cesspools for clearing
the sewage. There were enormous well constructed granaries. The small tenement houses
in rectangular blocks obviously accommodated workers or slaves. Public baths were an
important feature of the Indus Valley cities. Many rooms and multi-storeyed buildings were
found around an open courtyard, which contained a rectangular tank of about 23 ft x 30 ft
and 8 ft deep. The bricks were well laid in the tank wall, with waterproof intermediate layer
of pitch. A finely built drain allowed water to be emptied for cleaning the tank, while filling
was done by drawing water from a nearby well (Fig. 2.23).

The high quality of construction and layout found in the Indus Valley implies that the people
of these cities were good technologists. They had mastered the techniques of construction
using a profound knowledge of space utilisation and geometry. Historians conjecture that
the making of bricks with perfect geometrical precision, fitting them together in different
shapes and sizes, and maintaining straightness and angles, in roads as well as in big
buildings, required considerable knowledge of geometry.
It is interesting to find detailed description of the geometrical theorems and axioms in a text
called Sulvasutra which dates around 600-300 B.C. These sutras were used for making
intricate devotional fire altars in Vedic times. Fire altars have also been found in some cities
of Indus Valley Civilisation like Kalibangan. This leads the historians to conjecture that
Sulva geometry is the product of the earlier age of Indus Valley Civilisation, transmitted
through tradition to a later age.

Fig. 2.23: (a) A public drain by the side of houses,

Lothal; (b) the water tank, Mohenjo-daro.

We are all familiar with the famous Pythagoras theorem which says that "the square on the
hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two
sides" (Fig. 2.24). Its discovery is generally attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras
(582-500 B.C.). The Sulvasurra also contains an alternate version of this theorem which
says that "the diagonal of a rectangle produces areas, which its length and breadth
produce separately". Apart from this, Sulvasutra deals with construction of geometrical
I figures, combination and transformation of areas, measurements of areas and volumes,
squaring the circles and vice versa, making of similar figures with different areas, and a
variety of other related problems. The value of square root of 2 (i.e. d 2 ) is given in
Sulvasurra as 1.4142156.
All this leads us to surmise that the inhabitants of Indus Valley may have possessed
considerable knowledge of geometry. Fig. 2.24: Illustration o f the
Pythagorean theorem.
Bronze tools, containers, seals, ornaments, toys etc. found in the excavations at Mohenjo-
daro. Harappa and the other sites indicate that the Indus Valley Civilisation had attained a
high level of scientific and technical know-how (Fig. 2.25). We also have evidence of
trade with Mesopotamia in the artefacts found in archaeological surveys. Richness of
slit deposited by the Indus on its banks made it possible to cultivate withput deep
ploughing. Hence, the available evidence does not reveal bronze ploughs but only tools
to bury the seeds very near the surface of the soil.

Fie. 2.25: Some tools and artefacts found in the excavations at various sites o f the Indus Valley Civilisatio~. 10
History of Science A peculiar feature of the Indus Valley Civilisation was that bronze was used only for1making
tools, such as sturdy knives, chisels and saws, but almost never for instruments of violence.
The spears used were thin without a riband totally ineffective in combat. There were no
bronze arrowheads either. The early Indus Valley culture was particularly non-violent.
All these inferences about the Indus Valley Civilisation arise from the physical evidence,
such as tools, artefacts like pottery and textiles, architecture and the total plan of the cities
including water works and sewage disposal, gathered from these sites. We could have
known a lot more about those times, if only we were able to decipher the writings on the
seals found at these sites. So far, we haven't been able to make out what the various
symbols and writings carved on stone seals, indicate. Thus, in future, new facts may emerge
which could shed more light on the Indus Valley culture.
To sum up, we have seen above how the changes in the methods of production led to the rise
of villages and cities. The growth of cities created further demands which led to great
scientific and technical advances. In turn, these advances improved the methods of
production. Much of the equipment that evolved at that time has not changed appreciably in
the 5000 years that have gone by. Most of us still use the same kind of tables and chairs;
live in rooms with walls and ceilings of stone, brick and plaster, eat from the same kind of
dishes and wear clothes made of the same kind of cloth such as cotton, wool or silk. Even
the staple cereals that we eat were more or less known at that time. However, the glorious
era which gave us so many things, came to an end, by about 1500 B.C. We will now outline
the factors that led to the decline of the Bronze Age Civilisation.

2.3.4 Decline of the Bronze Age Civilisation

We find that the great developments in production methods that came with the rise of early
cities lasted only f6r a few centuries. The initial burst of technical advance was followed by
a long period of stagnation. Cities arose and fell; one dynasty of priest-kings overthrew
another. But there was no change in the pattern of production. It remained based on
irrigation agriculture, supplemented by trade with other cultures.
This, probably, happened because in this process the social organisation had also changed.
In the primitive human society no special groups existed, whereas there now came into
being different strata in the society. As we have seen earlier in Sec. 2.3.1, there arose a
division between those who produced and those who appropriated the produce. This also
City state is a city that is also an meant a division betweefi the thinkers and the doers, between theory and practice. We have
independent state. For example, also seen how this led to stagnation in science. Eventually, the social structure became
Babylon in Mesopotamia, exploitative. Peasants and urban craftsmen became poorer, many of them ending up as
Athens in Greece.
slaves later on. The emergence of two distinct classes, the haves and the havenots, in the
society, led to conflicts between them. This weakened the city states and ultimately put a
stop to their intellectual and technical progress.
Increasing population an3 continuous barbarian invasions also brought tremendous pressure
on these city cultures. They had to expand territorially to occupy more available land, in
order to feed the population. They also had to raise armies and fortifications to defend
themselves. Even in the Indus Valley, which was a non-violent culture, fortifications were
raised in the later days. Fortifications, walls and other instruments of violence such as
catapults and moving towers required the application of mechanics. As wars became a part
of life, a n e y group of professionals came into being. They were the persons who invented
and made new war machines and built defensive and offensive structures. They may have
been the forerunners of the engineers of today.
To end the story of Bronze Age, while civilisation stagnated at the centre near the rivers, its
influence was spreading wider and wider. An impressive and valuable stock of knowledge
was handed on to the succeeding generations. The science and techniques of the next major
historical epoch, the Iron Age, are largely derived from those of the ancient world. The
people of Iron Age themselves did not doubt the greatness of the empires that they had
destroyed. We find an echo of those times in the famous Greek classics, the Iliad and the
Odyssey, written by Homer. We will read about the people of Iron Age in the next unit.
Tick mark, in the boxes provided, the three factors among the following, that led to the
decline of Bronze Age Civilisation.
a) The emergence of two distinct groups of the producers and the apprbpriators. u

b) Rise and fall of several cities. d
C) Invasions by nomadic barbarians. Science in the Ancient World

d) Overthrow of one dynasty of priest-kings by another.

e) Increase in population, leading to a pressure on cities.

You have just finished studying the history of science in two major epochs, the Stone Age
and the Bronze Age. In this unit, we have uied to trace the origins of science in the
primitive human society, and the birth and growth of science in the early human
civilisations. These two epochs span a period of more than 100,000years of human history.
We will new summarise what we have learnt in this unit.
The origins of science can be found in the attempts of the early human beings to meet
their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, which led to the development of primitive
tools and techniques.
Language arose basically from their need to communicate better. Several rituals and
magic rites also came into being in the primitive society.
Increasing population and certain climatic changes forced the primitive human beings to
look for other methods of production.
Agriculture enabled them to control and manipulate nature to satisfy their needs. Cities
came into being. The needs of growing cities led to a spurt in scientific and technical
activity adding to their fund of knowledge. The new techniques, in turn, led to better
means of production.
The unequal dismbution of the produce resulted in the rise of a dominant group of priest-
kings, 'the thinkers' who isolated themselves from farmers and urban craftsmen, 'the
doers'. In the attempt of the priest-kings to consolidate their power, the gulf between the
two increased, leading to stagnation in society and in science. Barbarian invasions
further weakened the city states.


1) Give short answers in about four or five lines.
a) Which primitive practice reflects the features of designing and planning that
characterise modem science?

b) How did the use of clothing and domestication of animals affect the primitive

2) Fill in the blanks to indicate, which among the following factors gave rise to the ideas
of 'spirits', religion and magic riteslrituals.
a) The primitive human beings were unable to control natural calamities such as
floods, fires etc. They also could not understand why people died. They attributed
this to ....................................;............................................................................
Ilistnrv of Science b) Techniques were not sufficiently developed to provide enough food for all. It was
thought that animals and plants would yield more food if the tribals danced around
them or offered sacrifices. This, among other things, resulted in .............................
c) When man felt helpless in controlling nature for his needs and tried to come to
terms with nature. he took recourse to ......................................................................
3) Give short answers. in three or four lines, to the questions given below :
i) The transition from the primitive society LO an agriculture based society was
brought about by a change in Lhe methods of production. Cities came into
existence and the socio-economic needs of those times led to advances in science
and techniques.
a) What were the different methods of production used by the primitive society and
the Bronze Age Civilisation?

b) List the socio-economic needs that led to the advances in techniques in the early
phase of the growth of cities.

c) In what ways were these needs fulfilled by the technical advances of those times?

ii) The growth of cities and the technical advances eventually led to the formation of
two distinct groups-the producers and the appropriators.
d) What was the difference between the two groups?

e) From the list given in the margin, select the people who were producers and those
who were appropriators, and put them in the table given below :

I Producers

ScieJlce in the Ancient WL
I Producers I Appropriators
- - - __C___.-_-__
wheel wrights
makers of agricultural tools

f) List the aspects of science discussed in Unit I, that the above statements (i) and (ii),
and your answers to the questions (a) to (e) illustrate.

Self Assessment ~uestions
1 ) (i) Physics, Technology (ii) Chemistry (iii) Physics (iv) Chemistry (v) Chemistry
(vi) Technology.
2 ) (i) .\I (ii) .\I (iii) x (iv) .\I (v) x
3) (i) a, b, e, h (ii) b, c, f, i, j (iii) d, g.
4) Stone Age, food, nature, dependent, calamities, cold, different, primitive.
5) ii) Standardisation of numbers, measures and weights; use of balance; arithmetic;
iii) Ideas of right angle, straight line, rectangle, areas of figures, volumes of solids, laid
the basis for the birth of geometry.
iv) Need for navigation on high seas, making of calendars, planning agriculture on a
large scale, preparing for floods etc.
v) Treatment of wounds, fractures, dislocations etc.; diagnosis of diseases.
vi) Chemistry.
6 ) ( 4 , (c), (el.
Terminal Questions
1) a) The tool maker first thought of what tool he was going to make (design) and how he
was going to do it (plan). Then he took a large chunk of stone and shaped it
b) The use of clothing enabled primitive human beings to withstand cold weather. The
domestication of animals increased their mobility and also the availability of food.
Thus, the primitive society could hope to survive even in adverse conditions.
2) (a) spirits (b) magic riteslrituals (c) religion
3) a) Food gathering and hunting in the primitive society; agriculture, masonry, carpentry
and other crafts in the Bronze Age Civilisation.
b) The needs for having better tools for agriculture, houses for shelter, pottery for
storage, carts and boats for transport and trade, planned layout etc. in growing cities,
led to the advances in techniques.
C) By the technical advances in pottery, metal-working, masonry, carpentry, brick-
working, boat-making, stone-working etc.
History of Science d) The producers like farmers, masons, wheel wrights, carpenters erc. were themselves
invclved ia the production of goods; the appropriators did not produce goods
'hemselves, they cornered other people's produce.
e) Producers : ag&ulturists, masons, carpenters, wheel wrights, makers of agricultural
Approp--iatc : priests, administrators, kings.
f) We are listing the aspects from Unit 1 alongwith reference to the pages where these
occur, against each statement.
i) When methods of production evolve societies transform (p. 16). In a society at
a given time, he social and economic needs give rise to scientific and technical
advances (p. 10).
a) The major historical epochs correspond to different methods of production
(P. 15).
b) Same as the second half of answer at (i).
c) The development of science and techniques leads to an increase in productior.
of goods and creates a degree of satisfaction among its members (p. 16).
ii) (d), (e) The innovations in science and technique are gradually used by
dominant social forces to strengthen their domination (p. 10).

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Science in Iron Age India
Search for Agricultural Land and M~nerals

_ Emergence of Urban Societ~es

Emergence of Science
Developments in Mediclne
3.3 Science in Iron Age Greece
Developments in Some Areas of Sc~ence
3.4 Atomic Theory in Antiquity
3.5 Decline of European Science
3.6 Summary
3.7 Terminal Questions
3.8 Answers

In Unit 2, we briefly surveyed the ideas and techniques of the early human beings, and
traced the roots of science in the primitive culture. You also read about the emergence and
growth of science in the ancient world, in the historical epoch known as the Bronze Age.
Now, we turn our attention to an equally important period in the history of science, known
a:; the Iron Age.
From about the fifteenth century B.C., we find that civilisation was no longer limited to a
few river basins but had spread to the major cultivable areas of Asia, northern Africa and
Europe. The spread of civilisation was aided by the discovery and use of a new metal, iron,
which led to this period being called as the Iron Age. The Iron Age did not bring about any
remarkable technical advances, such as in the Bronze Age. However, the availability of a
cheap and abundant metal led to widespread changes as this civilisation spread far and wide.
It also affected the relations between various social classes. ,
We have already read that the Bronze Age river valley civilisations were decaying due to
many problems of stagnating economy and culture. Their decline was hastened by the
constant incursions and raids of barbarian clans. The nomadic barbarians were pastoral
people who had learnt to use iron. They had great mobility as they had tamed wild horses for
travel, and carried their food alongwith them. They ran through the decaying civilisations,
picking up local techniques as it suited them. The devastation left in their wake was often
irreparable for the people they had over-run. The barbarians spread far and wide in the
world, giving rise to civilisations that were less peaceful, even less developed, but more
flexible to change.
In this unit, we shall study about the developments in science and technology in the Indian
and Greek civilisations of the Iron Age. In the next unit, we shall take up the study of one of
the most fruitful periods of scientific.developments in India, which saw tremendous
advances in the areas of astronomy, mathematics and technology.

After studying this unit you should be able to :
describe, in an objective manner, the major developments in science and technology in
India and Greece in the Iron Age,
compare the developments invarious scientific ideas and techniques in India with those
in Greece,
explain the factors that led to the decline of science in Europe.
History of Science
In the Indian subcontinent, nomadic Indo-Aryans came from the steppes of what is now
Soviet Central Asia and Iran. They came in waves, the first one being around 1500 B.C.
They moved south-east, and finally settled in the areas shown in Fig. 3.1 as postoral -
agricultural communities and kingdoms. For these people, transformation from
pastoral to settled agricultural communities took between 1000 to 1500 years, the
period lasting until about 700-600 B.C.
,.*. -.,
am. .-.<-
0, - We get information about this period from the literature of Vedic.times such as the Vedas.
Samhitas. Upanisads, Sutras etc.. and from the tools and artefacts found in excavations at
various sites. Let us now try to recolistruct this history.

3.2.1 Search for Agriculturql Land and Minerals

For the Aryans, the period of transition from pastoral to agricultural 'communities was
characterised by war and strife against the local population. They were constantly in search
of agricultural land. mineral deposits and ores. and they cleared dense forests for these
purposes. This is called the Rigvedic period.
Rigvedic Period (1500 B.C. 700 B.C.)
Fig. 3.1: Distribution ofthe 1n the Rigvedic period, the Aryan groups were always on the move and in constant strife
Grey Ware pottery in the Gangetic plain with each other or with the local non-Aryans. Therefore, they did not have enough
provides evidence of the Aryans' opportunity to develop science and technology. Their technology amounted mostly to the
movement towards the east.
construction of chariots, iron tools and weapons of war. The pottery of those times (1000B.C.
to 600 B.C.) foundin the Gangetic plain is called the 'Painted Grey Ware' pottery. It is
not as developed as the Harappan pottery. You camsee this in Fig. 3.2. Similarly, there was
no brick technology of any great note, especially in comparison to that achieved in the
Harappan period. Craftsmen such as wood-workers, cabinet and chariot-makers, metal-
wcrkers arid ship-builders. were free members of the tribe. Weaving and spinning was done
onlv by women.

Fig. 3.2: Sketches of some pottery f m the lndus Valley and Painted Grey Ware sites. Harappan pottery:
a) from Daimabad dated about 2000 B.C.. b) from Lothal: c) from Navadatoli, dated about 2000 B.C. Painted
Grey Ware pottery; d) bowl (Panipat) and e) d~sh(Ah~cchatra).Considerations of range, type, design. temperature
of baking show that Harappan pottery is better than the Painted Grey Ware.

As for their knowledge in other areas of science, we find a reference to the division of the
universe into tllrce regions - the earth (pritlivi), tlle 1-mament (anrariksh) and tlle heaven
(&orts) in the Rig Veda. We now know that this is incorrect. The priests needed calendars
for pcrforming sacrificial ceremonies, which depcnded on the position of sun. moon and Ihe
A Yajuwedic hymn ponrays the planets. This meant tracking the motion of these heavenly bodies. The calendars they drcw
quest of land and other up gave the division of time into days, months and years and also indicated the seasons.
resources. "May for me . . . low
grade grain, food, freedom from
I-Iowevcr, these attempts did not go deep into the study of the motion of planets, of stars
hunger, rice, barley, sesame, and constellations. We also iind stray reference to different plants. their classificatio~land
kidney beans, vetches. wheat. struclure ill the hymns and verses of Rig Veda. Interest in medicine is also rcflectcd in some
lentils, millet ... and wild rice of Lhese hymns.
(prosper through sacrifices):
May for me stone, clay. hills..... Yajurvedic Period (700 B.C. - 400 B.C.)
gold, bronze, lead, tin, ~ron,
copper, fire ..... . What grows on The Rigvedic period was followed by a wave of eastward push in search of agricultural land
ploughed land and unploughed and metallic resources. This era, called the Yajurvedic period, lasted for 300 years.
land, tame and wild cattle, Yajurveda speaks of ploughs drawn by teams of twelve oxen. Such ploughs were
prosper through the sacrifice."
indispensable for driving deep furrows and turning over heavy soil which would not
otherwise yield well or retain its fertility. The snong plough could be made of wodd
trimmed down by bronze tools, but the ploughshare for cultivating strong soil had to be of The mobility of the Aryans was
iron. Where did the iron come from? Copper may have been available in Rajasthan, but iron also helped by their knowledge
of sailipg. We find a mention of
deposits lay much farther away in the east. India's finest deposits of iron and copper lie at ships with hundred oars even in
the eastern end of the Gangetic plain in south-east Bihar. We also find evidence of the the Rig Veda. Boats were used
Aryans' movement for ores from the copper harpoons, shoulder celts and semi-human to g o down the Ganges for
figures dated about 1000 B.C., which are found all over the Gangetic plain. The tools and trading and exploration, past
artefacts lead us to surmise that these were peddled by Aryan traders. These objects imply Varanasi down lo Pataiiputra and
the Gangetic delta.
that Aryans knew copper refining by controlled fire using good kilns (Fig. 3.3).
The demand for high grade iron increased tremendously with time. As a result, Aryans
Anhasastra is the most important
explored new deposits of iron all over the country, going as far as Andhra and Mysore by text that we now possess. It was
about 200 to 100 B.C. Knowledge of the metallurgy of iron, copper, silver and tin continued written by Kautilya. minister of
to be developed by the Aryans till well into the Maurya period. We find that in Arthasastra, Chandragupta. sometime
between 321 and 300 B.C.
directions are given for reducing and melting of ores with distinction between various

3.2.2 Emergence of Urban Societies

The writings of this period also give us a picture of the social conditions. The social
structure was undergoing radical changes at this time, from the tribal to a more structured Members of the conquered
tribes, Aryan or non-Aryan, were
urban society. By the time the Aryans started their eastward progress, a new sort of tribal treated as 'dasas' by the
slave, the 'dasa' was being used for extra labour. A highly developed priesthood, conquering tribes.
specialising in sacrificial rites. combining Aryan and pre-Aryan practices, was also coming
into being. Most importantly, however, commodity production was becoming established.
This means that craftsmen and labourers were producing, not for direct consumption of the
local society, but for trade within the far flung Aryan and non-Aryan settlements. Trade
routes of Uttarapatha, and later Dakshinapatha, were established. You can see these routes in
Fig. 3.4. Traders known as Sar:havahas (Caravaneers) and Vaidehikas started to ply along
the routes, from Taxila to Magadha. From the coins found in the excavations, we can deduce
that regular coinage had come into use by the end of the seventh century B.C.
At about the end of this pcr~od,professionals appeared in the fields of science, medicine and
technology. Students from al! along Uttarapatha started to travel to centres of learning, such
as Taxila, for specialised training. The learned grammarian Panini taught in Taxila around
the fourth century B.C. Atreya taught medicine around the sixth century B.C. Atreya's
students and successors Jivaka, Kuniarabhacha, Bhela, Parasara and others, came to have
profound influence on the development of medicine and chemistry in India in the next 1000
A new 0rdel.1~social life came into being around 800 to 600 B.C. This was free from
shortages and unending conflicts of the Vedic society. Small states or 'Janapadas', headed
by kings and governed by codes and laws formulated by state powers, were being formed.

Fig. 33: Sketches of some copper

objects found in the Gangetic plain:
I) semi-human figure; 2) axe;'3) ring;
4) bar-celt; 5) double axe; 6&7)
harpoons; 8) sword.


Fig. 3.4: Sixteen principal Janapadas (tenitories) of the

seventh century B.C. Trade routes of Uttarapatha (-)
and Dakshinapatha ( . . . . . . . . ). Magadha empire under
Mahapadma Nanda. 4th century B.C.
There were sixteen Janapadas in the seventh centyry B.C (see Fig. 3.4). The state income
came from agriculture and trade. These societies had kings, priests, scholars, soldiers,
traders, peasants, craftsmen and lowly civic labourers. For the efficient running of the state
and ensuring that power remained firmly with the wealthy. the social hierarchy soon became
rigid and got codified into four 'varnas', the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas,'the Vaisyas and the
Sudras. Divine sanctions were invoked to maintain this hierarchy.
The following statements tell us about the various aspects of ths Bronze Age and Iron Age
societies in India. Put the letter B (for Bronze Age) or I (for Iron Age) against each
statement to indicate the society it depicts.
i) This civilisation was spread far and wide in the Gangetic plain of India. ...........
ii) Most of the habitations of this period were located in the valley of river Indus .......
iii) Trade in this civilisation was essentially barter trade, i.e. goods of one kind were
exchanged with other kinds of articles ...............
iv) Commodity production had started, i.e. certain articles were produced not ibr local
consumption, but for trade in far flung areas ...............
V) A caste system had emerged in this society ...............
vi) Trade was mainly done in the goods that were surplus, ie. after the consumption
needs of the society were met ...............
vii) A large number of people were involved in innovations. ..............
viii) Regular coinage had come into use in the trade practices. ..............
ix) There were two main social groups: priest-kings; farmers and urban craftsmen, etc.

x) Small groups of people had started specialising in specific areas of science and
technology ......... : .....

3.2.3 Emergence of Science

In the previous section, we gave you a glimpse of the social structure in India during the
Iron Age. With the emergence of ordered urban societies, the stage was set for a tremendous
development in science and technology. We will now describe, in brief, the advances in
various areas of science, such as astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, botany and zoology.
Astronomy and Mathematics
We have described earlier the level of knowledge in astronomy in the Rigvedic times. Much
of the later work in astronomy in this period is merely a detailed or expanded version of the
astronomical knowledge already found in Rig Veda. We could, perhaps, understand this
feature if we realise that the developments in astronomy in this period, stem mainly from the
astrological practices of sacrificial ceremonies. As a matter of fact, astronomy degenerated
into astrology in the later years of this period.
You already know about the Sulvasutras which we described in Sec. 2.3.3. They show a
fairly high level of knowledge of geometry. Arithmetic was equally well developed.
Numbers in multiples of 10 going up to as high powers of 10, as 1012(one million million),
were known and used. All the arithmetic operations on numbers were also known.
Sulvasutras contain several instances of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and
squaring of fractions. Quadratic equations, indeterminate equations, permutations and
combinations also appear in the Sulvasutras.
The level of chemical knowledge and practices in the new ordered society is reflected in the
pottery, iron tools and glass objects found at various Iron Age sites. The iron tools that you
see in Fig. 3.5,indicate a fairly advanced knowledge of iron smelting. By the fifth or the'
fourth century B.C., the Indian metalworkers had attained a high degree of perfection in the
techniques of producing iron and steel.
Glass objects unearthed in over 30 sites indicate that production of glass came to be known
only towards the end of this period (Fig. 3.6). Ceramic bowls, dishes, lids and carinated
jars ('handis') dated from about the sixth century B.C. to the second century B.C.. were
also found in these sites. Fermentation methods, dyeing techniques, the preparation
and use of a number of cheniicals and colour pigments were well known.
Iron Age

Fig. 3.5: Sketches of some ancient iron objects found at various sites Fig. 3.6: Sketches of some ancient glass
such as Taxila, Hastinapur. Ujjain and Sisupalgarh: I) ringed chain; specimens from a) Taxila (6th century
2) lower portion of an iron axe: 3) miniature bell; 4) staple from a B.C.-1st century A.D.): I) ear-reel; 2)
looped head: 5 ) spearhead; 6) slightly convex iron disc with seal; 3-5 beads; 6) bangle piece; 7) wine
perforation; 7) spike of square section; 8) door ring; 9) circular flask (the thicker line was the piece that
piece of iron with a nail rivetted into it; 10) fragment of a chain. was found); b) Arikamedu (1st
century-2nd century A.D.): 8). 10)
Roman glass bowls; 9) millefiori glass.

In the Bronze and the Iron Ages, agriculture became the principal mode of production of
man in all lands. It is, thus, not surprising that in India, botany and elementary plant
physiology developed with the advances made in agriculture. The developments in medicine
also helped these sciences. For example, in Rigvedic hymns, Atharvaveda, Taittiriya
Samhita etc., scattered references are made to the following:
i) different parts of the plant such as mula (root), tula (shoot), kanda (stem), valsa (twigs)
ii) classification of plants such as osadhi (medicinal), valli (climber), guccha (bushy) etc.,
according to their morphology and use, and
iii) physiology of plants in terms of what nourishes a plant through addition to the soil, such
as cowdung etc.
A systematic study of botany, 'Vrksayurveda' by Parasara, however, came into being by
only about the first century B.C. The treatise formalised a lot of the earlier botanical and
medicinal knowledge. We will not go into its details.

The domestication of animals like horses and elephants and their use in warfare necessitated
the study of their anatomy and physiology. A survey of Vedic literature has revealed that
more than 260 animals were known at that time. Classification of animals and study of their
dietary value had been attempted. Human physiology had also been studied. Post-Vedic
literature also contains the names of animals and a vast storehouse of observations on their
natural history. These observations may have stimulated the later thoughts and concepts
about classification, heredity, embryology etc.
History of Science However, none of the developments in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, botany and
zoology that we have described so far, compare with the tremendous advances made in
medicine in that period. We will tell you about these advances in the next section.
State whether the following statements about the level of scientific and technical
developments in the Iron Age India are true or false :
a) The development of astronomy, which arose from astrological practices and sacrificial
ceremonies, resulted in a study of the motion of sun, moon, planets and stars and many
new models, laws and theories were given . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
b) The need to make sacrificial altars gave rise to a fairly high level of knowledge in
geometry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
c) Indians knew how to make steel in the Iron Age .....................
d) Plant and animal clagsification, anatomy and physiology were known in an elementary
form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
e) The developments in modem science were all known in the Vedic times and we are just
rediscovering that knowledge ......................

3.2.4 Developments in Medicine

During the early Vedic period, healing was thought to be the duty of the priests. Diseases
were seen as the results of God's wrath for sins committed, or of being possessed by
demons. Interwoven with these ideas, we find speculations about the origin of disease, use
of healing drugs, beneficial treatment and surgery in the Vedic texts. The Ayurvedic concept
of 'medical knowledge as a science' developed only later.
The Ayurvedic System of Medicine
Punarvasu Atreya (about 6th century B.C.) taught medicine at Taxila. Each of his disciples
such as Bhela, Jatukarna, Harita, Ksarapani, Parasara wrote treatises on medicine. Atreya
himself, Patanjali (about 2nd century B.C.) and later many others wrote commentaries on
what is considered to be the main Indian treatise on medicine, the Caraka-Samhita.Very
little of the original samhita survives today. Most of what we know of this treatise, comes
'Caraka' is to be pronounced as from some of these commentaries. The origin of Caraka-Samhita,ana the surgical text
Charaka i.e. and Susmta as Susruta-Samhita,is generally estimated to be around 600 B.C. There is difference of opinion
Sushruta i.e. as to who wrote these samhitas. While some ascribe them to individrlals, others der-ribe the
authors to be practising doctors and surgeons belonging to a group of tribes. The main body
of the work is a meticulous classification and documentation of symptoms of various
ailments, corresponding healing systems, their properties, methods of application and their
dosages. The treatises are so important, because
i) thcy sire sc~:pulouslyscientific in their approach and method,
ii) th& Lave influence on the development of other branches of science such as chemistry
and botany, and
iii) they are transmitted through the ages in a form of practice known as Ayurveda.
Approach and Method
In the words of the original Their approach and method had the following significant features:
"Medical discussion is to allow
no proposition which is i) The physician was interested only in one thing and that was the cure of the patient.
irrelevant, unauthoritative, Towards this, he was allowed to take any steps including subterfuge and lies. For
uninvestigated. without any
example, if it was essential for the patient to eat some flesh, the physician had to work
practical significance, confused
and without any general out some tactics to overcome the patient's religious or aesthetic revulsion.
applicability. Every proposition
ii) The physician was to direct his attention towards curing the patient. Hence, he was not
must be substantiated by reason.
Only those propositibns that are supposed to cause any injury to the patient even though his own life may be at stake.
substantiated by reason and are The physician was to treat the patient as his own son.
untainted by any other
consideration prove useful for iii) Medical knowledge was to be acquired from previous practitioners as well as through
therapeutic purposes." medical discussions.
iv) Empirical data constituted the first and absolute minimum for science. It was said that
of all types of evidences, the most dependable ones were those that were directly
observed by the eyes. A knowledgeable physician was never to try to examine, on
grounds of pure logic, the efficacy of a medicine which was known by direct
observation to have a specific medical action.
Diagnosis and Prognosis
The diagnosis and prognosis of disease were done directly by seeing, hearing, smelling and
touching all external human organs and human waste and often indirectly by pulse
examination. These observations. singly or in combination, were correlated in specific
diseases. Thus, in an abscess, the physician heard the bustling sound of air with frothy
blood. Similarly, the sounds in entrails. the crack of a joint, changes in voice etc.. gave other
indications. His diagnosis was based not only on direct observation but on knowledge of the
patient's home, caste, mode of living, diet and other aspects of medical history. Prognosis
was based on the dictum that a clever physician should not treat an incurable patient.
Accordingly, detailed examination of 'arista' or bad omens (classified according to the
nature of disease) which led to death, was madc.
Curing methods In the Xloraka-Saml~iro.
The most impbrtant curing methods were classified under five heads, namely, inducing purgatives are prescribed in
vomiting, giving purgative, enem;, oily enema and nasal therapy. Specific applications of fever, poisoning. cholera
these were made according to the disease. Possible accidents during their application were hemorrhoids, leprosy. wind.
diabetes, jaundice, colic, cataract
also listed. There was also'extensiveclassification of diseases.
or glaucoma. abscess, fistula of
the anus etc.
Healing substances were classified into prevei..'-e and curative medicines. According to
Caraka-Samhita, these were animal, vegetable and mineral substances. This classification Among the animal substances,
was crossed by another consideration. thzt of groupiqe according to the effect of medicine. the Caraka-Samhilamentions
honey, milk, excreta. urine,
as emetic, purgative etc. These groupings were further s- ' divided into fifty groups of sperm, horns, flesh etc. Minerals
decoctions according to the relief they provided. include gold, silver, copper. zinc.
antimony etc. Curakas mention
Surgery 700 plants according to the
Susruta-Samhita, a.major treatise on surgery, was derived not only from exhaustive diseases for which thcse were to
observation of symptoms of diseases and their possible treatments but also a fairly detailed be applied.
knowledge of human physiology, anatomy, and especially the internal organs. For example,
in treating ulcers or wounds, it is directed that the instruments should be introduced with the
precaution of avoiding dangerous places, such as veins, bones and the like, until the pus is
visible. In the Sarnhita there is also detailed description of different types of iron
instruments, made by local smiths for extraction,cutting etc., in terms of sharpness, shape
and size (see Figs. 3.7 and 3.8). Two interesting features of this treatise are:

i) Scrupulous attention to pre and post-surgical cleaning of the wound, implying some
empirical knowledge of infection, and
. ..
11) uw of anaesthetics. While instructions are given to bind the patient strongly so that he
could not move during the operation, it is also mentioned that he should be given wine
to drink before the operation so that he might not faint and might not feel the knife.

Fa.3.7: Artist's reconstruction of Fig. 3.8: An artist's sketch of Susruta's students practising surgery on vegetables, like gourd (puspaphula). bottle-
Susruta's surgical tools as described in gourd (alavu) or cucumber (ervarukrr).The students were given thorough practical training on vsgetables. water
Susruta-Samhita. bags, dead animals and full-sized stuff@ dolls before performing surgery on.human beings. 51
History of Science Thus, we find that in Iron Age India, a scientific approach and method was adopted in the
practice of medicine. It is not surprising that the scientific practices of Carakas and Susrutas
earned the wrath and displeasure of the priests. This was, possibly, because their practices
often contradicted the prevailing ideas of priests who earned their living by reciting dictums
These dictums are from Aitareya such as "the gods are fond of the obscure" or "the gods are fond of the obscure, they detest
Upanisad and Brhadaranyaka direct observation." In the practice of medicine, the Indian physicians did not distinguish
between the upper and the lower castes in terms of their medical attention. This was another
reason why they were not too popular with the priests.
This is not to say that the practice of medicine was entirely free from the influence of the
ideas prevalent in society. Cosmogonic speculations, that is, philosophical ideas about the
Note also that pancabhuta is
origin of universe, earth and living beings, find a reflection in Ayumeda. For instance. the
pronounced as panchabhuta. i.e.
practice of ascribing the causes of illness to humours or 'dosas', such as wind ('vayu'), bile
rhqa ('pitta') and phlegm ('kapha'), reflects this influence. So does the practice of relating- the
qualities of curative substances to the five elements ('pancabhutas')-earth ('prithvi'), fire
('jyoti', 'agni'), water ( 'apas', 'jala'), air ('vayu') and empty space ('akasa'). According to
Ayumeda, the 'rridosas', 'vayu', 'pitta' and 'kapha', are supposed to be present in all living
creatures. Diseases are said to be caused by their imbalances, paucity or excess in the body.
However, the prevalent philosophical and religious dogmas did not influence the physicians
while prescribing what they thought was good for the patient.
Which one among the following features is an exception to the scientific approach and
method adopted in the practice of medicine by the Carakas and Susrutas? Tick the .
appropriate answer.
a) Medical knowledge was based on the observation of previous practitioners and was
obtained through discussions.
b) New therapies were investigated thoroughly and substantiated by reason before being
c) Observation and experiment played a great role in determining the medicines or curing
methods that were to be used for various diseases.
d) It was thought that diseases were caused by the three humours, wind, bile and phlegm;
and the curative substances got their healing properties from the five elements--earth,
water, fire, air, empty space.
e) Classification of medicines and diseases was carried out.
It is, indeed, a great tragedy that the medical science which had such a sound Eginning in
meticulous empirical observation never got beyond the stage of classification of such
observations. It never came to acquire a rigorous scientific theoretical basis. No general
laws or theories could be deduced on the basis of this wealth of information. After the third
or the fourth century A.D., it relied less and less on fresh innovatory observation and more
and more on mystical 'causes'. The reasons for this stagnation are many. One of these is,
possibly, the opposition from orthodox religious ideas.
We also find that the nature of the developments in various areas of science, in this era, was
very different from what had happened in the previous era. In the Bronze Age, human
beings innovated and evolved techniques of tool making, metallurgy, ship-building or
medicine as they confronted problems in their struggle for survival or in making a better
living. It was a universal phenomenon, in the sense that a large number of people involved
in production were also innovators.
However, in the Iron Age, scientific pursuits, such as making innovations, deducing general
laws from observations, curing people or transmitting knowledge to future generations, were
limited to a small group of individuals patronised by the state. This had positive as well as
negative aspects. On the positive side, this made it possible to observe and experiment, or to
systematically learn about a complex phenomenon in great depth, or to simply contemplate,
without being burdened by the daily struggle for existence. On the other hand, this led to the
isolation of people with knowledge from those who practised and used techniques. This
made interaction of theory and practice difficult, thus, creating the danger of abstract
knowledge or blind practice. This was true for both Indian science and the Greek science.
We will now describe the developments in science in the Iron Age Greece.
One of the most remarkable features of world history of the Iron Age is the sim'ilarity of
clcvelopments of culture in India and in Greece (Fig. 3.9). We know that there was trade
bct ween the two areas. The spread of knowledge may have taken place tl~rougliWest Asia
and finally through direct contact established at the timc of Alexander's incursion inlo north
wcst .India in 327 B.C. It is, therefore, easy to see that Indian and Greek cosmogonic
spcculalion, medicine and surgery came to influence each othcr through these contacts.

Fig. 3.9: a) Greek city states. b) Alexander's empire.

One of the similarities between the Indian and the Greek civilisations was growth of the
\arne kind of stratified social structure, at about the same period. While in India, the caste
structure was relegating all practical and manual work to the lower castes, manual work was
bang associated with slaves in Greece. The craftsmen and manual-workers were considered
to be definitely inferior beings to brain-workers or contemplative thinkers. Although much
craft work was done by free men, they were degraded by competition with slaves, so that
thetr work was also called base and servile. This. as we have observed earlier. led to the
4eparation of conternplat~vescience from technique, both in Greece and in India. It reduced
the intluence of thinkers on.practica1work, and of practice on thinking.
The patronisation by the rulers, of a group of people, whose profession was to contemplate
and to teach, led to the peculiar development of science during that period. Initially, it led to
the flowering of Greek sciences such as geometry, mechanics, medicine and cosmogonic
system. But, finally, it made Greek science far too speculative and abstract. The abstractions
were totally removed from life. However, as they were formulated by leading authorities and
philosophers of those times, these abstract ideas. generally, came to be accepted as "laws of
nature". Not much attention was paid to people who challenged such ideas, on the basis of
observation. As such, these abstractions became a major stumbling block to the growth of
science, for the next 2000 years.
In India, abstractions certainly grew in physics and cosmogonic systems, but medicine.
chemistry. botany and agricultural science retained strong links with practice. Medicine, in
addition. required the use of proscribed flesh and other substances for healing. The general
approach of the medical practitioners to healing and saving of life disregarded Karma and
other orthodox tenets. This led to their condemnation by the spiritual and legal authorities,
resulting in the stagnation of medical science in India, by about the third to the fourth
century A.D.
It is interesting to note a basic difference between Indian and Greek science in terms of the
influence of existing ideological and religious systems on science. Indian scientific treatises
of this ape always started with obeisance to divinity. ~ u t the
; actual text, except for those on
cosmogony and. to \ome extent, those on medicine (containing ideas of five elements and
three cfoscrs).were free from philosophical interlacing and inspirations. Greek science'of this
period was. however. deeply influenced by the prevailing social philosophy and ideologies,
u i ~ hsome exceptions. such as the works of Democritus and Mppocrates.

History of Science In Greek science. this was the age of questioning. The philosopher-scientists continuously
looked for reasons and causes of things. But, in the absence of experimental tools, and more
importantly, being influenced by the social philosophy of slave society. they sought answers
in parallels with the existing order of society.
The early Greek philosophers of the sixth century B.C., such as Thales, Empedocles and
Pythagoras were exceptions, in the sense that they speculated on what the world was and
how it came to be w~thoutthe intervention of god\. The theory of four elements--earth,
water, air and fire 1s attributed to these Ionian philosophers. We will talk more about their
work in the sections that follow..
Aristotle (4th century B.C.), who was one of the leading Greek philosophers came to occupy
a central place in the history of science. He broke away from the Ionian school by refusing
to consider how the world had been made. In his view, the world always had been as it was
then, and would always be the same, because that was the reasonable way for it to be.
Aristotle built his physical world in the image of an ideal social world, in which
subordination was the natural state. In this world, everything, whether fish in the lower strata
of evolutionary tree or slaves in a Greek city state, knew their place, and for the most part,
kept to it. In this order. inanimate objects moved only when they were out of place and
wanted to return to their original place in the pre-ordained order. For example, a stone when
thrown up in air always returned to its native earth. Or sparks flew upwards, to join the
heavenly fires. Animate objects moved because it was in their nature to do so. Thus, it was
in the nature of a bird to fly in the air, of a fish to swim in water. In this way, he tried to
explain all motion in nature by ascribing it to a predetermined reason or a final cause.
Aristotle never told anyone anything they did not already believe. He explained that the
world as they knew it, was just the world as they knew it. As long'as the world remained the
same, Aristotle's ideas would hold. However, as we shall see, the world did not remain the
same and Aristotle's ideas were challenged. although it took a long period of about 2000
years for this to happen.

Fig.. 3.10: Aristotle'r best personal scientific work lay in biology. He

made some careful studies of marine creatures and of bees and the~r
3.3.1 Developments in Some Areas of Science
We >hall now de\crihc. In hrict. \onie ot the maior devsloprnrnts in some sre;ih of Greek
Geometry and Astronom!
Tlic need to portray an ideal worl:i of perfect forms and proportions led to the
development of geometry by Pythagoras (583-500 B.C.) and Hippocrates of Chios
(about 450 B.C.) (Fig. 3.11). 'The latter occupied himself with the solution of problems
which were unanswered for a long time. such as squaring the circle and doubling the
cube. H e failed in both. but opened the w;ly to study the geometry ofcurves. Eudoxus
(408-355 B.C.)was probably the greatest Greek matliematician and he was able to
explain the motion of sun, moon and plancts by means of sets of concentric spheres,
each rotatingabout an axis fixed in the one outside it (Fig. 3.12). The model wascrude,
and too simple to explain observed facts, even as known at that time. But the sets of
actual metal spheres based on this mode provided the basis for most of the astronomical
instruments for a long time.

Fig. 3.1 1: Five regular geomelrical

solids much studied by the Greeks:
a) tetrahedron: b ) cube: c ) trlahcdron:
d) icosahedron and e) dodecahedron.
In all these solids. the face\ arc equal In
area and in shape. Pythaguras. [he
Greek mathematician and philosopher.
is credited with their discovery.

The Museum of Alexandria was

the first state-supporlcd rescarch
institute in the West which led to
developments in aslronomy.
oplics, mechanics and
mathematics. These werc no1
much improved upon in the next
2W.l years.

Fig. 3.12: Part o f Eudoxus' model o f spheres within spheres, toexplain the motion o f the planets. n e ~ ~ e v i n g
that planetsorbited the earth i n perfect circles, Eudoxusdrew 27concentric spheres around the earth. Each
sphere, with its planet attached, rotated on a different axis. Arrows i n the figure show the rotation o f spheres.

Around 300-200 R.C.. the tradition of geometry which grew up in the scholarly atmosphere
of academies. schools and lyceun~sof Athens shifted to the Museum of Alexandria. The
geometry of Eudoxus was elaborated by Apollonius of Perga (.about 220 B.C.), who worked
out d ~ dccails
e of conic sections-cllipsc, parahla and hyperbola (Fig. 3.13). A large
part of the previous mathematical knowledge was built together into a single body of
knowledge based on deduct~onfrom axioms. by Euclid (about 300 B.C.). This is the
geometry which is still studied in schools today.

The study of astronomy lay between the theoretical and the practical. According to Piato, a
noted Greek philosopher and Aristotle's teacher, it was the 3tudy of an ideal world in the Fig. 3.13: Conic cutr of' Apollon~us:
sky, and the deviations that were observed could be ignored. On the other hand, it was also a ) a cut parallel to the cone'\ ba\e made
important to know the accurate position of stars and planets. As a result. Greek astronomers a circle: b) an oblique cut an ellipse:
C)a slice parallel to a straight line on Ihe
tried to invent complicated models to fit the observations without violating the image of an cone made a parabola: d ) a cul down
ideal, simple and beautiful world. The mathematical basis of astronomy were the spheres ~hroughthe top poinl produced two
of Eudoxus as shown in Fig. 3.12. But for actually working out the planetary motion intersecting lines: e) cutting lhrough the
chne and its mirror image on top
Hipparchus (190-120 B.C.) adopted a flat model, that of 'wheels within the wheels'. He also
resulted iri a hyperbola or double curve.
invented most of the astronomical instruments used for,the next 2000 years. 55

About two hundred years later, Ptolemy (90-168 A.D.) adopted this model in which the
earth was at the centre and the rest of the planets, the sun and the stars revolved around
it (Fig. 3.14). This was to be standard astronomy in Europe till the fifteenth century.

Fig. 3.14: Ptolmny's model of the earth-centred universe. The earth is shown in the cenae. with the four elements,
earth, air, fire and water. Abovefhese elements are the heavenly bodies, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars,
Jupiter and Saturn. Then comes the sphere of fixed stars; beyond that the ninth and the tenth spheres driven by
divinity from which all other spheres derive their motion. Beyond this lay heaven, where 'God and the Elect' lived.

An alternative version, that of the sun at the centre and the earth and other planets moving
around it, was also presented by Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 B.C.) and others. But it was
not accepted because it was thought to be philosophically absurd, and violated everyday
experience. It was, however, transmitted by Arabs, revived by Copemicus (1473-1543) and
finally justified by Galileo (1564-1642), Kepler (157 1-1630) and Newton (1642-1727). You
will read more about this in Units 6,9 and 10.
Another h n c h of science which is, perhaps, the greatest contribution of Greek civilisation
is mechanics. Mechanics developed out of the necessities of imgation, moving of heavy
bodies, ship-building and making military equipment with known tools and methods. As the
invading armies of Alexander came in contact with the craftsmen of the iniddleeastem
countries, a number of inventions such as the pulley, windlass and screw came into use and
were improved upon (Fig. 3.15). Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) aided this process of
building machines by his ideas of forces having to balance each other to keep a body
static (at rest). And his contribution to the study of floating bodies and hydrostatics is
useful even today.

Fig. 3.15: Some mechanical devices used in Greece: a) windlass and pulley for drawing water fran a well;
b) crass-section of a water-raising qrew designed by Archimedes. widely used for imgation. Strip of wqal w m
wrapped in a spiral on the edge of a round wooden bedm. This was then encased in boards. When placed in water
and spun, it caused the water to climb the spiral and gush out.
The other area, in which the Greek developments had a parallel in India, was medicine,
although encouragement for this development in the two cases came from diametrically
different sources. The Carukas and Susruras in India were roaming physiciarls who went
about healing ordinary rural folk and fostered democratP: thinking and world views. Greek
medicine, on the other hand, could continue its olders- because of the support it
received from the aristocracy. In the era when Greek society was declining from the highest
point of its achievement, wealthy citizens could not do without doctors as they led an
increasingly unhealthy life of pleasure and abundance. We find that the Museum of
Alexandria encouraged much research in anatomy and physiology.
HippoeT;ites of Cos is a legendary figure in Greek medicine. His works, probably written
sometime between 450 to 350 B.C., contain a clinical account of many diseases based on Fig. 3.16: The four 'elements' of the
careful observations. Magical or religious causes or cures for diseases are not mentioned. Greek thinker. Empedocles. According
However, the practice of medicine of the original Hippocratic school was superseded by the to Empedocles, the 'primary matter'
doctrine of four humours, firstly put'fonvard by EmpedocIes, an Ionian philosopher (see could change into different substances,
depending upon which primary qualities
Fig. 3.16). His ideas proved very damaging to the practice and theory of medicine. were affecting it. For example. the
primary matter could become earth with
A great doctor of those times, Herophihs (about 300 B.C.) based his work on observation the pair of primary qualitie$, cold and
and experiment. He was the first to understand the working of the nerves, distinguish dry; water, with cold and wet; fire, with
between sensory and motor nerves, and make clinical use of the pulse. Erasistratics (about hot and dry; and air, with hot and wet.
280 B.C.) went further and noted the significance of the peculiar structure of the human
brain. Unfortunately, most of the fine work of this period has been lost in its original form.
But the essence of these findings was picked up and further developed by Galen ( 1 30-200
A.D.) who was born in Asia Minor but practised in Rome. Galen became a great founder of
Arabic and medieval medicine with authority as great as that of Aristotle. He dissected
animals and gained much anatomical knowledge. Galenical physiology described the ebbing
and flowing of spirits, and blood in arteries and nerves, with the heart as the origin of heat,
and the lungs as cooling fans. It provided a comprehensive, though rather unreal, view of
human body. In terms of providing explanation of the phenomena, even Galen could not
break out of the old doctrine of three spirits and souls, a doctrine which blocked any
substantial advance in man's knowledge of his own body for another 1500 years. -
The developments in Greek science show that at all times, these were influenced by two
streams of thought, one trying to understand the actual observations, the other trying to
work out theories and models fitting their views of an ideal world. In the table given below,
we have listed some developments of Greek science in column 2. Identify, to which of the
two kinds of development listed in column I , do they belong.

i) Study of floating bodies, invention of

pulley, water lifting screw, etc.
ii) Model of the universe with the earth at
its centre.
a) Developments based upon the iii) Study of regular symmetric solids and
Aristotelian views of an ideal, geometrical curves.
symmetric and beautiful world. iv) Clinical accounts of diseases, study
of working of nerves, dissection of
animals, etc.
V) The theory of four humours of the
body corresponding to the four
elements in nature.
b) Developments based upon actual vi) The inability to see any other shapes in
observations of the changing world. nature except for the perfect circle or.
sphere. This led to the model of
concentric spheres to explain planetary
vii) Studies of marine creatures and bees,.
and their diseases.
viii) Ideas like 'the world was always as it is
now and will always remain so'.
History pf Science So far, we have described the developments in Greek science in areas like geometry,
astronomy, mechanics and medicine. Another aspect which fascinated the philosophers was
the nature of matter. Philosophical speculations about the nature of matter in the universe
gave rise to parallel theories, in India and in Greece. We will now describe some of these
theories. These ideasmay appear somewhat strange to you. We also know that these are not
valid any more. However, they do reveal our ancestors' curiosity about the world around
them and their attempts to understand it.


The oldest of Indian philosophical systems was Samkhya. The system envisaged that
everything except consciousness evolved out of primaeval matter. According to this
philosophy, consciousness, inert mass and energy were three forms of interdependent and
inter-related existence. In the process of evolution, matter could be neither created nor
destroyed and the sum total of all the three, mass, energy and consciousness, remained the
same. The redistribution of mass and energy gave rise to all the diversity of the material
world, the plants and the animals. Matter was re'cognisable through its five qualities-smell,
taste, touch, colour and sound, corresponding to the five senses. There were five forms of
matter-earth, water, fire, air and empty space.
A parallel to this theory, but possibly of a much later origin (about 600 B.C.), was the
materialistic cosmogony of Thales and others in Greece. Thales formulated the idea that
everything originally came from water, and then earth, air and living things separated out.
To earth and air, mist and fire were added to be called elements from which other substances
were made, like words are made from letters. These elements, as in the case of Samkhya,
had to fulfil two incompatible functions. On the one hand, they stood for actyal observed
phenomenon, such as wind, flood, storm etc., while on the other hand they stood for
qualities such as hot, cold, wet, dry, light, heavy etc.
The distinct contribution of Samkhya as well as the Greek school of thought was that they
had set up a picture of how the universe had come into being and how things happened,
without the intervention of gods and a predetermined design. The weakness of these ideas
lay in their vagueness and their purely descriptive character. By themselves, these ideas
could lead nowhere, nothing concrete could be done with them and there was no practical
application. However, with all their shortcomings, these thoughts represent man's first
stirrings to search for his origins and that of the universe.
A very different way to understand the nature of matter was to stipulate the existence of
atoms. Atoms were thought of as the fundamental building blocks of observed substances. A
particular combination of atoms imparted properties and qualities to substances.
The Indian Vaisesika system, the well known proponent of which was Kanada (about 600
B.C.), considered the smallest particles as dimensionless mathematical points. These points
possessed potential quality of the four elements, earth, water, fire and air, on the basis of
which, they were divided into four categories. At least six atoms of the same category joined
together, with the space in between filled by empty space, to form a complex atom which is
analogous to a chemical element.
The problem of different, heterogeneous atoms joining together was overcome by the Jainas.
Jainas said that when two heterogeneous atoms joined together, the combination gave rise to
a new body. The mechanism of joining was by mutual attraction, one positive, the other
negative. All changes in qualities of compounds were explained by the nature of their
mutual attraction.
While the above shows a high level of intellectual activity, the limitations lay in the
abstraction. The philosophers had no hesitation at all in putting together obviously
contradictory ideas in their abstractions. For example, in their cosmogonic system they
included things they observed in the material world alongwith things they did not observe,
or things they learned from religious texts, or things which had no material basis. Thus, the
Jainas brought in karma and soul within their otherwise materialistic system; and the
Vaisesikas formulated that atoms were set in motion by adrista, i.e performance in the
previous life.
The Greek atomists were, curiously enough, free from these distortions such as ideas of soul,
adrista or karma propounded by Indianatomists. Democritus (about ~ ~ o . B . cimagined
.) the
universe to be made out of small innumerable indivisible particles moving in the void of
empty space. The atoms were unalterable. They were supposed to be of various geometrical
forms to explain their capacity for combining to form all the different things in the world.
Their movement accounted for all visible change.
This atomic theory avoided appeal to pre-ordained harmonies. i.e.. it did not say that the
universe was static, where things worked according to a predetermined design. Instead, it
presented a dynamic univerie where things were not static, but were changing. In this sense.
it remained a heresy, as it challenged the established ideas of Plato and Aristotle.
We cannot consider the Greek or Indian atomism as a part of scientific ideas, in spite of its
brilliance. No conclusions could be drawn from it which could be practically verified.
However, we cannot deny that Greek atomism. with its inherent materialism and
reasonableness did influence the atomism of Gassendi ( 1 592- 1655), Newton ( 1642-1727)
and through them that of Dalton ( 1766-1844), 2000 years later.
In the table given below, on one side, we list some features of Greek science and society,
and on the other side. the corresponding features of Indian science and society in the Iron
Age. We have left out some blank space on both sides which you have to fill. We have Fig. 3.17: Dernocrilus
worked out the first part as an example.
Greek Science Indian Science
a) The Greek society was stratified The Varna system came into being into
into nobles, peasants, craftsmen. India. There were four Varnas. the Brahmins,
merchants and slaves. Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.
b) ............................................................. Most of the developments in science were
free from the influence of the prevailing
............................................................... philosophy and ideas in 1ndia:even though
almost all the works started with a reference
.............................................................. to divinity. They retained their links with
practice and observation, depending less on
.............................................................. mere speculation.
c) The Greek medicine flourished mainly ......................................................................
because of the support it received from ......................................................................
the aristocracy.
d) The Greek cosmogonic system was ......................................................................
made of four elements, air, fire, ......................................................................
mist and earth.
e) ............................................................. The Indian atomists brought in the
notions of soul. karma or adrista in their
theories of matter and the notion of atom.


By the middle of the second century B.C., the Greek empires were collapsing in anarchy and
under the weight of the more vigorous power of Rome. Italy, in the third century B.C., was a
farming country with a good climate and a growing healthy population. By the first century
B.C., the Romans had organised themselves into a powerful military dictatorship, with
popular support. The army went on to conquer the countries of eastern and western
Mediterranean as well as Britain, western Germany and Austria (Fig. 3.18). While the
army became all powerful, the land was ruled by slave owners and wealthy merchants.
The cementing force of the empire was the army, as it was used by the emperor to
collect enough taxes to keep the soldiers from mutinying and choosing another
emperor. The best land wascultivated by the slave gangs from the villas of the wealthy,
while the b r e r areas were left to the pagan natives or to newly settled free slaves from
the villas.
Thus, the mainstay of the economy was loot from the empire by military coercion, and
agriculture by slaves. In such a situation, it is, perhaps, not surprising that there was very
little demand to increase production and to improve the economy through the applications of
new techniques. There was, thefefore, a very limited contribution to culture in the form of
science and arts during the period of the Roman Empire which continued until the second
century A.D.
History d Sekna

- - - A -

Roman Ernpin, -
Fig. 3.18: Roman Empire in second century A.D.

While there was no improvement in techniques and no growth of science in the Roman era,
the existing knowledge was applied to construct buildings for civil and military
administration. Burnt bricks and concrete made from volcanic ash and lime were used to
construct roads, harbours, aqueducts, baths and theatres (Fig. 3.19).
Accumulation of power and wealth in the hands of a few rich men, and general brutalisation
and consequent impoverishment of a population of slaves, lowered the demand for
commodities. This depressed the conditions of merchants and craftsmen still further. With

(c) (dl
Fig. 3.19: a) Roman agriculture. Notice the ploughing and other activhies like sawing wood, malting plough,
basket weaving. Note also a harrow in the background; b) agricultural implements: I) sickle; 2) rake; 3) garden
knife; 4) axe-hoe; c) the aqueducts built of burnt brick and of concrete made f m lime and volcanic ash were
used to carry water across hundreds of kilometres in the Roman Empire. Water pipes passed over the bridge;
d) tools for constructing Roman buildings: 1.5) tongs; 2) trowel for spreading mortar; 3.6) hammer and a
hammer head; 4.7) cutting tools; 8) a mason's square.
Iron Age
no incentwe for sclcnce to develop new techniques, science lost its essential quality of
inquiring into nature. As the Roman Empire was followed by the serf-owning feudal
economy of Europe, thls state of cultured stagnation continued till the fifteenth century.
Europe was engulfed by the Dark Ages and the centre of learning and enlightenment shifted
to the East. You will study more about the developments in Europe and in the East in Units
5 and 6.
You may enjoy reading the following piece from J.D. Bernal's famous book "Science in
History" (page 231), illustrating how social decline leads to the decline of science.
"Classical civilisation was already intrinsically doomed by the third century B.C., if not
earlier. The tragedy for science was that it took so long to die, because in that period most of
what had been gained, was lost. Knowledge that is not being used for winnins of further
knowledge does not even remain-it decays and disappears. At first the volumes (books-
Ed.) moulder on the shelves because very few need or want to read them; soon no one can
understand them, they decay unread, and in the end, as was the legendary fate of the Great
Library of Alexandria, the remainder are burnt to heat the public-bath water, or disappear in
a hundred obscure ways."
- --

3.6 SUMMARY-- - -

In this unit, we have studied the development of science and technology in the Indian and
Greek civilisations of the Iron Age, in the period 1500 B.C., to about 400 B.C. We have seen
that a stratified social structure had emerged in this period, both in India and in Greece,
which affected the nature and growth of science in these societies. We now summarise some
In India, the search for agricultural land and minerals led to the spread of civilisation all
over the Gangetic plain. It took almost a thousand years for the pastoral Aryan tribes to
settle down as agricultural communities. The society changed from a tribal to a more
urban and structured f o m which was relatively free from conflicts. Trade within the
urban settlements grew and commodity production started. These changes were
accompanied by the emergence of a caste system which became rigid as time passed.
Around the same time, a slave society had evolved in Greece.
Initially the period witnessed significant advances in many areas of science like
astronomy, geometry, mechanics, chemistry, botany, zoology and medicine in both the
However, in the rigid stratified social structure, those who worked with their hands got
isolated from the thinkers. The separation of theory and practice had serious implications
for the growth of science. In Greece. it led to an idealist philosophy about the universe
and the world as reflected in Aristotle's ideas. Aristotelian ideas dominated not only
Greek science but also the world science for the next 2000 years.
In India, the scientific practice of medicine adopted by Susrutas and Carakas was an
exception. These travelling mendicants went about healing the rich and poor, regardless
of their caste or creed. Medicine, therefore, suffered much less except for some
aberrations like the theories of thfee humours and five elements.
The middle of the second century B.C. saw the collapse of Greek empire and the rise of
Roman empire. Roman economy was based on loot by military coercion and agriculture
by slaves. There was no incentive to absorb new ideas and improve techniques to
increase production. Therefore, the Roman era.made very little contribution to the growth
of science and culture. This state of cultural stagnation continued in Europe until about
the fifteenth century A.D.


1) In the Roman phase in the Iron Age, existing knowledge was applied to build roads,
aqueducts, theatres etc. There were no improvements in techniques and no new ideas
were developed. Gradually, science lost its spirit of enquiry. What features of social life
led to this stagnation of science?
History of Science

2) Certain concepts and ideas that you studied in the Unit 1, are illustrated by some
instances described in this unit. In the space provided below, write the instances from
this unit that illustrate each one of the following statements.
a) The separation of theory from practice becomes an iinpediment in the growth of

b) The theories ofscience are influenced by the general intellectual atmosphere and
ideas prevailing in the society.

C) New theories or practices which contradict the prevailing social ideas or philosophy
come into conflict with them. They may slowly be wiped out and be revived only
later in a different society.

d) Stability leads to social stagnation and~ventuallyto stagnation in science.

3.8 ANSWERS --

Self Assessment Questions

1) (i) I (ii) B (iii) B (iv) I (v) I (vi) B (vii) B (viii) I (ix) B (x) I.
2) a) F b) T c) T d) T e) F.
3) dl.
4) a) (ii), (iii), (v), (vi), (viii).
b) (i), (iv), (vii).
5) b) The developments in Greek science were greatly influenced by prevailing social
philosophy and ideologies, with only a few exceptions.
c) In India, the physicians healed ordinary rural folk as well as the rich and treated
them on the same footing.
d) The Indian cosmogonic system had five element-arth, fire, water, air and empty
e) The Greek atomists were free from the ideas of soul, adrista or karma. Their
atomic theory presented the picture of a world that was changing.
Terminal Questions
1) a) The Roman economy was based on loot by army ahd agriculture by slaves.
Power and wealth accumulated in the hands of a few, while the majority of the Iron Age
people were poor.
Thus, science had no incentive to improve or to develop new techniques to improve
The practical and manual work was done by lower caste peasants and craftsmen in
India and by slaves in Greece. There was no contact between them and the small
group of thinkers who pursued science and had state patronage. This separation of
practice from theory became an impediment in the growth of science.
In India, the Ayurvedic system of medicine adopted the ideas of the 'tridosas' and
'pancabhutas' under the influence of the cosmogonic speculations. Also in the
atomic theory, the elements of soul, 'karma', 'adrista' were introduced. In Greece,
the Aristotelian views of an ideal world influenced many areas of science as you
have seen in SAQ 4.
The scientific practices of Carakas and Susrutas contradicted the ideas of the
priests in Indian society. By the third or the fourth century A.D., due to the
opposition from orthodox religious ideas and other factors, the Ayurvedic system of
medicine began to rely more on mystical 'causes' than on observations. It is only
now that attempts are being made to give it a scientific basis again.
Similarly, in Greece, Aristarchus of Samos presented a heliocentric (suncentred)
theory of planetary motion, which was not accepted because it contradicted the
prevailing philosophical ideas. It was revived by Copernicus.
The decline of science in the Roman empire is an illustration of this concept.
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Second Urban Civilisation In India
The Indian State
Developments in Technology in the Mauryan Empire
Developments in South India
4.3 The Gupta Period
Social Organisation
Improvement o f Techniques and Crafts
Developments in Mathematics
Developments in Astrono,my
Decline o f the Gupta.Empire
4.4 Age of Conflict
4.5 Summary
4.6 Terminal Questions
4.7 Answers

In Unit 3, we have described the development of science in India until the fourth century
B.C. You have seen how, in this period, the growth of science was helped by the emergence
of urban societies. You will now read about one of the most productive periods in the history
of science, in India. This period started roughly around the fourth century B.C. and lasted for
about eleven centuries. In this period, forest land in northern India was clgared, paving the
way for settled agriculture. Trade and commerce prospered as small kingdoms gradually
gave way to great empires. The empires established uniform laws and practices which
prevailed over a great land mass. A state which looked after its subjects arose and India
settled for a period of peace and prosperity which continued until the seventh century A.D.
This was a period of great developments in science, in India, especially in astronomy and
mathematics. This was also the period of Buddhism and Jainism, the great liberal theologies.
But these theologies declined towards the later part of this period, giving way again to rigid
Hindu caste structure. The struggles and debates related to these religions left a lasting
impression on the development of science. Science finally started to decline as the empires
broke up into small feudal kingdoms, but, fortunately, not before the great Indian scientific
tradition was passed on to the Arabs. The Arabs made their important contribution to science
and India received it in later ages. You will read about Arab contribution to science and
about science in medieval India, in Unit 5.

After studying this unit, you should be able to :
explain the features of the Indian state and the social organisation that helped the growth
of science and technology in the Maurya and Gupta periods,
describe the developments in science and technology in India, from the fourth century
B.C. to the seventh century A.D.,
outline the factors that led to the d e c h e of science in India by the seventh century


We have already mentioned in Unit 3 that, of the sixteen Janapadas in the seventh century
B.C ,Magadha had emerged as the major power (see Fig. 3.4). Thus, the stage was set for a
second urban civilisation to flourish in India, after the decay of the Harappan Civilisation
more than a thousand years ago. This second phase can be dated back to the advent of
Chandragupta. the great Maurya king in the fourth century B.C. The last great Mauryan
emperor. Asoka, assumed the imperial throne about 270 B.C. His empire extended across
the whole of northern India and well into the southern state of present-day Karnataka
(Fig. 4.1).

.................. + Mimr RocC Edict



Fig. 4.1: Empire of B soh (about 274-236 B.C.).

The imperial state-was mainly interested in extending its hold on cultivable land. It acquired
uibal land by conquering small kingdoms. The local population of the conquered lands
sealed down to practise agriculture under the supervision of imperial functionaries who
were often Brahmins. They started using new techniques which were introduced at that time.
There were two types of agricultural land. The first type. which yielded taxes for the state,
had a semi-autonomous local administration, although a sixth portion of the harvest went to
the crown treasury. The second type, called sita land, came directly under crown supervision
and was cultivated by settlement units of 100 to 500 Sudras. They gave a fifth of their
produce to the crown. These did not include a tax for "army rations" and gifts to the king.
The acquisition and maintenance of land on such a large scale required a well trained army,
an ideological and religious superstructure, good agricultural base and mining industry. And
above all. it required a centralised state power which could hold together and expand such
heterogeneous empire. Let us see what the nature of the socio-political organisation ol' siatc
power in the Mauryan empire was (seeFig.4.2).

Fig. 4.2 A great deal of information about Asoka's policies and his times comes from his inscriptions engraved on
rocks, on polished stone pillars and in caves, in ~harostfii+scri~t.
In Kandahar, they are written even in Greek
script and in Greek language. (a) Asokan pillar at Lauriya-Nandangarh: (b) a stone inscription of Asoka's times.
The Golden Age of
4.2.1 The Indian State Science in India
Such a state and ;ts policy is described in detail in Arthasastra. written by Kautilya, the great
minister of Cha~:dragupta.According to him, it was a highly centralised state which was the
principal owner of industry as well as the greatest producer of commodities. The
commodities produced by the state were bought and sold by traders. The traders travelled
across the empire, often using navigable rivers, and even went overseas to Burma, Indonesia
and Sri Lanka to sell their wares. Trade practices and the prices charged by traders were
strictly controiled by the state. Laws regulating revenue collection, and the procedures for
collecting them, from the land as well as from the merchants, were exact and precise. This
large revenue was used to maintain a massive army, of half a million men, which was used
to acquire land, protect the land and the frontiers, and maintain law and order in the vast
empire. The revenue was also used to organise welfare measures for orphans, the aged, the
infirm, widows and pregnant women who had no one else to feed them.
Now the army could conquer land, but, it could not ensure that the conquered people would
voluntarily and peacefully serve the empire and make it prosper. We find that the state used
religion in an extremely intelligent fashion to achieve this.
Brahmins, as agents of the crown, spearheaded the move into the new territories. A process
was initiated whereby tribal deities were equated with standard Aryan gods. New scriptures
were written by Brahmins to bestow re$ect on tribal gods whom they could not otherwise
adopt. New rituals and special dates of the lunar calendar were introduced, which took
account of the tribal customs. Totemic deities such as primaeval fish, tortoise, monkey, bull
etc. were intraduced into the traditional Hindu scriptures as companions of major gods like
Vishnu, or their reincarnations. Further, ideas were propagated that tribal chiefs were also
twice born (dwija), which gave them special high caste status. A caste structure was, thus,
subtly introduced whereby the ruling elite of the tribals were incorporated into the ruling
hierarchy of the empire. All this amounted to assimilation of the tribal hierarchy into the
more accentuated caste-class structure of the empire. The Vaisyas and Sudras newly created
in the tribes, joined the lower-caste community of the peasants and workers of the empire
without an apparent break of their own traditions, culture and religion.
The Brahmins could impose the caste structure quite easily, as they played an important part
in introducing a new mode of agriculture and of commodity production to the tribal people.
They brought plough agriculture to replace slash and bum cultivation or food gathering.
New crops and knowledge of distant markets brought by the Brahmins, gave visions of
higher productivity and prosperity to the people.
These developments had a profound effect on production from land and united the people
i culturally for peaceful living. The developments also increased the wealth of the state.
However, the new religion which evolved over a period of time, started to inhibit the growth
of culture as well as production. This was because it laid emphasis upon superstitions, which
were very much a part of tribal life, and on senseless rituals. The superstitions, which
provided the ideology of the lower castes, in effect, kept them in subjugation. Finally, these
superstitions came to have an adverse effect on the growth of scientific ideas.
It is not surprising that Asoka reacted to the development of this superstitious and ritualistic I Believe nothing
merel-v because you haoe heerr
culture by adopting the teachings of Buddha. Buddhism, in its early form, devoid of rituals told it
and superstitions, stood against oppression and advocated a simple and meaningful life Or hecause it is traditionul
based on reason and compassion (Fig. 4.3). Orbecause you yourself haue
imagined it
Asoka and the later Indian kings provided generous grants to the Buddhist monasteries Do not believe what your
which supported learning and science. Nalanda, the great Buddhist monastery was the forum teacher

i where scholars continuously met and exchanged ideas on medicine. astronomy, humanities
and theology. The Indian imperial state continued to support the monasteries for a long time.
Monasteries, thus, became wealthy institutions and provided funds and capital to traders.
With time, the ascetic simplicity of Buddhism came to be replaced by a more ritualistic
tells you
merely dzct of respect forthe
But whateoer after d u e
examination and analysis
youfind to be conducive to the
religion. While Buddhism provided an initial challenge to the rigid caste laws of the Hindus, good
Hindus possibly had the last say. For, Buddhist religion, in order to gain popularity, the benefit,
the welfareofall beings,
increasingly adopted the ideological as well as the ritualistic praciices of the Hindu religion that doctrine belieueand cling to
of those days. and take it as yoyrguide.

We have described above, the economic and political scenk of the Mauryan empire in some (b)
detail, as the character of this development greatly influenced the application of science. We Fig. 4.3: (a) Image of the Buddha, Gupta
period, 5th century A.D.; (b) teachings of
will now describe, in brief, some developments in technology. But before that, how about Gautama Buddha. Note the scientific
answering an SAQ to test yourself ! approach in his sayings. 67
History of Science

Pig. 4.4: Nalanda, a view of monasteries

Which five mong the following statements reflect thir socio-economic needs of the rising
Mauryan empire that led to the technical developments of those times'? Tick the correc't
choices in the boxes provided alongside.
i) Large scale acquisition and maintenance of land.
ii) Emergence of a centralised state power.
iii) Maintenance of a large well trained army.
iv) Trade within the empire and with foreign lands.
V ) Formation of laws for revenue cclllection.
vi) Development of agriculture and 1111ningindustry.
vii) Emergence of an ideological and religious superstructure.

4.2.2 Ddvelopments in Technology in the Mauryan Empire

W e get a great deal of information about the technical developments in the Maurya period
from the treatise, Arthasastra. In Arthasastra. there are detailed descriptions of military
machines which use the principle of centrifugal forces. However. the ideas to power these
machines with inanimate sources such a s wind, water. steam or electricity, did not exist
There was considerable development in civil engineering. For increasing the productivity of
sitcr land. many forms of irrigation came to be used. Excellent roads were built throughout
the empire to Facilitate mobility of the army and the traders. Corduroy roads were built over
swamps using trimmed logs. For example. in Bihar, such roads ran for miles even in the

Fig. 4.5: (icnclal \ icu o l Snncl11S~upa.N o ~ i c c~ l i cinlr~zillcuorhm.~n\liipcrn 1I1t. pillufs wllic'h spe;~hsvolumcs
ahoul Ihc Iiulni~n;Irtl\rl-> ilntl \hill tlitrw ~il;ic\.
seventh century A.D. Most'of the buildings were made of wood. Asoka, possibly for the The Golden Age of
Sciince in India
first time in India. introduced stones to,construct buildings. Stones were polished to a
mirror-like finish a n d used for t h e construction of pillars and arches (Fig. 4.5).
There was some development of rural industries also. Small industries and relevant
technology came into being near the sira lands for husking of grain, pressing of oilseeds,
cardi,ng of cotton and wool. spinning of yam, grading and.processing of wool, manufacture
of blankets and shaping of timbers into planks and beams. The concept of factory production
took shape, probably for the first time. as the above commodities were produced under the
direct supervision of the superintendent of the "crown store houses". Local labour was
seasonally engaged. when agricultural operations were slack. The books showed meticulous
recording of normal loss of every,kind of material at each state of processing, average outpuc Fig. 4.6: Arthasastra mentions
of efficient labour, final weight or measurement of the finished product etc. These records many rural industries such as
were used to control production. carding of wool. Carding was a,
scraping process applied t o
The greatest contribution to the advancement of technology was. perhaps, made in the area lower-grade wool. Spreading
the wool on wicker frames,
of metallurgy and metal working. The shifting of the seat of power from the north-west to workers untangled it with wire
Magadha, was mainly due to the increasing demand for iron, copper. tin, lead and other scrapers.
metals. The metals were needed for making weapons and ploughshares. the two essential
pillars of the Mauryan state. as well as for manufacturing other goods o t trade. There are
careful, though brief, descriptions in the Arthasastra for reducing and smelting ores.
Distinction between different ores, in terms of their appearance and other properties, and
the corresponding distinction in processing techniques are elaborated. Metallurgy of making
alloys was also developed. The finest of iron ores from different parts of the empire,
especially the south. were brought for making alloy steels. Swords made from these alloys
were sold in many countries, including Greece.
We are list~ngbelow some of the needs of the Imperial State. Indicate against each
statement. the ccchnical innovations that accompanied each of these :
a) Better mobility for the traders and army.
b) Increasing the productivity of land.

cI Processing agricultural products to make anicks for consumption and trade.

d ) Making weapons and ploughshares.

We, thus, find that in certain areas like rural industries, civil engineering, metallurgy and
mineral engineering, there were remarkable advances in the Mauryan empire. We shall now
see what was happening in the other parts of India, especially in southern India in this

4.2.3 Developments in South India

Asoka's reign was followed by a fragmentation of the empire into small kingdoms, tom by
bitter rivalry. The next major empire to emerge was that of the Kushanas. This empire,
which dates back to the first century B.C.. incorporated regions not only of northern and
north-westem India but also of Central Asia and what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Under the reign.of Kanishka (second century A.D.). the empire extended east as far as parts
of Bihar and into central India as far as the river Narmada. In southern India, a few powerful
kingdoms of Satavahanas. Kshatrapas and Vakatakas came into being at about this time.
This was one of the most flourishing periods in the history of crafts and commerce in
I>outhcm India. The ins~riptionsof thc period mention weavers. golds~nilhs,dycrs,jcwellcrs.
sculptors and workers in metal and ivory: indicating that these crafts &ere well dzvelcped. Fig. 4.7: ~k~~~empires in lndia,
Iron tools and artefacts like ladles, razoy, axes, hoes, sickles, ploughshares etc. have h e n ' about 150 A.D.
found in the Karimnagar and Nalgonda districts of the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh
(Fig. 4.8). Coins of lead, copper, bronze, silver and gold have also been found. Many
'of these are from Satavahana period indicating the progress they had made not only in
1 the metallurgy of iron, but also of brass, zinc, antimony etc. Cloth making, silk weaving
and making of luxury articles of ivory, glass, beadset=. was also developed. Dyeing was
a thriving craft in some south Indian towns. Brick built dyeing vats, dated first tathird
century A.D., have been excavated at Uraiyur and Arikamedu in Tamilnadu. The
production of oil increased because of the use of oil wheel.
Extensive trade was carried out by sea. The knowledge that monsdons aided sailing. great])
helped the sea-faring traders. Iron and steel articles, including cutlev, were exported to
African ports. Muslin, pearls, jewels, precious stones and spices were exported to Rome.
This thriving trade led to the prosperity of Satavahana towns.
However, these empires declined from the third century onwards. The great age of the
Indian empires reached its peak with the advent of the Gupta dynasty, at about the
beginning of the fourth century A.D. We will now describe the social organisation in the
Gupta period and see how it helped the growth of science and technology, in India, in those


The Gupta empire expanded most in terms of its territorial coverage of northern, southern,
Fig. 48: 110n tools and other objects eastern and western India as well as in terms of cultural development during the reign of
from the graves at varioussites in South Chandragupta II ( 380-415 A.D.) (see Fig. 4.9). It is worthwhile that we should consider a
India. Note the sickles ?nd daggers.
axes, arrow-heads,spear-heads, spear.
few characteristic features of this period of about 100 years. You will then be able to
sword, trident, and the tripod. understand the development of what may rightly be called the peak of the Golden Age o f .
science in India.

G u m Empim -----


Fig. 4.9: Gupta empire at the close of fourth century A.D.

4.3.1 Social Organisation

In the Gupta empire, the main mode of production was still agriculture. The Gupta kings
continued the land acquisition started by the Mauryans. Samudragupta conquered a number
of forest kingdoms in the valleys of the Ganges, Narmada and Mahanadi. The pattern of
land settlement in this period was, however, very different from that of the Mauryan-s, Stale
control and oknership of the cleared land was greatly reduced and land passed into private
ownership. New laws were enacted to allow individuals to administer land and collect .
taxes, irrespective of whether they tilled the land or not. Most of the Gupta kings,
irrespective of their individual religious faith, were secular as far as the state was
coricerned. Buddhism, Jainism and traditional Hindu institutions were all supported by the
state though grants and patronage.
Lineage which had determined one's position in society, gave way, to a certain extent, to
one's property status. Thus, Brahmins lost their preeminence. Importance of agricultufal
and craft production meant some improvement in the condition of the Sudras. In general,
what one did in society became important. Even Brahmins were obliged to take up
occupations other than performance of religious rites.
This relaxation of rigid state control of the previous era had a liberating influence initialiy,
as it encouraged individual initiative. It heralded a certain decline in the hold of the
Brahmins and that of the rigid 'varna' system over agricultural society.
So far, we have descrjbed the nature of social organisation in the Gupta period. We find that
the social structure in that period was very different from the days of the Mauryan empire.
We shall now tell you about the tremendous improvement in techniques and crafts that took
place in the Gupta empire.

4.3.2 Improvement of Techniques and Crafts

In this period, there was a spurt in agriculture, as new techniques and seeds were introduced.
More importantly, the crafts greatly improved in terms of quality as well as variety. We shall
discuss the improvements in agriculture and crafts in this section. We shall also tell you how
the growth in trade helped this process.
Pepper and spices were grown for export as well as domestic consumption. A wide variety
of crops like rice, wheat, barley, sesame, pulses, beans and lentils, vegetables such as
cucumbers, onions, garlic, pumpkin, and betel were grown. New fruits like pears and
peaches were introduced for the first time. All this did not take place at random or as a
matter of chance. There were proper manuals which gave information on the type and
quality of soil required for each plant, various plant diseases, the distances between plants as
well as sowing techniques (e.g., working of the soil before sowing). These manuals also
deseribed techniques for processing grain, vegetables and fruits. As a wide variety of soil
types had to be cultivated, new varieties of agricultural implements also appeared. Weights
and designs of ploughshares for different types of soil were fixed and the use of iron for
making agricultural implements became widespread.
Rapid strides were made during this era in metallurgical and weaving crafts. Rust-proof iron
and copper alloys were found and worked into intricate articles for civilian as well as
military purposes (Fig. 4.10). The quality of the articles was so good that they were widely
exported, even as far as Africa. In the design of these articles, there was, to an extent,
Greco-Roman and Central Asian influence. However, on the whole, they had a local
In weaving, techniques were perfected for the making of cotton and silk materials. '
Manufacture of dyes and their widespread use in colouring textiles came into practice.
Indian textile materials, especially from Varanasi and Bengal became famous for their light
weight and fine texture. The textiles became popular in the West and became an important
commodity for export and trade.
Guilds or 'shrenis' of artisans in this new situation of reduced state intervention, became
powerful and important. They enjoyed a great deal of independence and often drew up
contracts among individuals, and even entered into agreements with state authorities. The
'shrenis' borrowed capital from individuals and paid them back with interest. This gave a
tremendous impetus to improve the crafts. Fig. 4.10: Iron Pillar at Mehrauli, Delhi.

We also find that the improvements in crafts were greatly helped by growing trade.
The importance of direct producers became greater as internal and external trade reached
unprecedented volume and proportions.
Opening up of previously inaccessible and uninhabited regions, organisation of better
transport, communication and trade routes helped the growth of trade. The existence of a
huge market, spread over a vast empjre, gave rise to extensive cirkulation of money through
a flourishing trade. For merchants, just as for artisans, there existed associations which were
also known as shrenis. The main trade routes were based around the rivers Ganges and
Indus. The state still supervised the influx and sale of commodities. Internal trade was
augmented by rapid development of foreign trade, actively encouraged through the foreign
diplomatic contacts established by the Kushanas, the Satavahanas and the Guptas.
Improvement in navigation by the Indians, especially using the knowledge of monsoons, and
Fig. 4.11: Ancient trade routes.
a new design of seaworthy ships played an important role in this. The Indians traded with
Arabs, the Mediterranean countries, especially Rome, Africa, south-east Asian countries
such as Java, Sumatra and Sri Lanka. The existence of these associations too, helped the
growth of trade (Fig. 4.11).
The above description gives the picture of an Indian society, where commodity production
and exchange were in full swing due to an expansion of internal market as well as foreign
trade. These activities demanded new techniques of production. new mathematics and
numbers to facilitate administration, and new methods of construction, communicarion and
navigation. What is important is that this social demand for new technologies took place in
an atmosphere where rigid state control of a previous era had been relaxed i.1 favour of
individual initiative. The old ruling elite was, to an extent, giving way. And there was a
certain amount of social mobility that possibly encouraged contacts between the literate and
illiterate strata ~f the society. It was a society where the old caste system still prevailed,
though somewhat weakened, and where a new caste system, which was not.yet oppressive,
came into existence, on the basis of division of labour.
It is in this situation that great developments took place in India, in the fields of mathematics
and astronomy. We will describe the'se developments in the next section. But, before
reading further, you may like to answer the following SAQ.
a) List at least three features of the social organisation in the Gupta Empire, that led to a
great'improvementin science and technology.

b) Which four of the following innovations in techniques and crafts belong to the Gupta
period? Put a tick mark in the boxes given alongside.
i) Building with cement and cancrete.
ii) Using new techniques and implements fot sowing, growingand
processing a wide variety of crops, fruits, vegetables and spices.
iii) Making rust-proof iron and copper alloys.
iv) The use of wind-mills and water-mills.
v) Making textiles of light weight and fine texture, dyeing cloth.
vi) Using bronze ploughshares. iIl
vii) Improvement in navigation resulting from better ships and a knowledge of
The Coklen Age of
4.3.3 Developments in Mathematics S i n c e in India
w e have seen that the tradition of mathematics in India goes back to antiquity. We have
already rnentloned Sulv,: sco:7itr:? .n f ,nlrL 2 dnd ?. The !ineagc sontinucb through :he jslna
mathemat~clanbwho made great contributions over a long period between 5 0 B.C. and XKJ
A.D. It is possible that with the development of contact with the Greeks. Indian mathematics
came to influence and was also influenced by the Greeks. Further, the Jaina tradition which
spread from north to south India In the Gupta period also came into contact with the
mathematical schools of Mysore and Ujjain. Whatever be the exact mode of development,
what emerged in the Gupta period is a powerful school of arithmetic, algebra and numerals.
The formulations became the basis for astronomical calculations to the extent that the great
astronomers of the period such as Brahmagupta, Varahamihira and Aryabhatta were known
as mathematiclans as well as astronomers. The tradition, however, did pot end in the Gupta
period but continued well into the days of Bhaskara (twelfth century A.D.). It also travelled
west and greatly influenced Arab mathematics. Let us see what developments had taken
place in mathematics.
Mathematics of the Jainas
The Jainas attached gre'at importance to mathematical proficiency in their religious
teachings. Works, such as Srhananga-surra ( I st century B.C.), Suryaprajnapri,
Bhadrahahavi Samhira (300 B.C.), Kserrasamasa by Umasvati (150 A.D.) and others, deal
at great length with mensuration, surds, fractions, permutations and combinations, geometry,
law of indices, classification of numbers etc. These subjects and the various technical terms
used by the Jainas later passed on into the mathematical works of scholars, irrespective of
their religious beliefs. We shall now describe some of the important features of the Jaina
mathematics in brief.
I In mensuration, they worked out the relations between the diameter, circumference, arc and
chord of a circle (Fig. 4.12). They also worked out solutions to find approximate value of a
surd. We find that the Jainas used large and complicated arithmetical factors. They
t frequently resorted to approximation i n dealing with mixed numbers. Whenever the
fractional part was greater than +, it was replaced by unity, when less than+, it was
I neglected. Thus, 3 15089 was used in place of 3 15089 and 3 18315 in place of 3 1814 g.
In Bhagavari-surra ( I st century B.C.). Jainas speculated about the possible numbers of
i combinations out of 'n' fundamental categories, taken one at a time ( ekaka-samyoga),two
at a rlme (dvlka-samyoga), three at a time (trika-surnyoga),or more at a time. In all cases,
they succeeded in finding the permutation and combination formulas known to us today. A B

The Jainas could find formulas like

", =n,
"cC?= -,
I X 2
Fig.4.12: A circle. with its centre a t 0
n(n -- 1) (n.-2) diameter AB, chord CD and arc AE.
C, =
1x 2x 3
"p, = n,
"P, = n(n -1)
"p,.: c(n - i) (n - 2)
I An implicit basic formulation used in all Jaina work on numbers is the modem law of
amx an= a(m+n),and (am)"= am"
where m, n may be integral or fractional.
Algebra in lndia
As a distmct branch of mathematics, algebra appeared from about the time of Brahmagupta The Jaina notation for a negative
(about 598 A.D.). Indian algebraists, possibly for the first time in history, used abbreviations number. say -2. was. 2.
of names of colours or gems, as symbols of unknown quantities. and operations. like
powers, roots etc. Some of these notations are shown in the Table 4.1 They distinguished
negative quantities by a do!. If a ntimber had no dot. it was supposed to be positive.
Tabb 4.1: Some pment day mathematical notations with the corresponding ancient symbols.

They had classified algebraic equations into three groups:

i) equations in one unknown,
ii) cquations in several unknowns.
iii) equations with products of unknowns.
Solutions of linear and quadratic equations wcre known to them. They also knew how to find
solutions for indctcrminate cquations of the first and second degrce with more than one
unknown. such as

and ax2 + c = yZ.

Solutions of highcr dcgree equations were also attempted by them.
Apart from algebra, possibly the greatest contribution of ancient Indian civilisation was the
invention of numerals. The necessity for numerals and numerical notation by words and
letters had arisen when human beings started dealing with very large and very small
numbers, such as in astronomy and in precision measurements of precious metals. We have
alfeady'pointed out that the expansion of trade and navigation in this age promoted these
Fig. 4.13 Sketch of an Indus scale. arkas of science. Human beings could no longer express their trading exchanges, number and
distyce of stars or even number of days denoting the periodicity of a star by vertical strokes
one after the othcr as was the custom since the timcs of Harappan civilisation (Fig. 4.13).
Some of the numeral notations used in this period, namely the Kharosthi and Brahmi
systems, are shown in Table 4.2. The Kharosthi numerals are found in the Asokan, Saka,
Parthian and Kushana inscriptions of the period from the fourth century B.C. to the second
ccntury A.D. You will notice numbers only upto 300 in this system, starting with 1 upto 10,
then multiples of 10 upto 100, then 200 and 300. Intermediate numbers were written on the
additive principle. Some examples are given below:

numbers :

Can be written as : 2 + 20 4+70 2+20+100 4+70+200

Kharosthi symbols :

You could try writing some other numbers using the Kharosthi numerals ! Isn't it fun? The
Brahmi system which goes up to 20,000 is more sophisticated and uses more abstract
symbols. But both these systems are very cumbersome when compared with the decimal
system that we use today.
Table 4.2: Numerals in the Kharosthi and Brahmi systems.. Thc Cddcn Age d
&kna in I d i

The decimal or zero system was first found in a Gurjara grant-plate inscription of ,595 A:D.
and, later, in other stone inscriptions from Gwalior, Mahipala, Bauka etc. It,seems to have
been used by contemporary and later astronomers who continuously improved it. Arabs
adopted this system and greatly improved upon the earlier numerals, so much so that today
these numerals are called Arab numerals or numbers.
In India. the numerals were expressed by names of things, beings or ideas. The word-names
were selected by considering their association with numbers. For example,
i) Cipher, zero or 0 was expressed by kha, akasa, ambara, sunya,
ii) 1 by earth synonyms, like bhu, dhara, prithvi, adi etc. or by moon synonyms, like
indu, chandra etc.,
iii) 2 by yama, asvin (twins), paksa (two wings of bird) or kara (two hands) etc..
I iv) 3 by (hi) guna, (tri) jagata, agni, rama etc.,
v) 4 by veda, samudra, etc.
vi) 5 by bhutas (elements), indriya (sense organs) or sara.
The way of writing large numbers was quite complicated. Words were compounded'to
express large numbers. The word numerals were read in the verse from left to right.
However, the numbers they represented were arranged from right to left. For example, the
number 14400 was written as
When represented numerically from right to left, it would read 1 4 4 0 0. Similarly, we have
shown other examples in Table 4.3. You will find someword-names of the numbers 6 t o 9
in this table.
Table 4.3


I nova-vasu-guna-rasa-rasah
2 srjara-yam-yam-dvi
3 sunva-hi-panclio-yam
4 vosu-vedo-yam-kha-dhara
Fill in the blank spaces in Table 4.3, writing the number or the word as required.
You may like to write a few more numbers in the language of our forefathers!
Thus, we see that, for the first time, a system was being worked out so that numbers could
be expressed as words, in writing or in speech.
In this section, we have hied to give you a brief glimpse into the major advances in
mathematics that took place about 1500 to 2000 years ago. Let us now read about the
developments in astronomy which were also very impressive.

4i3.4 .Developmentsin Astronomy

While there is no doubt that great advances were made in astronomy during the Gupta
period, it is difficult to assign exact chronological order to discoveries and theories, or to
assess the influence of earlier works of Indian and Greek origin in this field. The source of
most information is commentaries by later astronomers, who very often attributed their own
work to earlier sages in order tagaip acceptability by the contemporary Brahmin law
makers. An assessment of the exact stage of knowledge is further complicated by the fact
that scientists, again to gain social acceptability, mixed all kinds of irrelevant and imaginary
religious characters (such as Rahu and Ketu) and causes with their otherwise impeccable
scientific theories.
We have seen in Unit 3 that the origin of Indian astronomy can be traced to the Vedic times.
These have been described in texts called Siddhantas. The Indian astronomy of those times
recorded accurate observations of the sun, moon and planets. It could not, however, build a
rational and convincing theory of how the planetary system worked.
Aryabhatta, born in 476 A.D., was the greatest astronomer of the Gupta period. It was his
fm belief that the earth was rotating, and the heavens resting. He also gave a scientific
explanation for the occurrence of eclipses as opposd to the prevailing ideas that Rahu and
Ketu caused eclipses.
hother great achievement to Aryabhatta's credit was of higonometric
tables. He computed trigonomehic tables geometrically and used the values of 'sine' and
'cosine' in his astronomical calculations. Besides these, he developed formulas for the sum
of arithmetic and geomehic series, and worked out the sum of series such as Z n2and n3.
Aryabhatta was followed by Varahamihira (born 505 A.D.), who recorded the works of
Aryabhatta and older astronomical findings in his classic work Brihatasamhita. The problem
with Varahamihira was that he attempted to raise astrology to the level of scientific
astronomy. This was possibly due to the pressures exerted on him by the Brahmin law
makers. Varahamihira, a Brahmin himself, was employed in the king's court. For him to be
able to continue with his work on astronomy, he had to gain the favour of priests and the
king. He was, possibly, in an awkward position and had to reconcile h e demands of science
and the decrees of the rishis which were deemed to be infallible. Thus, he included astrology
as one of the three main components of his astronomical treatise. While he worked out the
horoscopes of the kings and princes to earn a living, his scientific training asserted itself
whenever possible, without sacrificing his social standing.
For example, after describing the natwe of the two eclipses, according to the prevailing state
of observation and on fairly scientific grounds, he complained to those who did not know
this. He said, "However, common people are always very loud in proclaiming the Head
(Rahu) to be the cause of an eclipse, and they say, 'if the Head were not to appear and w e n
not to bring about an eclipse, the Brahmins would not at that moment be taking an
obligatory washing'."
One may sympathise with Varahamihira for the frustrations and tensions he had to bear. But
the practice that he introduced, of bringing on par science and non-science to explain natural
phenomenon, most probably blocked any significant growth of Indian astronomy after
Aryabhatta. For, in another hundred years time, even the astronomers did not object to the
Rahu-Ketu explanatiori of eclipses. Brahmagupta, (born 598 A.D.), an otherwise excellent
scientist, proclaimed in Brahmasphuta-siddhanta,"Some people think that the eclipse is not
caused by the Head (Rahu). This, however, is a foolish idea, for it is he in fact who eclipses.
. . The Veda which is the word of God from the mouth of Brahma, says that the Head
eclipses". He made this statement, of course, with full knowledge that he was going against
the scientific writings of Aryabhatta, Varahamihira and Srisena. He maintained that if Rahu The Golden Age of
Science i n India
etc. were considered illusory, as was done by Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, "then one will
not be blessed with heavenly bliss. . . . he then stands outside of the generally acknowledged
dogma and that is not allowed".
We find that the compromises between science and non-science, which the Indian
astronomers after Aryabhatta increasingly practised, took the real scientific challenge out of
Indian astronomy. Astronomy gave way more and more to astrology, and what was, indeed,
one of the most promising schools of science in the world, became a victim of the pressures
of politics and dogma. This is best exemplified when one considers the fate of one of the
most brilliant suggestions of Aryabhatta, that the earth rotated while the heavens stood still.
Atharvaveda invoked ritual metaphysics to maintain that the earth was motionless. Anything
which went against this statement was heretical. Aryabhatta, from that point of view, was a
heretic. Modem historical research shows that a whole series of astronomers including
Varahamihira, Brahmagupta and Lalla either ignored the above statement of Aryabhatta or
deliberately misinterpreted it. They wanted to show to their Brahmin masters that they were
good Hindus who firmly believed in the Vedas and the geocenmc (earth-centred) universe.
Some opinion today even raises the possibility of deliberate tampering of manuscripts to
erase any mention of a heliocentric (suncentred) hypothesis.
In the table given below, which works of astronomy given in column 2 are attributed to the
astronomers mentioned in columnl. List the works against each astronomer's name.

a) Aryabhatta i) Eclipses are caused by Rahu and Ketu.

ii) Tbe earth rotates and the heavens are
I b) Varahamihira iii) The earth is motionless and the sun,
t moon and the planets move around it.
C) Brahmagupta iv) Eclipses are caused by the shadows of
earth or moon.

The glorious phase in Indian science did not last forever. Its end was signalled by the decline
of the Gupta empire which we will now describe, in brief.

4.3.5 Decline of the Gupta Empire

I By the second half of the fifth century A.D.. the Gupta Empire got considerably weakened.
The Huns attacked from the north and occupied not only Punjab and Rajasthan, but eastern
I Malwa and a good portion of central India. Inscriptions of Huns have been found in central
India. Internally, the Governors appointed by the Gupta kings tended to become
independent. By the beginning of the sixth century A.D., they had started issuing land grants
in thtir own right. Especially, the loss of western India deprived the Guptas of the rich
revenues from trade and commerce. Maintenance of a large professional army and the
practice of land grants, for religious and other purposes, became more and more difficult
with depleted economic resources. As the economy began to break down, the demand for
crafts and commodities was greatly reduced, leading to many of the skilled workers taking
up non-productive professions. The migration of a guild of silk-weavers from Gujarat to
Malwa in 473 A.D. is one such instance.
Thus, both internal and external factors, as described above, combined and led to a decline
of the Gupta empire. This fragr?ented empire could hardly provide the social and intellectual
milieu for the growth of science. With the decline of Gupta empire, the Indian society
entered a long phase of turmoil and conflict. The only exception was the Chola empire in
southern India, where the techniques and crafts prospered once again, as in the Gupta
period. We will now describe in brief, the development in India upto the time that marks
the advent of Islam.


The period between 750 to 1000A.D. saw.a struggle for domination between the Pala
empire in north-east, PI-dbhara empire in the north-west and the Rashtrakutas in the Deccan
who also controlled territory in north and south India at various times. By the ninth century,
Chola kings had consolidated their power in southern India by-defeating the Pal1avas;the
Chalukyas. the Pandyas and the Rashtralcutas.
In northern India, this period was a period of stagnation and decline. The collapse of the
The Sassarud dynasty and Roman and Sassanian empires, with which India had a flourishing and profitable trade, led
the Persian ehpiie (the present-
nay fmm 227-637 A.D. to a serious setback to trade and commerce. This was accompanied by the rise of small
fiefdoms within the empire who were constantly on the look out for asserting their
independence. The small fiefdoms encouraged an economy in which villages or groups of
villages tended to become largely self-sufficient, thus discouraging trade.
The caste system again became more firmly entrenched, exalting the privileges of the
Brahmins and emphasising the social and religious disabilities of the Sudras. A large '
number of castes, such as potters, weavers, goldsmiths, musicians, barbers, road-makers,
and others practising similar crafts were regarded as lowly. The intellectual effort was
directed towards justifying and maintaining the rigid caste system. The general decay in
society is also reflected in the position of women during that period. They were considered
mentally inferior and denied the right to study Vedas. The marriageable age of girls was
lowered from sixteen or seventeen years in the Vedic period to six or eight years, thus,
destroying the opportunity for their personal development.
However. even in this state of general decay, there were some remarkable individual efforts.
Aryabhatta I1 (about 950 A.D.) made significant contribution to astronomy and
mathematics. ~haskaraI1 (born 1114 A D.) wrote his fkmous malhematical-asuonomic:il
work Siddhanta-Shiromani which is divided into four parts, Lilavati, Bijaganita,
Ganitadhyaya and Gotadhyaya (see Fig. 4.14).

Fig. 4.14: A-page from Lilavati, as reconstructed in recent times showing the application of a formula to calculate
the total cross-sectional area when a block of wood is cut in four places.

With this, we end $e story of a remarkable phase in the development of science in ancient
India. If you want to know more details about these advances, you could read some of the
books listed at the end of this block.

We have seen, in this unit, that a powerful centralised state had emerged in India by the
fourth century B.C. The rising state not only needed land for agriculture but also the
methods to improve agricultural produce. They needed mineral resources to make
agricultural tools, as well as to make weapons for the huge army that was maintained to
consolidate the empire. In this process, they subjugated the tribal people and too!: over
their land. They also needed the help of the mbals for tilling the land and exploiting the
resources. For this, they assimilated the tribals and a c$tural synthesis took place, leading
to a flexibility in social relations.
The Golden Age of
e The period also saw the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism, with their liberal Science in India
philosophy and outlook.
These developments provided a stimulus to the growth of science and technology in the
Maurya period. There was significant improvement in various techniques and crafts.
However, the Mauryan empire declined following Asoka's reign.
The period from about the first century B.C. to the second century A.D. was one of the
most flourishing periods in the history of crafts and commerce in southern India.
In the Gupta period, the highly centralised state power gave way to a more flexible and
local administration. The artisans and traders had their guilds and were represented in the
local administration. The Gupta kings made land grants to the Brahmins on a large scale
which resulted in the emergence of priestly landlords. These social changes led to
initiative at local level. Thus, they provided an incentive for increasing agricultural output
and introducing new crafts and techniques. But, this also resulted in lowering the status of
the local tribal peasant.
Mathematics and astronomy made major advances as revealed in the works of Jaina
mathematicians and astronomers like Aryabhatta. The Gupta craftsmen distinguished
themselves by their work in iron and bronze. The Iron Pillar (dated around 400 A.D.), at
Mehrauli in Delhi, is a testimony of their technological skill.
With the decline of Gupta empire, the development of science suffered a setback.
Hereafter, there were a few advances made solely by individual efforts.


Give short answers in three or four lines.

1) What was the difference between the socio-political organisation of the state during the
Maurya and the Gupta periods?

2) Which unscientific practice led to the decline of astronomy in India?

I 3) What features in Indian society led to the decline of science in the post-Gupta period?

Self Assessment Questions
1) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (vi).
2) a) Building of corduroy roads.
b) Introduction of plough agriculture and use of many forms of irrigation.
c) Technology for husking grain, carding cotton and wool, spinning yarn etc.
d) Metallurgy and metal working.
3) a) i) State control was greatly relaxed and individual initiative was encouraged.
ii) In general, instead of one's lineage, property status and what one did in society
became important.
iii) Importance of agricultural and craft production led to an improvement in the
condition of manual-workers like peasants and Sudras.
b) (ii), (iii), (v), (vii).
History ot Science 4) 10248, nova-svara-guna-hhuta
5) a) (ii), (iv).
b) (iii), (iv).
c) (i), (iii).
Terminal Questions
1 ) The state was highly centralised in the Maurya period, whereas in the Gupta period the
rigid state control was relaxed and individual initiative was encouraged.
2) The unscientific practice of treating astrology at the same level as aShOnOmy.
3) i) The emergence of small fiefdoms which encouraged a self-sufficient village
economy and discouraged trade.
ii) The caste system became rigid and firmly entrenched.
[Note : You could expand these answers].

algebra :branch of mathematics, dealing with properties of, and relationship between
quantities by means of general symbols
alloy :mixture of metals
anarchy: absence of government, disorder
anatomy: science of structure of living organisms
archaeological: related to the study of ancient human societies, especially prehistoric,
usually by digging the sites
arithmetic: the science of numbers
artefacts: products of human art and craftsmanship
astronomy: science of the planets, stars and'other heavenly bodies
axle : the slender bar or rod, on or with which the wheel revolves
barbarian: less civilised persc,n
botany: the scientific study of plants
brewing :making of beer, wine by boiling and fermentation
carding of cotton: removing seeds from cotton
centrifugal force: o~:rwardforce acting on a body rotating in a circle round a central point
chemistry: science of the nature of matter and the changes it undergoes
classification: arranging in different categories
commodity production: production of goods for hade only
constellation: a definite region of the sky mapped by a group of stars
corduroy roads: roads made of wooden logs, especially in swampy and marshy places
cosmogonic systems: theories about the origin of the universe, earth and the world
cuneiform: writing in shokes, impressed by a wedge-shaped object on clay tablets, seals,
stone pillars etc.
diagnosis: identifying patient's disease by the symptoms
dynamics of a society: changes in society and all the forces operating in society
embryology: science of development of unborn or unhatched offspring
emetic :medicine that causes vomiting
empirical: relying on observation and experiment
evolutionary tree: a diagram depicting various stages of evolution
fermentation :a chemical change brought about in' substances by living organisms (yeast,
bacteria etc.), giving off gases, heat etc.
Refdom: small Feudal states The Golden Age of
Science in India
geocentric: model of the universe in which the earth is at the centre and other heavenly
bodies move around it
geometry: mathematical study of properties and relations of lines, surfaces and solids in
heliocentric: model of the solar system in which the sun is at the centre and the planets
move around it
heredity: sum of characteristics inherited from parents
heresy: opinion contrary to the accepted doctrine on any,subject
hierarchy: graded organisation
hieroglyphics : writing in which the figure of an object stands for a word
horticulture: cultivation of plants, especially in gardens
hypothesis: assumption or supposition made as a basis for investigation
ideology: ideas characteristic of a class or ideas at the basis of some economic or political
innovations: bringing in new changes
lyceum: teaching place
means of production: land, machines and methods used for making various goods of use
and consumption
mechanics: science of motion of rigid bodies, causes of motion, properties of materials etc.
medieval: of the Middle Ages (around 5th century A.D. to 15th century A.D.)
metallurgy: art of working metals, especially extracting metals from ores
metaphysics: theoretical philosophy of being and knowing
monarchy: government under one king or one sovereign ruler
morphology: study of form and structure of animals and plants
natural history : study of animal or vegetable life, collection of facts about natural objects
nomadic: wandering from place to place
objective: dealing with facts, independent of feelings or opinions
oil wheel: device for extracting oil from seeds
ores: mixture of minerals found in nature from which metal can be extracted
pastoral life: life spent in rearing herds of animals
perspective: view
physics : the study of properties of matter and energy
physiology: science of the normal functions of living organisms
pitch : hard dark substance obtained from distillation of coal tar or turpentine
primitive: ancient, undeveloped
prognosis: forecast of the probable course of disease
purgative : laxative medicine, serving to purify the digestive system
reagents: substance used to cause reaction
reducing the ores: conversion of ores, especially metal-oxide ores by heating with coal
sexagesimal Bystem : a system based on multiples of the number sixty
slash and burn cultivation: preparing land for c u l t i v ~ ~ i uby
n ~ ~ : t i nand
g burning trees
smelting: extracting metal from ore by melting
stagnation: state of inertia; inactive, dull or slow moving state
technique: skilful means of achieving one's purpose; mechanical skill, application of
History of Science therapeutic: related to treatment or cure of disease,
zoology :the scientific study of animals
- .-- .---- - -.. - -

1 Ancient India, A Text book for Class XI, R.S. Shanna, NCERT, 1986.
2 The Story ofCivilization, Vol. I , Arjun Dev, NCERT, 1987.
3 A Concise History ofscience in India, Ed. by D.M. Bose, S.N. Sen, B.V. Subbarayappa,
Indian National Science Academy, 1971.
4 An Introduction to the Study oflndian History, D.D. Kosambi, Bombay, 1956.
5 The Culture and Civilisation ofAncient India in Historical Outline, D.D. Kosarnbi, Vikas
Publishing House, 1987.
6 Science and Society in Ancient India, D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Research India Publications,
Calcutta, 1979.
Block 1 : History of Science
Unit 1 Science as a Human Endeavour
Unit 2 Science in the Ancient World
Unit 3 Iron Age
Unit 4 The Golden Age of Science in India
Block 2 : Emergence of Modern Science
Unit 5 Science in the Medieval Times
Unit 6 Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and After
Unit 7 Science in Colonial and Modem India
Unit 8 The Method of Science and the Nature of Scientific Knowledge
Block 3 : universe and Life -The Beginning
Unit 9 Universe as a System
Unit 10 Exploring the Universe
Unit 11 Solar System
Unit 12 Origin and Evolution of Life
Unit 13 Evolution of Man
Block 4 : Environment and Resources
Unit 14 Ecosystem
I Unit 15 Components of Environment
Unit 16 The Changing Environment
Unit 17 Natural Resources
Unit 18 Resource Utilisation, Planning and Management
Block 5 : Agriculture, Nutrition and Health
I Unit 19 Food and Agriculture

Unit 20 Scientific Possibilities and Social Realities

I Unit 21 Food and Nutrition
Unit 22 Health and Disease
Block 6 : Information, Knowledge, Insight
Unit 23 Mind and Body
Unit 24 Psychological Aspect of Behaviour
Unit 25 Information and Communication
Unit 26 Modes of Communication
Block 7 : Science, Technology and Development
Unit 27 Science and Technology in Industry
~ ~

unit28 Technology and Economic Development

Unit 29 Modem Development in Science and Technology - I
Unit 30 Modem Development in Science and Technology - I1
Block 8 : New Perspectives
Unit 3 1 Perceptions and Aspirations
Unit 32 Science -The Road to Development.
budioNideo Programmes
Audio : 1) Science and Society (Block 1)
2) ~stronomicalDevelopment in lndia (Block 3)
3) Measuring Astronomical Distances (Block 3)
4) Evolution of Man (Block 3)
5 ) The Forest Ecosystem (Block 4)
6) ~ o ~ u l a t i oPressure
n (Block 4)
7) Common ' ~ i s c o n c e ~ t i oabout
n s Health (Blbck 5)
8) Human Factors in Engineering (Block 6)
9) ~ew'lnfonnation
Order (Block 6)
10) Technology and Self-Reliance (Block 7)
1'1) Nuclear ~isannament(Block 7)
Video : 1) Method of Science (Block 2)
2) A Window to the Universe (Block 3.)
. . (Block 4)
3) The Story of a River
4) Green Revolution (Block 5)
5 ) Infectious Diseases (Block 5)
6) Jean Piaget Development Stages of a Child (Block 6)
7) INSAT (Block 6)
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The Arab Renaissance
Arab Science
Decay of Arab Culture and Science
5.3 Science and Technology in Medieval India
Achievements in Science
Technical Innovations and Inventions
5.4 Impediments to the Growth of Science in India
5.5 Summary
5.6 Terminal Questions
5.7 Answers

We have seen in Unit 3 that the centre of science had shifted to the east for about 500 years
following the collapse of Rome. We also saw in Unit 4 that the period from the fourth century
B.C. to the fifth century A.D. was an age of great cultural advance in India. Science and
technology flourished in India during the period of the Guptas (320-480 A.D.). However, by
the sixth century A.D., India once again developed a complex religious and caste system.
Slowly, the rigid social structure, prevailing religious dogmas and the crumbling empires led to
a stagnation in Indian society. The development of science also slowed down in this process.
Meanwhile, between the third and the seventh century A.D., Europe had seen the rise of ' $ .

Christianity. In its early phase, Christianity was associated with democratic tradition and had a
popular appeal. However, soon the Roman Empire took over the Christian Church and
adopted the Christian faith. This, as we shall see, stifled the growth of science in Europe. Even
as the ancient Indian and Roman cultures decayed, a positive development was taking shape
elsewhere in the world. The advent of Lslam in the seventh century A.D. provided a great
stimulus to the Arab culture and science. Even though the Islamic culture had started decaying
by the eleventh century A.D., the fruits of Lslamic science were not wasted. When Islam came
to India in the eleventh cectury, a large body of knowledge came into Indian possession. This,
in.may, shaped the developments in Indian science in the medieval times.
In this unit we will cover a rather long period in the history of science, from a r o u d the
seventh century A.D. to the end of the eighteenth century A.D. We will, very briefly, touch
upon the history of Christianity and then see how the Arab renaissance and the rise of Lslam
helped in the flowering of Arab science. In the latter part of this unit, we shall concentrate on
the development of science and technology in medieval India.


After studying this unit you should be able to :

describe the contribution of Arabs to the body of scientific knowledge,
describe and assess the level of development of science in medieval India,
analyse the factors that impeded the growth of science in India in the medieval times.


We have seen in Unit 3 that, by the end of the second century A.D., the Roman Empire had
begun to decline. Its economy was overburdened by a huge army. Stagnating production had
led to the imposition of heavy taxes. Consequently, the social structure became extremely
exploitative. ''.
Emergence of Modem Christianity, most probably, grew out of the distress and protest of the slaves and other
Sdarc common people of the Roman Empire. It is no accident that it first arose among the Jews who
were the most oppressed. They were also imbued with the spirit of rejecting any compromise
with the powers of this world. The popular appeal of Christianity lay in its outward
submissiveness combined with absolute determination to have no part in the prevailing
oppressive and sinful society. This also led to its persecution, which gave it even greater appeal
and strength. Christianity spread rapidly among all people. Very soon it was no more confined
to the lower classes. Its teachings became influenced by the prevalent social ideas. Within a
few centuries, the Church itself established the rule of dogmas and became a partner in
maintaining the state. By the sixth century A.D., people on the eastern borders of the Roman
Empire began to identify Christianity with an alien, hostile and oppressive government.
However, we find that to these negative factors, there was soon added a positive one-the
appearance and spread of a new religion, Islam, in the seventh century A.D. Islam
incorporated what was most agreeable in Christianity. With its message of universal
brotherhood, simple but exacting personal conduct and a sure hope of realistic paradise for the
believer, it soon found popular support. As the Arabs from Syria and Iraq came to conquer
lands stretching upto the Mediterranean with the message of Islam, they very often found little
resistance from the local population.
Soon a vast area stretching from Spain to India came under the influence of Islam (Fig. 5.1)
and, thus, extensive trade and cultural exchanges became possible. The flourishing trade gave
rise to demand for commoditiesl This, in turn, encouraged invention of new techniques for
making steel, paper, silk, porcelain etc.

Fig. 5.1: Expansion of Islam upto 750 A.D.

Christianity had, by then, become identified with a decaying and corrupt empire. Therefore,
scholars and intellectuals from the eastern and African parts of the Roman Empire started
escaping to Persia which was becoming the new centre of learning and scholarship. These
people were largely heretics and were safer from persecution under Muslim Caliphs than
under the orthodox Roman Empire. In 431 A.D., the Syrian monk Nestor and his followers
who challenged fhe Christian dogma were condemned and persecuted. They fled to Persia
where a vigorol~sculture was being promoted by the Sassanian kings. Similarly, the Egyptian
monk Eutyches of Alexandria (378-454 A.D.) and his followers had to flee from Egypt to
Persia under pressure from the Church. Both these scholars made significant contributions to
mathematics and astronomy. In the next section, we will describe how Arab science took
shape. We will also see what contributions the Arabs made to the world of science.

5.2.1 Arab Science

What was crucial about this new Arab-centred civilisation was its willingness to examine and
understand the classical scientific and philosophical traditions of the Greeks in the context of
its new and vigorous culture. This was possible because of the written documents which
reached the Arabs with the spread of the Ro-n Empire. Besides, they also had a strong feeling
of being the heirs of the ancients. They traced the store of knowledge step by step back to the
original Greek works. They translated these writings, absorbed.them and developed them Science in the Medievd
further. Caliph-al-Mamun founded a bureau of translation, Dar el Hikhma, where :he great
scholars Hunain ibn Ishaac and Thabit ibn Khurra prepared Arabic texts of most of Aristotle's
and Ptolemy's writings and other major Greek classics of'science. These scholars prospered
under the patronage of the great Caliphs, al-Mansur, Haroun-al-Raschid, al-Mamun and
al-Mutawahkil. They also translated the Indlan medicinal, surgical and astronomical texts. This
was aided by the extensive travels undertaken by merchants, travellers and scholars such as
alBiruni (973-1048 A.D.), who brought back the knowledge of local practices from the
distant lands of India, Greece and China.
It is interesting to note that only the scientific and philosophical books were selected for Al-Mansur, al-Mamun, Haroun-al-
translation, and not history, drama or poetry. Centuries later, when Europe tapped this source
of learning, which was preserved in Arabic, they got a lot of scientific and philosophical
dvnasty, who ruled Persia between'
writings of all the previous civilisations. The social sciences and humanities were, however, to 7s4 and 861 A , ~ ,
be rediscovered by Europe directly from Greek and Latin. Thus, science and humanities entered
into the modem tradition by separate channels. This, perhaps, explains to some extent the
persisting divide between these areas of knowledge.

One of the reasons which ensured the growth of Arabic science, apart from flourishing trade
by land and sea, was the fact that it was practised in a language used by the kings and slaves
alike. This provided strong links between ordinary craftsmen and scholars, links which never
fail to provide a great impetus to the growth of science.
The Arab science provided a genuine continuity to classical Greek science, and was also a
melting pot for scientific thought of other civilisations. Yet, it seems to have had little ambition
to improve upon or revolutionise these traditions. In studying Arab scientific works, we are
struck by the rationality of treatment generally associated with modem science. However,
mysticism and too much respect for Greek science and its leading figures like Aristotle became
a handicap. The main pillars of science were astronomy and medicine. These were united by
astrology which furnished the link between the outer big world of the heavens and inner small
world of men. We would, however, like to state categorically at this stage, that the greatest
figures of Arab science such as al-Kindi, al-Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and alBiruni
clearly rejected the extravagant claims of astrology and alchemy.
We have described above some general features of Arab science. You may like to work out an
SAQ based on these !
Which among the various factors given in column 2 helped or impeded the growth of Arab
science? Indicate by drawing a line between the statements that correspond to each other in
coiumw I and 2.

i) The Arabs were willing to assimilate the

best scientific traditions of classical cultures
of Greece, India and China.
a) Features that helped the growth ii) They had too much respect for Greek
of Arab science. works.

iii) The Arabs travelled extensively to various

countries and brought back immense
b) Impediments to the growth of iv) Arab science was practised in a language
Arab science. used by kings and slaves alike.

v) They could not completely escape from the

influence of astrology, alchemy and
mysticism. .

vi) The Arab treatment of scientific ideas is

very rational.
Emergence of Modem We will now briefly describe the significant contributions of Arabs in some areas of science
Science such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, optics and chemistry.

Astronomy and Mathematics

Arabs canied on the Greek tradition in astronomy. They translated Ptolemy's Almagest and
continued astronomical observations in spite of occasional religious interference. Although
they did not add substantially to the Greek methods, the continuity that they provided was to
prove invaluable to the sixteenth century astronomers.

The practice of astronomy provided the necessary incentive to develop mathematics. In

this, the Arabs adopted the Indian system of numbers and introduced them on a large scale,
to the extent that warehouse clerks and traders started using these numerals to conduct their
business. The widespread use of the number system simplified calculations and had the
same effect on mathematics as alphabets had OR writing. Arabs translated Indian works o h
algebra and trigonometry and applied them to solve many physical and practical problems.

We have seen that Arabs were great travellers. Arab scholars travelled as far as Russia, Central
Africa, India and China. They wrote well-ordered and rational accounts of their journeys and
made maps and charts. Their geography was not only descriptive, they also had some idea of
the size and scale. In this way, they laid the foundation of modem geography of Asia and
northern Africa (Fig. 5.2).

Fig. 5.2: Arabic map of the worlo.

Scientific Chemistry
The Arab doctors, perfumers and metallurgists made their greatest contribution in chemistry.
This was mainly due to the fact that Arab scholars, unlike their predecessors in Greece, never
hesitated to take part in laboratory practices in handling drugs, salts and precious metals. The
Arabs continued the Egyptian and Babylonian traditions, and learnt extensively from the
Indian and the Chinese sources. To these they added their own rich contributions, giving rise
to the first statements of scientific chemistry.
Arab chemists greatly improved the earlier distillation apparatus and used it for large scale
production of perfume. They also undertook large scale production of soda, alum, copperas
(iron sulphate), nitre and other salts which could be exported and used particularly in textile
industry. While they perfected new techniques, they were not satisfied till they were able to get
at the bottom of the reactions which made these techniques possible. Arab chemists stipulated
the positive and negative naturc of two reacting constituents. This was the first time that
chemical transformation was approached rationally, to lay the basis f y modem chemistry.
Science in the Medieval Tlmg
The Arabs continued the Greek tradition in medicine also, but added to it the knowledge of
new diseases and drugs which was made possible by the wide geographical spread of Islam.
The doctors, who were not only Muslim, but also Jewish, studied a great range of diseases.
They concerned themselves with questions of the effect of climate, hygiene and diet on health.
They also paid attention to the practical art of cookery.

Fig. 5.3 :Oldest representation of a caesarean section from the works of al-Biruni.

The prevalence of eye diseases in the desert and tropical countries led to the study of the eye
by Arab doctors. Surgical treatment of the eye led to renewed interest in the structure of the
eye. This was to give the Arab physicians the first real understanding of dioptrics, the part of
optics dealing with the passage of light through transparent bodies like a lens or glass. This also
laid the foundation of modem optics. The lens of the eye was to point the way to the use of
crystal or glass lenses for magnification and reading, particularly by the old. The 'Optical
Thesaurus' of Ibn al-Haitham (about 1038 A.D.) was the first serious scientific treatment of
the subject.

Which three among the following developments in science are contributions of the Arabs?
Tick the appropriate statements.
a) The use of number system was greatly popularised.
b) Gunpowder was discovered.
c) Chemistry was treated rationally for the first time, large scale production of salts was
d) A heliocentric model of the solar system was given.
e) The first scientific treatment of optics was carried out.

The bare outline of the developments in Arab science that we have given above is just a
glimpse of its extent and importance. Arab scholars rescued Greek science from the decadent
state it had fallen into under the later Roman Empire. They created a live and growing
science. They were able to extend the narrow basis of Greek mathematical, astronomical and
medical science by drawing on the experience of Persia, India and China. They also extended
the techniques of algebra and trigonometry and laid the foundations of optics and scientific
chemistry. These developments continued till eleventh century A.D., after which we find that
the best days of Arab science were over. There were brilliant individual scientists like Averroes
(about 12th century A.D.) and Ibn Khaldun (about 14th century A.D.). However, the widely
based and living movement existed no more. We will now try to analyse the reasons that led
to the decay of Arab culture and, as a consequence, of Arab science.
~nngmecol M O I I ~ 5.2.2 Decay of Arab Culture and Science
The association of science with kings, wealthy merchants and nobles which was initially very
fruitful, ultimately proved to be the weakness of Arab culture and science. The patronage
provided opportunities to translate, observe, experiment and reflect upon various aspects of
science. It also resulted in Arab science getting cut off from the people, who began to suspcct
that the learned advison of the elite were upto no good. This made the wmmon people an
easy prey to religious fanaticism. The link also tied up the fortunes of science with the strength
of the kingdoms. After the eleventh century A.D., both the Byrantine and Islamic empires (sa
Fig. 5.1) started breaking up internally and grew more dependent for military and economic
ASa mult of h e regeneration of the purposes on local kings. By the time of the Crusades (between eleventh to thirteenth century),
Church md ~ntemfiedlntemal the empires broke up into local feudal estates where peasants and craftsmen were subjugated
Crussdes look place with renewed brutality. This destroyed the market for industry and the need for innovative
under the tudenhtp of vanous
Eumpan to sub,u8atc olher sclence. In this situation of decay and stagnation came new barbarians from the steppe lands.
rulea adto the or They over-ran the Arab lands aid effectively st~fledtheir culture.
The genius of Arab science lay in the fact that it provided a crucial link between the rise of
modern science, and developments in Greece, in India and, to a lesser extent, in China in the
classical period. Modem science, & w e know it, arose in the sixteenth century after the
Renaissance in Europe. The Renaissancetook up the clasical science as it was transmitted by
the Arabs and developed it in a revolutionary sense. Thus started a new age in which science
and technology could play pre-eminent roles, roles they had never been called upon to play
before. We shall tell you more about this in Unit 6.


Let us now turn our attention to what was happening in India in the medieval times. As you
have read earlier in Sec. 5.2.1, al-Biruni (973-1048 A.D.) had visited India and travelled
extensively. He had studied the social life, political system and religious beliefs of the Indian
people in depth. We get a great deal of information about India from his writings. In his
writings he gave a detailed account of the level of scientific developments in India, in the early
decades of the eleventh century A.D. His works also include reference to the earlier advances


Fig. 5.4: A meridian is an imaginary circle passing through the poles of the eanh. which divides thesphere into two
equal par&. Twelve equally spaced meridians divide the eanh into 24 equal secton. each passing through the pols
and each mak~ngan angle of IS" with its ne~ghbour.By international agreement. the firs1 or the prime meridian
passes through Greenwich. England. The smaller of the two angles formed by the prime meridian and the meridian
passing through any point on the eanh is called the longitude ofthat point. The longitude of any point on the globe i?
measured east or west from Greenwich whichever makes the smaller angle. The parallels of latitude are lines drawn
on the globe parallel to the equator. The latitude gives the angle north or south from the equator. The location of any
point on the earth Is described bv its lon~itudeand latitude.

in Indian science. For itrstance, he records the Indian contribution to astronomy and refen to
the works of Aryabhatta, Varahamihira and Brahmagupta about which you have read in Unit
4. According to al-Biruni, Indians had tried to calculate latitudes (Fig. 5.4) of some places like
Kannauj, Thanesar and Srinagar (in Kashmir). The calculation of longitudes was based on
timings of the eclipse at different places, as had been suggested by Ptolemy earlier. Their prime
meridian passed through Uijain.
Al-Biruni points out that the Indian views regarding matter were similar to those of the Science in the Medieval Times
Greeks. You have read about this in Sec 3.4 of Block 1. According to al-Biruni, the greatest
Indian contribution was in the use of the decimal system. The numeral signs that the Indians
used were the source of Arabic and the present day international numerals.

Al-Biruni's account is not a mere description of things as they were. He also tried to analyse
why things were as they were. He realised that Indian science was already on the decline and
lamented that "it is quite impossible that a new science or any new kind of research should
arise in our days. What we have of sciences is nothing but the scanty remains of bygone better
days". He attributed this situation to the lack of patronage to the scholars. This, incidentally,
highlights the very elitist character of Indian science. It was restricted to a few people who
practised science only as an intellectual exercise. Science in India had lost its connection with
the life of common people or productive pro&es. There was, however, some change in the
state of affairs with the coming of lslam to India.
Islam came to India at a time when the vigorous intellectual phase of the Islamic civilisation
was largely over. With al-Ghauali's mysticism, a stiff resistance to rational philosophy had
developed. Nevertheless, the Arab body of knowledge had inherited the best of sciences from
the Greek civilisation, from China and from India. It also included innovations from within
the widespread Arab civilisation. This entire body of knowledge became an Indian possession,
all the more so as Indian scholars learnt Persian and Arabic after the establishment of the
Delhi Sultanate. This influenced to a great extent the development of science in medieval

5.3.1 Achievements in Science

The interaction between Indian sciences and those brought by the newcomers remained
limited for some time. However, astronomy and medicine received ready patronage from the
Delhi Sultans as well as from Mughal Emperors and their nobility. We shall now tell you
about the achievements in various areas of science in medieval India.

Astronomy and Physical Sciences

Astronomy was used not only for working out the calendar, the dates of the eclipses and for
the determination of time but also for casting horoscopes for astrological purposes. Astronomy
was also needed for fixing the direction of Mecca, in order to properly align the mosques. We
find that Firozeshah Tughlaq (1351-88) established an observatory where a special type of
astrolabe and waterclock were set up (Fig. 5.5). The interest of the rulers in astronomy
continued during the Mughal period. Humayun is reputed to have employed a number of
astronomers and with their help, he attempted to make astronomical observations.

Fig. 5.5: (a) Asirolabe : front surface showing the graduated rim of a spherical astrolabe which is a small portable
metal disc with a diameter varying from 4" to 8"; (b) water clock: as water flows into the cylinder, the float rises,
turning the polnter on the dial to tell time.
Emergence of Modem The astrolabes made in India during the seventeenth century, were no doubt an achievement
Science of metal and wood-workers and of mathematical arts. Also, a high degree of accuracy was
achieved in circular gradation, which affected all measurements.

The most impo&nt stride in the field was made at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Raja Jai Singh, under the patronage of Emperor Muhammad Shah, established observatories
at a number of places, such as Delhi (Fig. 5.6), J a i ~ u r Uijain,
, Benaras and Mathura. He
paid special attention to the instruments of observation. A noticeable feature was the
construction of large sized observational instruments for fixing time and determining
latitudes. He succeeded in compiling fairly accurate astronomical tables, rectifying the
calendar and in making more accurate predictions of eclipses. Jai Singh's astronomical
tables entitled Zif-i Muhammad Shahi borrowed heavily from the Zif-i Ulugh Beg (1394-
1449) in the text, but his actual calculations and figures are different. Nevertheless, in the
theory of astronomy, there was hardly any advance over the Ptolemaic system. It is the
astrological aspect and preparation of horoscopes which proved to be the mystifying

Fig. 5.6: The Ram Yantra, a kind of a cylindrical astrolabe and the Jai Prakas (right-hand rorrttr ), Jantar
Mantar, Delhi

A familiarity with the knowledge of specific gravity and laws of motion, based on classic
sources, was shown by Abu'l Fazl (d. 1603). This is indicated by a W1 chapter devoted to
these matters in his book Akbari, completed in 1595. In this he shows a clear
understanding of the Archimedes principle, and the differences in the weights of bodies in air
and under water. He also grappled with the problem of molecular arrangement in various
substances and tried to relate it to specrfic gravity. He reproduced a table from al-Biruni giving
the specific gravity of various metals and precious stones. The application of measures of
specific gravity were given a practical turn by Akbar when he sought to determine the quality
of timber by this means. Abu'l Fazl also gave in his book, a table of specific gravity of seventy
two types' of wood.
Geography was another science where development took place. The astrolabes helped
determine more accurate latitudes. A big advance was made in the field of cartography when
in 1647 Sadiq Isfahani prepared an encyclopaedic work that con.tained a World Atlas. The
maps prepared by him, particularly of India, were fairly accurate in representing India as a
peninsula and adding Sri Lanka at its southern tip. Rivers were sparingly shown. In India, only
the rivers Ganga and Jamuna were drawn. However, their courses were shown quite Science in Ule Medieval Times
accurately, unlike in the contemporary European maps of India. He had also indicated the
physical features, for example, mountain ranges by wavy lines and used various colours to
mark rivers and oceans. However, Sadiq made no attempt to show routes, a practice that
started in Europe around 1500 A.D. By this time, India had also become aware of the
discovery of the New World (America). Abu'l Fazl in his A 'in-i-Akban'mentioned above,
entered some remarks about the New World.
In the field of metallurgy too we notice some remarkable developmenk. Before the close of
the sixteenth century, zinc was isolated by a process known neither to the Arab civilisation nor
to the Europeans who learnt the art in the early nineteenth century. It has now been suggested
by archaeological excavations at Zawar in Rajasthan that Indians knew how to isolate zinc by
about the first century after Christ (Fig. 5.7). In China, zinc was isolated only during the ninth

/Aperture for outflow of

hot gases and feed~ngfuel

Furnace chamber



Fia. 5.7: A cross-section of the zinc distillation furnace found at Zawar, Rajasthan

The isolation of zinc was accompanied by another achievemenf namely the manufacture
of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. Abu'l Fazl gave three proportions of zinc and copper for
obtaining brass of different varieties.

Tin-coating of copper and brass learnt from the Arab world became prevalent in medieval
India, thereby enabling copper vessels to be more widely used. Soldering, particularly of gold
on agates, crystals and other brittle materials, was done so efficiently, as to earn commendation
from European travellers.
India seems to have discovered the freezing mixture before Europe. Saltpetre (potassium
nitrate) was used for cooling water before 1580. This discovery has been attributed to
Emperor Akbar.

Aristocratic patronage for physicians and surgeons was not wanting, though, perhaps, surgeons
did not enjoy a very high status in comparison to physicians.

The Greek (Unani) system of medicine still widely practised in India arrived with the
Muslims. One would have expected improvement by the mutual exchange between it and the
already existing Indian system of Ayurveda. But the two systems remained separate. Miyan
Behwa (about 1500 A.D.) wrote an important work on medicine Tibbi-i Sikandar Shahi,
based on a number of Ayurvedic sources that are explicitly mentioned. Jahangir's favourite
surgeon Muqarrab Khan made use of selections from this book in his two tracts on medicine.
Emergence of Modern The two systems continued to coexist but probably without any great intoraction. Both hakims
Science and vaids were employed by the Emperor and the nobles. In the list of physicians at Akbar's
court one finds four vaids, i.e. practitioners of Ayurveda.
In surgery, blood letting, and in orthopaedicr, setting right dislocated bones were the known
practices. A practice attributed to the surgeons of Kangra was that of tmting those whose
noses had been cut. They could create an artificial nose by a partial skin transplant. However,
unlike in contemporary Renaissance Europe, no important systematic researches in the field of
anatomy or physiology were made. Observations, such as plague spreading through rats, were
chance observations. An interesting technique, which was pursued by popular practitioners,
was smallpox inoculation, since the disease seems to have spread silently all over West Asia
and India in the seventeentheighteenth centuries. The practice, however, was not safe.

Europeans were also employed as physicians by Mughal nobility but the attempt to make use
of their knowledge remained confined to individuals. For example, Danishmand Khan (a
Mughal noble about 1660 A.D.) tried to understand Harvey's discovery of blood circulation
from the French traveller Bernier who dissected a sheep for demonstration. But such display of
interest in European medicine on the part of Indian scholars was exceptional, and even the
translations of European scientific works prepared on the orders of Danishmand have not
On the whole, we find that the development of science in medieval India was at a rather slow
pace. There was no adequate response to advan~esin science made in Europe. The lack of
endeavour to understand European science is evident from the fact that an Atlas presented to
Jahangir by Thomas Roe was returned to him because Jahangir's scholars were unable to
understand it. It is difficult to explain this failure when the European merchants, priests,
travellers and physicians were found in most parts of the country.

One possible factor could be the narrow social base of learning, i.e. learning was restricted to a
small elite group. This was to some extent due to the absence of printing. Printing was
introduced in India by the Portuguese. However, the products of their printing press were not
aesthetic enough to be appreciated by the Mughal court and nobility. The possession of books
was a privilege of the rich. Thus, the spread of knowledge was prevented.

In the space given below, list at least five significant developments in science in medieval
India, one each from the fields of astronomy, geography, physics, chemistry and medicine.

So far, we have told you about the developments in science. Let us now see what technical .
innovations and inventions were taking place in medieval India.

( , , 5.3.2 Technical innovations md Inventions

'es Medieval India witnessed considerable improvement and changes in the field of technology.
While these changes were largely a result of diffusion from outside, some technological
Fig. 5.8: The worm gearing has a innovations also originated in India. Diffusion from outside suggests readiness and ability to
short revolving screw (the worm)
whose teeth move into the special
imitate, apply and extend the use of technological devices. On the whole, there seems to have
teeth ofa helical gear (the worm been no inhibition against technological change.
We shall now describe some technical devices that were invented or improved upon in
medieval India.

Gearing provides a device for transforming horizontal motion into vertical and vice versa and
for increasing or reducing speed (Fig.5.8). One form of gearing is that of the parallel worm which
originated in ancient India. It was received in Kampuchea, in all probability, from India before Science in 'Ie Medievd Times
1000 A.D. Parallel worm gearing was used in wooden cotton-gin in medieval times; it was
also applied to sugar milling, with wooden rollers.
Right-angled pindrum gearing came with the Persian wheel (saqiya), an improved water
liftiig device received from the Arab world. India already had water lifting devices such as
pulley-system @hitxi) and noria (araghatta) with pot-chain (mala). The application of
pin-dnun gearing to the araghatfa. converting it into what is known as the Persian wheel,
enabled water to be lifted from deeper levels, in a continuous flow, by use of cattle power. The
gear wheel and the shafi were of wood. A horizontal pindrum, meshing with a vertical pin
wheel, was rotated by cattle power. The Persian wheel was being widely used in the Punjab
and Sind by the tifteenth century. This improved the means of imgation and probably resulted
in extension of agriculture in the region.

The beltdrive is a mmpratively simpler device than gearing for transmission of power and
for increasing or decreasing the speed of motion (Fig. 5.9). Beltdrive came to India m the
fonn of the spinning wheel. The spinning wheel quickened the speed of spinning by about
six fold. This must have multed in reducing the prices of yarn and, thus, of cloth. The ~ i 5.9:~ ~~l~
. drive found in
other improvement in the spinning wheel was the addition of crank handle 6uring the charkha, home sewing machine and
seventeenth century. The beltdrive was extended to the diamond cutting drill, by the the fan of an automobile engine.
seventeenth century.
Evidence of an improvement in weaving comes from a fifteenth century dictionary which
describes the foot-pedals used by a weaver to control speed. The addition of treadles to the
loom facilitated the use of feet by the weaver for lifting alternately the heddles and freed hi3
hands to throw the shuttle to and fro (Fig. 5.10b). This could more than double the rate of

(a) (b)
I Fig. 5.10: (a) A simple loom. Harness A is raised so that the shuttle goes under those warp threads, but over the warp in
I 'd.The harnesses are reversed and the shuttle is passed back under B and over A; @) in the foot-operated handloom the
I warp threads are wound on a cylinder called the warp beam. Each thread parses through a heddle or vertical rod.
Alternate beddles are separated so as to form two groups held together by harness. When one set of heddles is raised
I and the other is lowered, the warp is separated into two sections, forming a shed through which shuttle is passed. The
position of heddes is reversed to form another shed and the shuttle is passed through again. The woven cloth is wound
onto a doth beam.

By the seventeenth century both methods of multicolour pattern dyeing, namely, the use of
resist to confine colours to patterns and of mordant to take colours were used. It was, perhaps,
during the same century that direct block printing, a time-saving technique as compared to
painting, became popular in India.
Paper manufacture
Paper was not used in India until the eleventh century. This Chinese invention of the first
.century A.D. reached India mainly through the Ghorian conquerors. Once introduced. its
Emergence of Modem manufacture spread quickly, and by the middle of the fourteenth century, paper became so
Sciemw cheap that it was used not only for writing but also for wrapping purposes by the sweetmeat
Bridget and Raymond Allchin are Mation
~ChDsoIogists.Joseph Ncedbam, a The know-how of liquor distillation also came to India during the thirteenth century. Though
scientis4 is -*ell known for hh works it has been argued by the famous Indian chemist P.C. Ray (1861-1944 A.D.) and recently by
On the of society the Allchins and Needham on the basis of archaeological evidence, that :iquor distillation Was
in China.
known in ancient India, the stills seem to have been small and inefficient. With the thirteenth
century came various types of stills (for liquor as well as for rose-water) and therc is little
doubt that the manufacture of distilled spirits received great impetus.

The architectural style of India underwent a drastic change after the Turkish conquest. The
Sultans and their nobles insisted on having arches and domes and competent Indian masons
succeeded in building them. The first surviving example of arch is Balban's tomb, dated 1280,
and of dome, Alai Darwaza, dated 1305. It was the change in b;ilding technology
accompanied by the introduction of lime mortar that made possible the change from trabeate
architecture to arcuate style. The principle of true arch seems to have been known in ancient
India, but somehow large arches could not be made. However, false arches were constructed
in ancient times (see Fig. 5.1 1).
Use of lime mortar made it possible to waterproof floors and walls for tanks. Thus, it became
possible to build tanks and vats such as those needed for producing India's major dye, indigo.

(a) (b)
Fig. 5.11 :(a) True arch : ib lower part is called springing, top is the crown, m d shoulder is the hunch. Keystone has
a key position in the formation of arch ;(b) false arch is built of horizontal laym so laid that eacb projects slightly
beyond the one below, gradually coming together at the top where the meeting point is covered by a flat slab.

Military Technology
Important changes were introduced in military technology. Rope and wooden stimps for
horsemen were known in India before the thirteenth century. However, the iron stirrup seems
to have been introduced by the Ghorians and'the Turks. This greatly improved the combat
power of horsemen. At the same time, shoeing improved the performance of horses.

Turks also brought with them the cross-bow (Fig. 5.12). The sross-bow had an additional tube
at right angles to the bow in which the arrow was fitted; the tube gave greater accuracy of
direction to the arrow. This tube seems to be a direct precursor of the barrel-of the hand-gun.
The next stage of development in military technology was the use of cannon and gun powder.
This innovation came to India during the latter half of the fifteenth century from the Ottoman
Empire which had itself received it from Europe.
By Akbar's time, match-locks and their manufacture became common in the imperial aknal.
Some improvements were attempted mainly with a view to do away with the match and
strengthen the barrel. Akbar's arsenal succeeded in manufacturing a gun that had most
probably a wheel-lock. Here the spring released by trigger caused a wheel with serrated edges Science in the Medieval Timvs
to revolve against a piece of pyrites and so send sparks into the priming pan. The flintlock
widely used in Europe by the first half of the seventeenth century was adopted in India later
on (Fig. 5.13).
Manufacture of the barrel of a gun posed a problem for the gunsmith. The barrel had to be
very strong to withstand the explosion within it; the making of the bore and alignment
required high accuracy. In Akbar's arsenal, the barrel was made by rolling flat iron sheets and
welding the edge. Thereafter, the bore was worked from inside. The same technique was used
in Europe down to the eighteenth century.
India was credited with casting the heaviest bronze cannons in the world at the close of the
sixteenth century. But the heavy guns were not necessarily efficient as they lacked mobility as
well as accuracy. W e find that Akbar paid great attention to the manufacture of lighter guns
that could be pulled by a single man.
An important device used in the Indian a m y was bana or rocket. This was made of bamboo,
with iron cylinders containing combustible materials at the tip. It was this Indian rocket that
inspired the invention of rockets by Congreve in early nineteenth century.
Metal Screw
One important device that had a great potential in the manufacture of precision instruments THE T l l C C F l MECHANISM

and machinery was the metal screw. It came into use in Europe from the middle of the
fifteenth century for holding metal pieces together. Its use was of great importance in
mechanical clocks. The screw began to be used in India by the second half of the seventeenth
century and even then it was a less efficient version of the European screw. The grooves were
not cut, but wires were soldered around the nail to create the semblance of grooves. This had
to be done owing to the absence of lathes which were used in Europe for cutting grooves. Due Fig. 5.12: (a) Cross-bow and (b) how
to this limitation, the Indian screw did not fit properly. it works. String of the bow is drawn
back and held in a notch (A). Bolt, a
type of arrow used with crm-bow is
Ship-building then laid in a groove on top of the
The shipbuilding industry in the seventeenth century. witnessed far-reaching changes that stock (B). When the trigger is pressed
mainly resulted from imitating European techniques. The Indian sea-going ships, until the first upward (C), the rod drops, allowing
half of the seventeenth century, were called 'junks' by the Europeans. These were very large the circular plate in which the string
is resting to spin freely. Force of the
and supported immense main sails. In some ways, the imitations even improved upon the
releared bowstring sends the bolt
originals. The Indian method of riveting planks one to the other gave much greater strength through the air with great force.
than simple caulking used by European ship-builders. A lime compound dabbed on planks of
Indian ships provided an extraordinarily firm protection against sea-weeds.
However, it was the instruments used on ship where India lagged much behind Europe.
Indians failed to fashion modem navigation instruments. The main instrument used on Indian
ships still remained the astrolabe. Later, in the seventeenth century, European captains and
navigators were employed on Indian ships, and they naturally used telescopes, quadrants, and
other instruments that were imported from Europe.
Agriculture has been India's largest industry. The Indian peasants have used se-d drill from
antiquity; in the seventeenth century they practised dibbling, that is, dropping of seeds into
holes driven into the ground by sticks. They also practised crop rotation in most areas. The
number of crops grown by Indian peasants was quite large. Abu'l Fad mentions around 50
crops for khanifand 35 for rabi seasons, though their number varied from region to region.
The most remarkable quality of the Indian peasant was his readiness to accept new crops. The Fig. 5.13: Different firing
new crops introduced in the seventeenth century that came from the New World were tobacco mechanisms of guns in use in the
and maize. These crops came to be grown quite widely. By the fifteenth century, the peasants medieval times: (a) match-lock: when
of Bengal also took up sericulture and by the seventeenth century, Bengal had emerged as one the trigger was pdlled, a curved
hammer thrust the burning cord into
of the great silk exporting regions in the world. the hole igniting the gunpowdet;
(b) wheel-lock: pulling the trigger
Horticulture developed considerably under aristocratic patronage. Various types of grafting released a clock-type, hand wound
were introduced. In Kashmir, sweet cherry was obtained by grafting, and the cultivation of spring, which spun a steel wheel
apricot was also extended by the same means. During Shah Jahan's time, the quality of oranges against a piece of flint or iron and
was greatly improved by use of the same technique. On the western coast, the Portuguese gunpowder was ignited by a shower
introduced mango @ng and Alfonso was the first mango produced in this fashion. Mango of sparks; (c) fl~nt-lock:a simple
spring snapped the hammer down
grafting seems to have spread in northern India during the eighteenth century. when the trigger was pulled. A plece
of fl~ntor iron held In the hammer
To sum up, in this section we have tried to give you a brief overview of the scientific and jaws created Sparks ~gniting
technological developments in India during the medieval times. If we look at the 600 years of gunpowder.
development of science in medieval India, we cannot but be disappointed. There seems to 17
Emergence of M o d e m have been progress here and there, in astronomy, medicine and technology, but all within the
Science old frame of thought which is often called Aristotelian : a world which always was as it is
now, and will continue to be so: a unlverse at the centre of which was the earth md all things
were made of five elements-fire, air, watet. earth and ether. The concept of master and slave of
the Greek society or hierarchical structure was so natural that it also pervaded the physical
world where evmhing knew its place and fulfilled its purpose.
There was, indeed, no effortto incorporate the latest findings in each subject, to even be aware
of the discoveries being made in contemporary Europe. There was still less effort to develop a
theoretical and philosophical understanding in which each element of knowledge could fit.
Little interest was taken in such remarkable advances as Copernican model of the solar system,
Galileo's work (1610), Newton's great work on gravitation (1665), or even circulation of blood
discovered by Harvey (1628). The invention of the printing press which had the potential to
make knowldege available to a larger number of people or again the telescope (about 1600)
and the microscope attracted no attention. It is remarkable that the few centres of learning that
existed propounded theology, either Hindu or Muslim, or explained a body of knowledge that
already e-xisted.Their role was not to break fresh ground and develop new things.
Why was it so? We shall now try to analyse why science and technology did not grow in
India as in Europe in those times. But before reaaing further you may like to try an SAQ.

List at least five technical innovations of medieval India in the space given below.



By the end of the eighteenth century, Indian society had become very complex. Hence it is
difficult to discuss even one aspect of it, that of science, as it arose from this society and
contributed to it, without over-simplifying. However, if simplification makes sense and does
not distort the picture, it is a good thing, because it gives us an overview which helps in 1
understanding the interaction between science and society.
What may have struck you from the brief presentation given here is that Indian science was
at the same level as science anywhere else in the world In particular, it was at the same level as
European science, upto about the middle of the sixteenth century. But, then European science
took big strides forward and left Indian scienceway behind in the period that followed. In fad,
the British were able to subjugate this country, and make it their colony, on the basis of
science, technology and industry which had developed there. The question that naturally arises
is what the ditierence between Europe of sixteenth century and India of that period was.If
you get interested in pursuing the question, you would probably have to read history in depth.
However, to put it simply, the difference in the two societies was in their social structure, in
the degree of the hold of religious orthodoxy, and the intellectual atmosphere. Let us explain
what we mean.

We have seen that one kind of pressure for advancing knowledge and technology comes from
the necessity of satisfying human needs. There is an old saying that necessity is the mother of
invention. Well, it appears that in spite of periodic wars between the rulers of vanoh regions
and states in the country, there was a very considerable stability in Indian society. Population
was small, the land was fertile and even from small land holdings Indian peasants were able to
meet the requirements of subsistence. They could feed and clothe themselves. Although there
were poor people, poverty and hunger of the kind we see today did not exist. The deprivation Science in the Medieval Tbnc .
that we see today is largely a result of British policies imksed on us. The hold of religion,
particularly in the rural areas, and the existence of the caste system, contributed both to a
certain reconciliation with fate, and an acceptance of the social hierarchy. There was a
fascination with the idea of an infinitely old universe condemned to an endless cycle of deaths
and rebirths, in which nothing fundamentally new could ever happen. What can be called a
peculiar kind of satisfaction prevailed, which did not allow pressures to build up for either
enhancing production through technological innovation, or to change the society.

Another reason was that those who worked with their hands did not contribute to the stock of
knowledge. And those who possessed even out-dated knowledge never had to test it on the
touchstone of practice. Either the kingdoms fought wars or settled down to long periods of
peace. It seems natural to think that in such a society there was no clamour to develop new
products or new processes. Social stability and stagnation can easily go hand in hand. The rich
had no need for change, the poor had no power to bring about change.

We have seen that when Islamic influence entered India in successive waves, it tended not to
disturb the life of the common people who lived in rural communities. It did not interfere with
the prevailing religious ethos, which remained predominantly Hindu, with its ideology tolerant
of great variations, but at the same time protecting the caste system which was well established
in India. We find that at the level of administering the country, and in the armed forces there
was mutual support between the higher strata of people in the two communities. Muslim kings
with Hindu Commanders-inxhief, and Hindu Rajas with Muslims at the head of their armies
are known to have fought and also defended each other. Naturally, there was give and take,
and intermingling of cultures. What we call Indian culture today is a result of centuries of
interaction between our people of different areas and of those who came and settled down
here in different periods.

At the level of religion, there was coexistence between Islam and Hinduism, perhaps, out of
necessity, since the Muslims were in a small minority. They could certainly not afford a
confrontation with the vast majority if their rule was to last in India a d was to be extended in
the centuries to come. This was also because priests had a great hold over people and any
interference in each other'saffairs would have had serious political consequences. It could
have led to turmoil. So, each steered clear of the other. Further, the priests of the two
communities were well off, and satisfied with their economic condition. Within the two
religious systems too, there were no active controversies and no strong movements of reform.
The Bhakti and Sufi movements did arise in the medieval period. These movements preached
religious tolerance and were highly critical of the caste system. However, they did not make a
wide impact as their word did not reach far.
This was perhaps due to the absence of printing. Typically, when a printed book was
presented to Jahangir, he is said to have thrown it away, saying that it was ugly and
unaesthetic as compared to the beautiful calligraphy in which they prided. He little realised or
was, perhaps, little interested in the possibility of enriching peopie's life on a large scale
through the availability of cheaper books. This was in contrast to the sixteenth century Europe
where the availability of printed word greatly helped the spread of knowledge that created a
wider and deeper impact for bringing about social change. You will read more about thiS in

In India education was, by and large, limited to religious teaching and the intellectual
atmosphere was not in favour of challenging the established ways-of thinking, or of
propounding new theories. In such an atmosphere few would venture to propose freedom of
thought. It was still more difficult to accept such new things as a suncentered universe
demonstrated by Galileo. For, the new theory changed the order which was believed to have
been established by God to give the abode of man a central position in the entire creation.
Indeed, astrology was, perhaps, esteemed enough to let astronomy go on! Alchemy still held
some promise of converting base metals to gold, howsoever mysteriody or irrationally, to
allow dabbling in chemical techniques! The reign of the orthodoxy with its belie4 in eternal or
revealed truths never allowed free thinking and imaginative adventure of ideas. To put it in
another way, the learned had fixed ideas which they did not negd to change. And those whose
social status was low and who were exploited by the feudal order had no access to learning.

If it were not for these factors, we had a tremendous advantage over Europe in the sense that
the strong streams of Arab and Indian science coexisted here, and we should have k e n miles
ahead of Europe. In Europe, comprehensive books of Arab authors like Compendium of
Emergence of Modern Astronomy by al-Fargani, Howi Liber Continens by al-Razi, the Canon of Ibn Sina and the
Science Colfigetof Averroes (all medical treatises) were used as text books in the seventeenth century.
All these books were available in India and could have been used, but were not. The exciting
advances made in science during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries in Europe, such as
the works of Copernicus, Galileo and even Newton did not attract widespread attention, since
they were not close to the hearts of such scholarship as existed in India at that time. Due to
this indifference and neglect and the other factors mentioned earlier, we lost the race.

All this can, perhaps, be summarised by saying that a traditional, hierarchical society with a
low level of discontent and conservatism promoted by both the religions, made scientific
advance superfluous. Naturally, such a society could not bring about a scientific revolution
such as was taking place in contemporary Europe in the sixteenth and the seventeenth
centuries. It could, and did, devote its attention to the good things of life such as drama and
music, dance and painting, architecture and poetry. This, at least, was the saving grace of the
medieval society.


In this unit we have covered a long period in history starting from about the seventh century
A.D. to about the eighteenth century A.D. Geographically also, we have covered a wide
region spread from the West Asia where Arab science flourished, to the Indian subcontinent.
We now summarise what we have learnt.

We have seen that Arab science provided continuity between the classical science of the
Greek, Indian and Chinese civilisations and science in the medieval times. For the first time
a rational approach was adopted by the Arabs in the study of many areas of science as
applied to the solution of practical problems. Arab scientists were from the common people.
spoke the same language and shared common problems. This gave an impetus to the
growth of practical science. We have also seen that about the eleventh century A.D.,
the vigorous intellectual phase of Arab science faded out due to several reasons.

Medieval India had the advantage of having a vast storehouse of knowledge which was
gained through contact with the Arabs and the Europeans. The Indian people were able to
pick up the technical innovations. Many innovations were also made here. However, they
failed to imbibe the rational philosophy of the Arabs or appreciate the scientific endeavour
taking place in Gontemporary Europe. The reasons for this attitude may be seen in the
prevailing social conditions. This resulted in Indian science being left far behind.


1) Explain in four or five lines how the absence of printing hampered the growth of science
in medieval India.

2) Which three among the social factors mentioned below became impediments to the
growth of science in India in the medieval times? Tick the correct choices.
a) There was stability in society. There were no pressing socioeconomic needs to
demand scientific innovations.
b) Art and music, drama and painting thrived.
C) The hold of Hindu and Muslim religions on their adherents was absolute. The Science in the Medieval Times
reformist movements created very little impact.
d) The intellectuals in the society had fixed ideas that need not have been tested with
practice. The peasants and artisans had no access to learning.
e) Mughals made great contributions to architecture.
3) State, in the space provided alongside, whether the following statements about science in
medieval times are true or false?
a) Medieval times signify the darkest period in the growth of science in India.
b) Indian scholars of the medieval period did not show much interest in disseminating
knowledge by using comprehensive text books on astronomy, medicine etc. 0
c) The availability of printed works of learned men played a great role in bringing about
change in the European society.
d) Indian science was linked with the lives of common people and the productive
e) The Indian people showed remarkable willirlgness to imitate and extend the use of
technology obtained from contact with Europeans.


Self Assessment Questions

I ) a) (i), (iii), (iv), (vi).
b) (ii), (v).

3) i) The establishment of observatories by Raja Jai Singh.

ii) The preparation of a World Atlas by Sadiq Isfahani.
iii) The measurement of specific gravity of metals, stones, wood etc.
iv) The discovery of freezing mixture.
v) Creation of an artificial nose by partial skin transplant; the practice of smallpox
4) Persian wheel, rocket, iron stirrup, light guns, ships with riveted planks, astrolabe, gr'afting.
Terminal Questions
1) The absence of printing meant that learning was restricted to a small elite group. The
practitioners could not have access to books. Thus, the gap between theory and practice
I could not be bridged. You can further expand this answer.
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Science and Technique in Medieval Europe
The Feudal Society
The Transformation of Medieval Economy
6.3 The Renaissance (1440-1540)
Science and Technology during the Renaissance
6.4 Science in the Post Renaissance Period (1540-1760)
Why Science Grew in Europe
6.5 The Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) and After
6.6 Summary
6.7 Terminal Questions
6.8 Answers

In Unit 5 we have described the scientific and cultural developments that took place in the
Arab world and in India during the medieval period. We are now going to describe, in brief,
the European society of those times. You have read about the Iron Age Greek and Roman
societies in Unit 3. You also know that these Iron Age societies were slave societies.
The slave economy of classical times was followed by a feudal system which lasted well into
the seventeenth century. The feudal system was technically and economically more fragmented
than the slave society which it replaced. It did not contribute much to scientific thought.
However, several new productive techniques were introduced on a small scale. These
techniques were USAby common people and were, therefore, widespread. In this unit we will
describe these techniques in brief. As we will see, this, along with the accompanying economic
changes, laid the basis for the transformation of feudalism to capitalism and the birth of
modem science in Europe.
In Unit 5 we had tried to analyse why science did not flourish in India, the way it did in
Europe from the sixteenth century onwards. In this unit we will complete the analysis by
outlining the features of European society that helped the growth of science there. We will,
once again, cover a long period in the history of science, picking up the thread from the fifth
century A.D. We will dwell briefly on the feudal system which contained the seeds of the
transition to capitalism, and then describe the Renaissance and the Scientific and the Industrial
Revolution, which led to the emergence of modern science. If you want to go into the details
of the social conditions prevailing in the European society, you may refer to Units 7,8,9 of
the Foundation Course in Humanities and Social Sciences.
We also find that the Industrial Revolution created a great demand for raw materials as well
as for markets to sell goods. This led to the colonisatio~lof many backward countries,
including India, by the newly industrialised countries. In the next unit we will discuss the
developments in science and technology in India during the colonial rule and the post-
Independence period.

After studying this unit you should be able to :
describe the developments in science and techniques in the European society during feudal
times and explain how these led to the transformation of the feudal society,
describe the social changes brought about by the Renaissance and the consequent
developments in science and technology,
outline the important scientific developments in the post-Renaissance period,
compare the Indian and European societies of the period from the sixteenth to the
Emergence of Modern eighteenth century and analyse the features of the then European society that helped the
Science birth of modern science,
I describe the technical innovations leading to the Industrial Revolution, its consequences and
I some of the major scientific advances made thereafter.


About the second century A.D., the collapse of the Roman Empire and the barbarian
invasions by Franks, Goths, Magyars, Vandals, Slavs and others brought about conditions in
Europe, in which,the slaves could revolt and free themselves. But even in freedom, slaves
could not do much since they had no land to produce food for themselves. Though the
Romans had conquered the whole of Western Europe and had come as far as England (see
Fig. 3.18), agricultural land was limited. Most areas in western Europe were covered with
thick forests and even the soil was clayey and heavy. The Romans did not have the
agricultural tools and techniques for working such land for cultivation. This led to widespread
scarcities of food and other daily necessities, which resulted in discontent. In other words, the
breaking up of slave society was accelerated by its own tensions and scarcities. We find that
from the fifth century onwards, slaves were disappearing and their place was being taken by

Towards the beginning of the tenth century, a new productive system and a new society had
established itself in many parts of Europe. This was the feudal system.' Let us now see what
this society was like and the status of scientific and technological development in it.

6.2.1 The Feudal Society

The economic basis of the feudal system was land, and the village was its economic unit. The
feudal economy was dependent on local agricultural production and a scatte~edhandicraft
industry. In the villages, peasants or serfs shared the land and work. But they were forced to
yield part of the produce or labour to their lords in the form of rent, taxes or feudal service.
Usually, a lord owned one or more villages or land in several villages. The serfs were obliged
to maintain their lords and they were not allowed to leave the land on which they worked.

This obligation of feudal service, that is, of work exacted by force or by custom backed by
force, is the characteristic of the feudal system. What distinguished the serfs from the slaves of
classical times is that unlike the latter who were owned by the slaveowners, the former were
free men and had a secure tenure to cultivate land. Though the serfs were nominally free, their
condition was not much better than that of slaves. However, social pressures on them had
been somewhat reduced. This feudal order lasted until about the seventeenth century in

The period from the tenth century to about the fifteenth century is usually called the Middle
Ages in Europe. In this period, the Church was the centre of power. It provided a common
basis of authority for all Christendom. It was also an instrument for intellectual expression. All
intellectual activity was carried on by people who were part of the Church. Thus, the Church
dominated all walks of life. Therefore, the clergy had to be trained to think and write, in order
that they may be able to defend the faith and take up missionary work. At first, this need was
met by setting up cathedral schools. By the twelfth century, these had grown into universities.
The first university to come up in this period was at Paris, in France, in 1160. It was followed
by the founding of Oxford University in 1167 and Cambridge University in 1209 in Britain.
Then came the universities in Padua (1222), and Naples (1224) in Italy, Prague (1347) in
Czechoslovakia, and several others. These universities were mainly for training the clergy.

Teaching in these institutions had to be only by lectures and debates because books were still
rare. The curriculum comprised grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy,
music, philosophy and theology. In practice, the amount of science that was taught was very
little. Arithmetic dealt with only numbers, geometry with the first three books of Euclid and
Easter is a Christian Festival astronomy got no further than the calendar and how to compute the date of EarHer. There was
commemorating the rising of Jesus Christ
from his grave. It falls on a Sunday but
little contact with the world of Nature or the practical arts, but, at least, a love of knowledge
the date may change every year. and an interest in argument was fostered. As we know, education by itself can be a positive
factor in human development In this case re!igious personnel were k i n g trained according to
24 a specific curriculum, and the universities were citadels of conservatim. However, they did
come in contact with the creative thought of others, particularly the classical Greek thought RenPissmce, the hi
and, to some extent, Arab, Indian and Chinese thought. This led to an intellectual climate ,.Rwdution and ~ e r
which proved good for the future developments and discoveries in science.
But in the Middle Ages, education was still restricted to a small number of people. What may
be called 'scientific' investigation was undertaken only by the clergy. And it was done to
somehow justify religious beliefs. There was a constant debate between faith and reason, but
even reason was used to prove the supremacy of divine thinking, revelation and every aspect
of Christian dogma. We will now describe very briefly the 'scientific achievements' of the
Middle Ages.

hiedieval Science
We can record the sum total of the medieval achievement in the natural sciences in a few
lines. It can be put down as a few notes on natural history and minerals, a treatise on sporting
birds, such as falcons, hawks etc., some improvements in Ibn al-Haitham's optics and some
criticism of Aristotle's ideas. In mathematics and astronomy, the Arabic algebra and Indian
numerals were introduced and Ptolemy's Almagest was translated. The medieval European
astronomers could not go much beyond the Arab contribution in observational astronomy
although they added a few details. They made some contribution to trigonometry and the
construction of instruments. However, there was no radical revision of astronomy. Robert
Growteste ( 1 168-12531, a Bishop and Chancellor of Oxford University, was a leading
scientist of the Middle Ages. He thought of science as a means of illustrating theological truths.
He experimented with light and thought of it as divine illumination. There were many other
such 'scientists' in the Middle Ages.
Those who questioned the prevalent religious beliefs, were likely to be prosecuted for heresy!
Even the idea that man could reach God directly without intermediaries, such as priests, was
considered a heresy. The Middle Ages were an era of faith and of regimented thinking. The
feudal society in its social, economic and intellectual character was again a stagnant society.
The limired contribution of medieval xience under such conditions is understandable. It is,
indeed, unfair to expect more of such a xience than what was demanded from it in its time!
However, the feudal society was definitely on a higher technical level than the slave society of
the Iron Age. In fact, the impetus to technical innovations had existed from the beginning of
the Middle Ages. This arose from the need for better use of land. It was here that the peasant
and the workman could use and improve the classical techniques. For most of the Middle
Ages there was a chronic labour shortage with the labour force of slaves no longer available
and with the expansion of cultivable land in the countryside. Thus, human labour was sought
to be substituted by mechanical means; manpower shortage led to the use of animal, wind and
water-power. Thus, we find that many technical developments took place in medieval Europe
though most of them seem to have come from the East, especially from China. Let us see what
these developments were. But how about trying an SAQ first!

Which factors among the following led to technical developments and which ones were
responsible for very little advances in science in the European society in the Middle Ages? Put
a 'T'for the former and an 'S' for the latter against each statement.
i) Expansion of cultivable land.
ii) Only priests conducted scientific investigations to justify religious beliefs.
iii) Shortage of labour due to absence of slaves.
iv) A need for better use of land by serfs.
V) T o question religious beliefs or say anything contrary was branded a heresy. 0
Technical Developments in Feudal Society
Major inventions, namely, the horse collar, the clock, the compass, gunpowder, pap& and
printing, were not developed in feudal Europe. Most of these were being used in China during
the first few centuries of Christian era. W e need to know about these advances because, in
Europe, the use of some of these techniques set in motion a revolution, which contributed to
the breakdown of the feudal system.
The horse collar and the mills were more efficient means of using power. The horse collar
originated in seventhcentury China and reached Europe in the eleventh century. Its use
Emergence ofModern resulted in a manifold increase in the horse's ability to pull loads and work longer. Horses took
Science the place of oxen at the plough and more acres of land could be cultivated (fig. 6.1).

Fig. 6.1: (a) Horse collar in use in the fourteenth century in England; (b) improved horse collar that made a great
difference lo the load that a hone could draw.

The water-mills were also invented in the classical period. But they came to be widely used
only in the Middle Ages. The wind-mills and water-mills harnessed nature for performing
mechanical work. These mills were used for grinding grains, extracting oil from seeds and
drawing water from wells, thus helping agriculture. They were also used for blowing bellows,
forging iron or sawing wood. Mills became so popular that a mill and a miller were found in
every lord's domain. The task of making and servicing the wind and water-mills was beyond
the skill of most village smiths. Therefore, there grew a trade of mill-wrights who went about
the country, making and mending mills. These men were the first mechanics who knew all
about the making and working of gears. They also had a hand in the development of
mechanical clocks and watches.
There were two navigational invent~ons,the compass and the sternpost rudder, that had a RenPissanee, the Industrtsl
Revolutkn and After
profound impact on sea voyages in the Middle Ages (Fig. 6.3). The earlier sea trade
routes were along the coastline of various countries (see Fig. 4.1 1 in Unit 4). With these
two inventions, the oceans were thrown open to trade, exploration, and even war for the
first time. Open-sea navigation quired accurate charts of the position of stars, latitudes
etc. and gave an impetus to later developments in astronomy and geography. It also
raised the urgent problem of finding the longitude. The need for compasses and other
navigation instruments brought into being a new skilled industry.

Sternpost rudder
(a) (W
Fig. 6.3 :(a) Manner's compass, (b) thirteenth century boat showlng a rudder In the stem

Other innovations used and improved by the Europeans were the lenses and the spectacles.
This gave an impetus to the further study of optics and there were some contributions to Ibn
al-Haitham's optics, as mentioned wilier. The demand for spectacles also gave rise to the
profession of lens grinders and spectacle makers.
Distillation of perfumes and oils was already known in Europe through the Arabs. To this was
added the distillation of alcohol, which gave rise to the first scientific industry, that of distillers,
and laid the foundation of modem chemical industry.
Of all the innovations introduced m the West from the East, gunpowder had the greatest effect
politically, economically and scientifically. With its use in cannons and hand guns, gunpowder
enormously altered the balance of power. In science, the making of gunpowder, its explosion,
the expulsion of the ball from the cannon and its subsequent flight, furnished many practical
problems. Solutions to these problems and the accompanying explanations occupied the
attention of medieval scientists for many centuries and led to sciences like mechanics and
dynamics. The preparation of gunpowder required a careful separation and purification of
nitre giving rise to the study of solutions and crystallisation. Nitre provides the oxygen needed
for explosion of gunpowder. So, unlike ordinary fire, it does not require air. Studies related to
the explosion of gunpowder led to attempts to explain combustion, i.e. burning. These
attempts were later extended to studies on breathing which provides the oxygen needed to
convert food into energy inside the animal body. These explanations were not easy at that time
and taxed the ingenuity of medieval chemists most.

Two other technical introductions from the East had a far greater effect in the West than in
the land of their origin. They were the inventionspf paper and printing. The need for a writing
material cheaper than parchment became urgent with the spread of literacy. Linen rags
provided the basis for the first paper of quality. Paper turned out to be so good and cheap that
its increased availability led to a shortage of copyists. This contributed a lot to the success of
printing, originally a Chinese invention of the eleventh century.

Printing, with movable metal types, was first used by KoreaAs in the fourteenth century. It was
introduced into Europe in the mid-fifteenth century and it spread rapidly, first for prayers and
then for books. The new, cheap, printed books promoM reading and created increased access
to education for a larger number of people. This, as we shall see, became a medium for great
technical and scientificchanges as well as changes in the society during the Renaissance.
To sum up, we have seen above that by the fifteenth century a number of small technical
changes had taken place. Before we move on to the study of Renaissance and the Industrial
Revolution, let us assess the effect of all these technical advances on the economy and ideas of
the late Middle Ages. This is necessary because the feudal system contained the see& of its
own transformation.
Emergence o f hlodern
6.2.2 The Transformation of Medieval Economy
The new techniques led to greater production in agriculture and, therefore, a surplus from the
needs of people. Increased productivity led to greater trade which was aided by better modes
of transport. Production of other articles such as cloth, chemicals, wine, and iron for tools and
weapons also expanded, leading to a considerable increase and diversification in trade. The
more the trade grew, the more money it brought in by way of profit to the merchants, who
traded the goods produced by peasants and urban workers. The increased profit led to the
manufacture of more goods and production of cash crops from the land. With better
techniques, better modes of transport and ample markets, the production of commodities for
sale increased considerably. Thus, a trading and urban manufacturing economy grew inside the
feudal system. These changes succeeded in breaking down the local self sufficiency of feudal
economy at the local village level.
Although, the manufacture of commodities was carried on more often in the countryside as a
part-time peasant occupation, the markets were dominated by town merchants. By the mid-
thirteenth century, the merchants had become rich and powerful enough to acquire a
monopoly position in trade. They had formed guilds and used their position to buy goods
cheap, and sell them at huge profits. As the markets expanded, the merchants wanted freedom
of movement as well as safety along the trade routes which passed through numerous feudal
estates with their own laws and restrictions. A clash of authority between the feudal
landowners and the new-rich merchant class was taking place all over. Gradually, the
merchants gained the upper hand. By the fifteenth century, they had grown so strong that they
were beginning to transform the economy. The feudal economy, characterised by agricultural
production based on forced services of the serfs, was transforming into one in which
commodity production by craftsmen and hired workers, and money payments became
These economic, technical and political changes were accompanied by changes in the Church.
Till this time the Church was all-powerful. It had a monopoly of learning and even of literacy.
The Church had a hold on the state and was deeply involved in the maintenance of feudal
order. As the rising merchants and artisans of the towns threatened the feudal order, the might
of the Church began to be questioned. The Church tried to suppress all such people by
branding them as heretics. However, in the last two centuries of the Middle Ages, the Roman
Church was considerably weakened. In some places, kings started asserting themselves against
the central authority at Rome. In this they were helped by merchants, though the country
nobility was still aligned with the orthodox Church. Thus, the unity of the Church began to be
threatened. Between 1378 and 1418, the Christian Church was split between two or three
Popes. More authority had to be given to the general councils of the Churches. Substantial
movements of reform in the Church were initiated and there was soon to be a struggle for
power between the Pope and the Emperors.

It is obvious that the European society, in general, was on the threshold of major changes
around the beginning of the fifteenth century. The stage was set for the full flourishing of the
Renaissance. In the next section we will describe the changes ushered in by the Renaissance
and how they moulded the future development of science.

We are listing the factors responsible for the breakdown of feudal economy. Fill up the blanks
to complete the following statements:
i) Better techniques led to increased production of ...... ; ................... With
better modes of transport and growing markets ........................expanded
considerably. This destroyed the locally ......................... character of the
feudal economy.
ii) Merchants dominated the markets and huge ..................... made them very
powerful. They came in conflict with the .....................and gradually gained
the upper hand.
iii) Production of commodities for sale and payment in terms of .......................
became dominant and replaced agricultural production by ........................
based on their forced service.
We have seen above, that the technical improvements introduced in the latter half of the
Middle Ages led to a greater available surplus in agriculture and other goods. This spurred a
Renaissance, the Industrial
rapid expansion of trade which was also increased by improvements In shipping and
Revolution and After
navigation. The consequent economic changes from a feudal economy to an economy based
on commodity production and money payments were accompanied by momentous social
changes. In fact, these changes led to a movement for changing the social system from that
based on a fixed hereditary status to one based on buying and selling commodities and labour.
The Renaissance and the Reformation are two aspects of this movement. We will now
describe what this movement was and examine, in brief, its impact on the scientific and
technological developments.

6.3 THE RENAISSANCE (1440-1540)

The Renaissance was a revolutionary movement. It marked a definite and deliberate break
with the past. It swept away the medieval forms of economy, of building, of art and thought. Renaisance was the transitional
These were replaced by a new culture, capitalist in its economy, classical in its art and movement in Europe between
medieval and modern times. It began
literature, and scientific in its approach to Nature. The feudal system dominated by the lords
in the 14th century in Italy and lasted
and the Church had given way to nation-states, where the kings or princes provided patronage into the 17th century. It was marked
to the new scientists. So they didn't have to depend any more on the Church. With the by a humanistic revival of clarsical
economy picking up again, the despair of the Dark Ages and the resignation of the ages of influence expressed in a flowering of
faith gave way to a period of hope marked by a frank admission of physical enjoyment. In the the arts and literature and by the
changing social milieu, money became much more impofint than it had ever been before. beginning of modern science.
Even the attitude towards making money changed. Any way of making money was good as
long as it worked, whether by honest manufacture of trade, by inventing a new device, by
opening a mine, by raiding foreigners or by lending money at interest.
In these changed social conditions, the technicians and artists were no longer so despised as
they had been in classical or medieval times because they were essential to the making as well
as spending of money. The practical arts of weaving, pottery, spinning, glass making, mining,
metal-working etc. became respectable. Initially, this enhanced the status of craftsmen. But
later, by the seventeenth century the merchant and the capitalist madufacturers started
controlling the production more and more. As a result, both craftsmen and peasants were
reduced to the status of wage labourers.
In its intellectual aspect, the Renaissance was the work of a small and conscious minority of
scholars and artists who set themselves in opposition to the whole pattern of medieval life and
thought. The Renaissance also reestablished the link between the traditions of the craftsmen
and those of the scholars. With this coming together of the doers and the thinkers in the
changed economic situation, the stage was set for a rapid growth in science. Let us see what
changes occurred in sciehce and technology during this period.

6.3.1 Science and Technology during the Renaissance

This phase in the history of science was one of description and criticism. First came the
exploration of ancient knowledge, mainly of the Greeks. The scholars encountered the
thoughts of Plato and Aristotle in the original, as well as those of Democritus and Archimedes.
Then came the challenge to old authority. At the same time the arts and techniques flourished
and provided the material means for the growth of science.

The visual arts, such as painting and sculpture, came to occupy an important place in society.
These had a profound influence on the development of science. For instance, painters were
required to have a thorough knowledge of geometry, so that they could represent three
dimensional figures in two dimensions. For this, they also used many mechanical and optical
aids. The realistic life-like paintings required the most detailed observations of nature and thus,
laid the foundation of geology and natural history. The anatomy of human beings was also
studied in much detail.
The professions of artists, architects and engineers were not separated in the Renaissance.
Artists were also the civil and military engineers. They could cast a statue, build a cathedral,
drain a swamp or even besiege a town. The great Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci is well
known to all of us for his beautiful painting 'Mona Lisa'. Not many of us may know of his
contributions to the study of human anatomy, study of plants and animals as well as of
machines and military devices (Fig. 6.4). His drawings indicate that he was also a keen
observer of the operations of metal-workers and technicians who constructed buildings
snrl k4A-c
Emergence of Modern

Fig. 6.4: Sketches of Lmnardo da Vinci : (a) anatomical studies of muscles; (b) Leonardo designed the first flying
machine-he spent yean observing birds in flight (I);an early flying machine-a wooden wing hooked
up to a hand crank 12); flying machine (3).

Medicine and Technology

The faculties of medicine in the universities, especially in Italy, were the first ones to break out
of the general obscurantism. The doctors mingled freely with artists, mathematicians,
astronomers and engineers. These associations gave European medicine its characteristic
descriptive, anatomical and mechanical bent. The human body was dissected, explored,
measured and explained as an enormously complex machine. The new anatomy, physiology
and pathology were founded on direct observation and experiment. Thus,the hold of classical
ideas of humours and elements, about which ypu have read in Unit 3 began to be broken.
In technology, the greatest advances of Renaissance were in the fields of mining, metallurgy RenPissaw, the Industrid
Revolution and After
and chemistry. The need for metals led to the opening up of mines. With growing capitalist
production, mining became a large scale operation. As mines grew deeper, pumping and
hauling devices became essential. This led to a new interest in mechanical and hydraulic
The smelting of metals like iron, copper, zinc, bismuth, cobalt etc., their handling and
separation led to a general theory of chemistry involving oxidation and reduction, distillation
and amalgamation. For the first time, metallic compounds were introduced into medicine.
Other chemical substances such as alum and clay were studied to improve cloth and leather
industries or to make fine pottery. By the end of the Renaissance, the chemical laboratory with
its furnaces. retorts. stills and balances had taken a shape that was to remain almost the same till
into modem times (fig. 6.5).

Fig. 6.5: A chemical laboratorv of the earlv eighteenth century.


Navigation and Astronomy

As we have said earlier, by the edd of the Middle Ages, trade on land and over the seas was
being Sken up on a big scale. By the fifteenth century, the Turks had acquired a monopoly of
trade routes on land. Therefore, new sea routes for trade were being explored. Great voyages
were undertaken. We all know about Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese sailor, who reached India
in I497 via the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Around the same time, a great and adventurous
voyage was undertaken to sail westward on the Atlantic Ocean in the hope of reaching India.
Columbus, an inspired adventurer, though a penniless sailor, was able to obtain the assistance
of Portuguese, Spanish, English and French courts to undertake this journey. He reached the
continent, later named as America, in 1492 thinking that he had reached India. The adventure,
the general excitement and ultimately, the great profitability of these voyages created great
enthusiasm for building new ships and instruments for navigation. Interest in astronomy was
strongly revived.
The Copernican Revolution
It was right in the midst of these developments in the fifteenth century, that there came the first
major break from the whole system of ancient thought. This was the work of Copernicus, who
gave a clear and detailed explanation for the rotation of earth and other planets on their
axis and their motion around a fixed sun which was at the centre. This model simplified
astronomical calcuhtions, and also made them more precise. You will read more about
the Copernican model in Unit 9. As we have seen in Units 3 and 4, such a model had
been proposed by Greek astronomers like Aristarchus many centuries earlier. However, it
was not given any importance because it ran counter to the established ideas of those
times. This work of Cope~nicuswas published in the very year of his death in 1543.
Although his book attracted limited attention and there were objections to his model, his
work-gave a great boost to further work by Galileo. We will talk about Galilee's work
later in Sec. 6.4.
This was the first phase of what we now call the Scientific Revolution. In this phase, the old
ways of thought were proving inadequate. By rejecting the old ideas, the men of Renaissance Fig. 6.6: Nicholas Copernicus.
had cleared the grounds for new ideas of the succeeding century. In the use of science for
practical purposes too, the Renaissance set the scene for.future developments. From now on
science had become a necessity for profitable enterprises, trade and war. Later it could ektend 31
it< wwirp t n r n n n i ~ f n r t ~ inro~r i r ~ i l t ~ i rnnrl
e e v e n mprl;r;ne
Emergence of Modem SAQ 3
S e i List five significant scientikand technical developments during the Renaissance.


ii) What was the Copernican Revolution?


(1540- 1760)

We have seen above that improved techniques as well as growing trade had led to great
voyages to many lands. These were made in search of spices, silver, fur, sugar plantations,
slaves, gold and other commodities. The one to have very far reaching effects was the voyage
undertaken by Columbus in 1492, which, eventually, resulted in a lot of Europeans going to
America. There they cleared the land, settled down and started plantations of sugar and
tobacco exploiting the hard labour of African people. The Africans were forcibly taken on
board west-bound ships to be transported to the new country and were sold there as slaves.
The stealing, selling and exploitation of people as slaves caused terrible suffering. Yet, it was
done unashamedly because there was great profit to be made from the new colonies. Money
was being piled up for investment in shipbuilding, mining acd manufacturing other articles in

These developments greatly strengthened the merchant class and over the next two or three
centuries they were able to replace the feudal lords and landowners in authority over their
regions. Society tensions, peasant revolts, religious wars and the race to acquire colonies were
all playing a role in changing the feudal society of the Middle Ages into a capitalist society of
the eighteenth century in some areas of Europe. The development of capitalism as a leading
method ofproduction was accompanied by the birth of a new method of natural science, that
of experiment and observation.

In science, this period from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-eighteenth century includes
;he first great triumphs of the new observational, experimental approach. This new approa n
together with'the development in science and technology during tne Renaissance, amounted to
a "Scientific Revolution". Technically, this period was of steady advance without any
revolutionary inventions. The increasing demand for iron led to development of new blast
furnaces. The shortage of wood for iron-smelting led to widespread use of coal. From then on.
the centre of industry was to move towards the coal fields. With time, the demand for limited
resources increased, forcing the search for new resources and techniques. Thisalso altered the
attitudes towards change and novelty, which could not be shunned anymore. You may recall
that in the regimented feudal society, new ideas and change were resisted.

It was in this atmosphere that European science grew to maturity, The first institute for
teaching science, the Gresham College, was opened in England in 1579. As we have already
seen, the revolQionary Copernican model of the solar system helped in improving
astronomical tables, What the theory lacked was an accurate description of the orbits of the
planets. This was done by two remarkable men, Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) and Johannes
Renaissance, the Industrial
Kepler (1571-1630). Brahe, collected a series of exact observations on the positions of stars Revolution and Mer
and planets with specially made apparatus. His results were theoretically worked over by
Kepler. Kepler found that the observations could be explained only if the orbits were taken as
ellipses. Thus, he broke away from the idea of circular orbits. Kepler's laws of planetary
.motion struck a mortal blow to the old Greek thought of perfect circular motion. You '11
find more details of their work in Unit 9.

The telescope, invented around this time, proved to be the greatest scientific instrument of this
period. In the hands of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a professor of physics and military
engineering at Padua, it became a means of revolution in science. Galileo was able to see that
the moon was not a perfect round and smooth body but it had ridges and valleys. He also
observed that three moons circled around the planet Jupiter, more or less like the system
Copernicus had proposed for the earth going round the sun. Within a month, in 1610, he
published his observations in his book Siderius Nunrius, (Messenger from the Stars). It created
a great sensation because the 2000 year old model of heavenly bodies going round the earth
was threatened. It challenged the accepted world view that man, specially created by God,
lived on earth, hence, it was natural to believe that the whole universe revolved around the

Galileo's more detailed work, entitled Dialogue concerning the Two Chief Systems of the
World, the Ploiemaic and the Copernican was published in 1632 and was, indeed, dedicated to
the Pope. In this he criticised and ridiculed the ancient Ptolemaic cosmology. The challenge
put down by Galileo could not be ignored. Far more was seen to be at stake than a mere
academic point about the motion of the earth and planets. If the challenge in one respect was
ignored, more such challenges would arise. The new knowledge threatened the stability of the
Church and the social order itself. It immediately led to conflict with the Church which
resulted in Galileo's trial. He was condemned and forced to go back on his words. Fig. 6.7: Galileo Galilei

The trial of Galileo dramatised the conflict between religious dogma and carefully observed
and analysed scientific data and theory. It is a sheer chance that the year Galileo died,
Newton was born. As we shall see later, Newton was to continue Galileo's scientific tradition.
He provided a complete scientific theory of motion of all objects, whether planets in the
heavens or bodies on earth. This shows that given the socio-economic conditions of those
times, it was not easy any more for the Church to suppress the scientific tradition. Whereas
earlier Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was burnt to death and Campanella (1 568-1639) was
imprisoned for years for opposing the Aristotelian world view and supporting the Copernican
theory, Galileo suffered a nominal imprisonment in the palace of one of his friends. By
Newton's time, interference from the Church in science had more or less stopped.

Galileo did not stop even after being tried and condemned by the Church. He tried to explain
how the Copernican system existed. For this, it was necessary to explain how the earth's
rotation did not produce a mighty wind blowing in the opposite direction and how bodies
thrown in the air were not left behind. This led to a serious study of bodies in motion. On the
basis of carefully conducted experiments, Galileo succeeded in formulating a mathematical
description of the motion of bodies. This was the major work of his life expressed in his
Dialogue on Two New Sciences. Galileo questioned all accepted views. This he did by the new
method, the method of experiment. When Galileo's experiments gave him results he did not
expect, he did not reject them. Rather, he turned back to question his own arguments. This
was the hallmark of experimental science.

Galileo and Kepler could formulate mathematical descriptions of the motion of bodies because
they were masters of the new mathematics that had grown during the Renaissance. Algebra,
geometry and the decimaI system, taken from the ancients and the Arabs, as well as the
introduction of logarithm by Napier (1550-1617), greatly simplified astronomical calculations.
Forty years later, the observational laws of Kepler were combined with the explanations of
Galileo in Newton's theory of universal gravitation. We will talk about it shortly.

There were other important developments in science in this period. Magnetism was
experimentally studied for the first time. Another important development was William
Harvey's (1578-1657) discovery of the circulation of blood in the human body. Once again, it
led to a complete break from Galen's ideas which we have described in Unit 3. A totally new
approach was formulated and the human body was analysed on the principle of pumps and
valves like the ones seen in machinery. As a result, a new kind of experimental anatomy and
ohvsioloay emerged.
Emergence of Modern
The developments in the latter half of the seventeenth century paved the way for an outburst of
Science activity which created modern science in most of its fields in the next fifty years. These were
helped by the emergence of stable governments in France and England, the two principal centres
for scientific activity in those times. The merchants in Britain had arranged a compromise with
landlords, in which the king became the constitutional monarch. The economy was dominated
by the merchants. But, more importantly.'a new class of manufacturers was emerging from
among the skilled craftsmen. The courtiers and the learned men of the universities, dependent
on the favour of the princes of yesteryears, were being replaced by men of independent
means. These were mostly merchants, landowners, doctors, lawyers and quite a few Parsons.
They financed science out of their pockets. As they grew in number, they tended to come
together for discussion and exchange of ideas.
Thus were formed the first well-established scientific societies, the Royal Society of London
( 1662) and t h e ~ r e n c hRoyal Academy ( 1666). These societies set themselves the task of
concentrating on the pressing technical problems of those times, those of pumping and
hydraulics, of gunnery and of navigation. In science, it appeared at first that anything and
everything could be improved by enquiry. However, certain fields of interest drew special
attention. Those were the ones directly related to the needs of expanding trade and
manufacture. Foremost among these was astronomy which was an essential need of ocean
navigation. The developments in astronomy led to the new mathematical explanation of the
universe, finally arrived at by Newton. This was a major triumph of science.

The greatest triumph of the seventeenth century was the completion of a general system of
mechanics. This system could explain the motion of heavenly bodies as well as the motion of
matter on the earth in terms of universal laws and theories. Many mathematicians and
astronomers ihcluding almost all great names of science of that period-Galileo, Kepler,
Descartes, Hooke, Huygens, Halley and Wren, had worked to find this complete form of
mechanics. Standing on the shoulders of these giants, it was ultimately Newton who worked
out and proved his theory of universal gravitation and set it down in his 'De Philosophiae
Fig. 6.n: Isaac Nr\*[o~i. Natural& Principia Mathematics '.
Newton's theory of universal gravitation applied to all particles or bodies possessing mass,
whether on the earth, on the sun, or anywhere else in the universe. Newtonian mechanics, as
it is known to us now, provided a coherent explanation for the motion of all bodies in this
universe, i.e. how bodies moved as they did. By the use of Newtonian mechanics it was
possible to determine the path of any body in motion, if all the forces acting on it were known.
Newton's laws of motion are now taught in all the science courses all over the world. The
immediate practical consequence of Newton's work was that the position of the moon and the
planets could be determined far more accurately with a minimum of observations. It also
became the basis for the design of s great diversity of machines and structures which are used
today and will be used for centuries to come.

Newton's theory of gravitation and his contribution to astronomy mark the final stage of the
transformation of the Aristotelian world-picture begun by Copernicus. Newton established a
dynamic view of the universe in which things were changing with time. Yet, he stopped short
of questioning the existence of a divine plan. His world moved according to a simple law, but
it still needed divine intervention to create it and set it in motion. His theory gave no reasons
why the planets went round the same way. He postulated that this was the will of God at the
beginning of creation. Newton felt he had revealed the divine plan and wished to ask no
further question. By Newton's time, the phase of criticism in the Renaissance was over. A new
compromise between religion and science was being sought. Newton's work provided this
basis for a compromise between science and religion which was to last until Darwin upset it in
the nineteenth century.

There were other developments too, such as in optics and the theory of light, closely linked to
astronomy by the telescope and to biology by the microscope. Seventeenth century optics grew
largely from the attempts to understand refraction. At the same time, theories about the nature
of light were also given. Another development was pneumatics, the science of mechanical
properties of gases. The question of vacuum was also important. The actual production of
vacuum and the use of air pump for this led Robert Boyle to study the behaviour of air. Thus,
it led to his epoch-making work on the gas laws. Robert Hooke, an assistant of Boyle, was the
greatest experimental physicist of those times. His iliterests ranged over the whole of
mechanics, physics, chemistry and biology, though he is best known for his study of elasticity.

The world of biology saw great advances with the coming of the microscope. Small creatures
were observed and the anatomy of larger ones was refined. In chemistry, new substances such
as phosphorus were accidentally produced and new metals such as bismuth and were Redssnnce. the Industrial
Revolution and After
discovered. The demand for new chemicals led to a growth in the chemical industry.
In the table given below, match the names of the scientists of the post-Renaissance period
,isted in.column 1 with their works listed in column 2.

a ) Tycho Brahe i) Developed the table of logarithms,

b ) Johannes Kepler ii) Made observations on planetary motion.
C) Galijeo Galilei iii) Discovered laws of planetary motion.
d) John Napier iv) Formulated gas laws.
e) William Harvey v) Established sun-centred model of the solar
system; gave mathematical description of
motion of bodies.
fl Isaac Newton vi) Discovered the law of elastic properties of
g) Robert Boyle vii) Discovered blood circulation.
h) Robert Hooke viii) Gave the theory of universal gravitation.

Thus. we find that in this period of the Scientific Revolution, the new approach to science,
based on observation and experiment, led to pathbreaking advances in many areas like
mechanics, astronomy and biology. They also set the stage for further activity which created
modern science in many other fields. The prevailing social conditions in Europe were also very
conducive to the growth of science. W e will now discuss some of the features of European
socrety that helped the rapid development of science there.

6.4.1 Why Science Grew in Europe

Looking back over the development of the new science in the fifteenth to the seventeenth
centuries, we can understand why the birth of science occurred when and where it did. We
have seen that it closely followed the revival of trade and industry. The profit from expanding
trade and successful voyages was being invested in new activities giving rise to a climate of
intellectual enterprise. The birth of modern science follows closely after that of capitalism. The
rnerchanb and gentlemen of the seventeenth century had cleared the ground for the flourishing
of a humbler set of manufacturers. These were the ones who made use of and developed the
traditional techniques beyond all recognition in the next century. In science, as in politics, a
break with tradition also meant venturing into hitherto unknown areas. No part of the
universe was too distant, no trade too humble, for the interest of the new scientists. The fact
that these scientisb often interacted with each other, established societies and published
journals also helped the advance of science.

Science was also able to flourish as it did because of the Church's internal feuds, its friction
with the emerging merchant class and a general erosion of its authority. The resistance of the
Church to scientific ideas seemed to be quite strong in the beginning. This was evidenced by
the trial of Galileo and by the execution of Bruno who uttered the heresy that just like our
own world, there may be other worlds in the heavens. But later dn the success of the new
scientific thjnking based on observations was unstoppable.
As we have said earlier, a compromise was being sought between science and religion. Hence,
ways and means were explored to find a way of coexistence between science and religion. This
was to be on the basis that science should deal with the phenomena which affect the senses,
but it should leave as~deother matters which are spiritual or aesthetic in nature. An artificial
divide which we see even today was, thus, created between science, social science, arts and
humanities. O n the other hand, from the time of Newton onwards, scientists were able to
work with greater freedom, and with practically no interference from religion. As we have
seen, scientific societies were established to see that the advancement of science was linked to
practical benefits, to business or to society at large.

The success of science in this period was also due to the working together of the people who
-I&I.OPA nr m a n t t f a r t ~ a r * AAiffprpnt ~lrtirlecand the scientists who tried to understand the
Emergence of Modem properties of materials that were being handled. This was because manual work was given
Science greater social prestige as it was a source of great profit. The economic and social world had
changed from one with the fixed hierarchical order of the classical and feudal period where
each human being knew his or her place. Now, it was a world of individual enterprise where
each human being paved his own way.
These exciting developments in Europe had two facets. Expanding production add trade and
the resulting search for markets led to European entry into many countries of Asia, Africa and
North and South America. Colonies came in:o existence and their wealth began to flow into
the European countries, which improved the 16: of even the common man in these countries.
On the other side, it was a misfortune for the colonial people whose crafts and industry were
ruined and whose natural resources were harnessed for export to the ruling countries. The role
of the East India Company in bringing India into the colonial system is well known. Extreme
poverty and deprivation in India has its origin in the colonial exploitation of our land and our
people. We shall talk more about it in Unit 7.

We will now tell you about a major event towards the second half of the eighteenth century,
viz. the "Industrial Revolution" in Europe, particularly in Great Britain. This arose from the
ability to s e steam powered machines on a large scale, resulting in a radical change in the
means and the mode of production. It also resulted in bringing about deep-seated changes in
the structure of the society.

- - -


(1760-1830) AND AFTER

We will first give a brief description of the qocial and economic changes of this period so that
developments in science can be seen in the proper perspective. Already, by the end of the
seventeenth century, the stage was set for the further advance of the capitalist mode of
production. The feudal and even royal restrictions on manufacture, trade and business had
been swept away. The triumph of the bourgeoisie, and of the capitalist system of economy
which they had evolved, had taken place only after the most severe political, religious and
intellectual struggles.

In Britain, the urban middle class had broken away completely from feudal limitations by the
eighteenth century. With an ever increasing market for their products all over the world, they
could finance production for profit. With an expansion of markets, growing freedom from
manufacturing restrictions and increasing opportunities for investment in profitable enterprise.
the time was ripe for great technical innovations.

Thus, we.find that by the middle of the eighteenth century, the slow and gradual changes in
the production of goods gave way to a rapid change. The new methods of experimental
science that emerged from the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and the seventeenth
century were now extended over the whole range of human experience. Their applications in
creating new techniques brought about the great transformation of the means of production
which we call the Industrial Revolu!ion. The architects of the Industrial Revolution were
artisan inventors. Workmen with their small accumulated or borrowed capital were, for the
first time, establishing their claim to change and to direct the production processes. The
domination of merchants over the production of small artisans was also being broken.

The Industrial Revolution came mainly from developments in industry, that too within thc
major industry of those times: the textile industry. As the demand for cloth increased, the old
industry could not expand rapidly to meet it. Also, by 1750, the industry came to deal with a
new fibre, cotton. Earlier, cotton cloth had been imported from India. With the import of
cotton textile from India into Britain being prohibited, there was a great impetus to increase
production of cotton textiles. The use of cotton called for new techniques. Here, at last: in the
cotton industry there was unlimited scope to substitute machinery for manual work. Thus,
from the technical changes which had been taking place for many decades, came the idea of
introducing several mechanical gadgets tor spinn~ngand weaving. Manual work was greatly
redue as machines replaced &&operations that were done by hand (Fig. 6.9).

The textile industry led the way to developments in other areas as well. The market for textile
machinery and textile processing stimulated the iron and chemical industries. All these
industries called for an ever increasing supply of coal, which required new developments in
Revdutim mi After

Fig.6.9: A spinning machine which could spin much faster and produce much stronger thread than the old spinning
wheel. It made possible a cloth woven of cotton alone, rather than cotton mixed with flax as in the past.

mining and transport. The new mechanical industry developed around coal fields. However, it
was the use of the steam engine for power in the textile industry that really created the
industrial complex of the modem world. It revolutionised textile production, so much so, that
. production of goods increased almost five fold within 20 years.
The idea of mechanisation rapidly spread to other areas such as mining, metallurgy and even
agriculture. Very soon the attention of the entire society was drawn to its explosive potential.
With soaring profits, the search for markets became niore acute. It became necessary to have
radically new means of transport and communication to carry on this trade. The steam engine,
as a stationary device, had long been used in mines and then in "factories" which had come
into existence. Now it was put on rails to draw heavy loads over long distances. Thus, the
railways linked the centres of industry; and the steamships collected its raw materials and
distributed its finished products far and wide.
While the eighteenth century had found the key to production, the nineteenth century was to
find that to communication. Electricity had been used as long ago as 1737 to transmit
messages for distances of a few kilometres. But now it was absolutely necessary to transact
business over long distances. This was ensured by the successful invention of the telegraph in
1837. Soon, wires were laid for speedier communication between towns, from one country to
another. By 1866, across the Atlantic Ocean. on its bed in the form of cables, wires were laid
to form a telegraphic link between Britain and America. Withiv a hundred years from the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution, factory towns had sprung up and the appearance of
even the countryside had changed. A complete transformation had taken place in the lives of
milliork of people living in the newly industrialised countries like Great Britain, France,
Gennany, Holland, USA etc.
Introduction of machines in production centres which moved from homes to specially
constnrcted premises called factories, led to reorganisation of work, and, in particular, to
"division of labour". This meant that complex operations were broken down into simpler
ones, and one man at his workplace performed only one or two very simple operations. Thus,
the production per person was greatly enhanced. However, at the same' time; this increased
i ' human drudgery, reduced requirement of mental involvement, and, in fact, made human
i beings work like machines (Fig. 6.10).
I It is known these. days that, in general, "industrialisation" makes one person produce many

times more surplus than agriculture. More surplus yields more profits. Therefore, capital gets
multiplied much more rapidly, and it can be used to put up more machines for more
production. Hence, the tendency is to multiply production as a whole. What is produced must
be sold, and hence the market must also expand all the time. However, in the home market,
buyers must also have the cash to buy the product. This creates a dilemma-profits have to be
maximised, but what if the workers cannot buy the product? There is no safe formula to
determine the worker's share in the profit and hence such a system is prone to social and
economic problems.

Fig. 6.10: Industrial production in which a worker carried out the same simple task repeatedly. In this sketch, a
worker is placing blocks on a series of tables which, put on wheels, move on a track through the casting, moulding
and other rooms of a factory.

The history of early industrialisation in all countries shows how workers were exploited, how
every ounce of the workers' energy was extracted so that the machines could chum out huge
profits; and how miserable were the conditions in which the workers had to live. This gave rise
to the new phenomena of trade unions and workmen's struggle to improve their lot.
There was another aspect of this industrialisation. With increase in production, the cost of
production came down. Since goods were produced on a large scale, the overhead costs did
not increase proportionately. Thus, industrially produced goods turned out to be cheap. This
led to goods from indllstrialised countries swamping markets in the colonies and ruining local
industry. Where the industrial goods were not competing well, the colonial governments went
out of their way to use their authority to ensure the sale of imported products.

a) Which three among the following technical innovations led to the Industrial Revolution?
Tick the correct answers.
i) Mechanical clocks.
ii) Mechanical gadgets for spinning and weaving.
iii) Use of steam-powered engine.
iv) Telegraph.
v) Mechanical devices for use in mining, metallurgy and agriculture.
Renaissance, the Industrid
I b) State, in the boxes provided, whether the following statements about the consequences of Revolution and After
! Industrial Revolution are true or false. In the case of a false answer, write the correct
answer also in the given space.
i) Factory to,wns had come up changing the entire countryside.
ii) The division of labour led to better working conditions for the workers.
iii) Colonisation of countries meant that industrial goods were made in colonised
countries and sold in industrialised countries.
iv) Industrialisation also led to increased exploitation of workers.
V) The telegraph was invented to facilitate long distance communication for business

It may be said tbat science did not play a direct role in the Industrial Revolution-but, of
course, kcbnology did On the other hand, technological understanding and design of
mochincs depended oa sdence-particularly Newton's ideas on motion, force, power and
eaagy etc. The steun engine, the centre-piece of the Industrial Revolution which was used in
fadones, d w a y s and steam ships, owes a great ded to a correct understanding of the nahlre
of beat and the behaviour of gases with change of prsute. Purification of ores, casting of
machine parts from iron, and printing of cloth gave further impetus to developments in
chemistry. Oxygen was discovered by Joaeph Priestley (1733-1804) at around tbe time of tbe
Industrial Revolution. Based on his experiments on combustion, Antoine Leurent Levoisier
(1743-1794), a French scientist formulated a theoretical framework for a rational and
quantitative study of chemistry. John Dalton (1766-1844) proposed the atomic theory a few
dcauis later.
Other sciences soon gathered momentum and the list of inventions or new laws discovered in Fia. 6.11: LOU,S Pasteur
the decades following the Industrial Revolution is most impressive. The list ranges from
the b v e r y of Coulomb's law in 1770. about the force of attraction or repulsion
between two electric charges, to the invention of electric light and the discovery of
radio waves towards the end of the eighteenl century. In the md-nineteenth century,
Louis Pasteur's discovery OF bacteria and his theory that diseases were caused by germs,
provided a great impetus to medicine. It led to the development of immunisation against
diseases like anthrax in cattle and rabies in human beings. Pasteur also demonstrated that
m y of these microbes bring about chemical changes in foodstufEs and that it is possible to
select specific hicrobes to produce products like wines and vinegar. This discovery forms the
basis of industrial microbiology which has enabled us to get many precious drugs, like the
antibiotics cheaply today. It has also made ii possible to explore alternative sources of fuel like
biogas, power-alcohol etc. But, perhaps, the most significant contribution of Pasteur was that
through carefully designed experiments, he gave a convincing proof against the idea of
spontaneous generation of life. He postulated that living being can arise only from the living
and not from non-living matter. Can you believe that almost till the nineteenth century it was
widely held, even by some scientists, that life could arise spontaneously from non-living
Around the same time, a major contribution came from Charles Darwin (1809-82) in his
revolutionary ideas about biological evolution. Until this time, it was believed that each form
of life was specially and separately created and, thus, had a specific place and function in the ,
hierarchy of creation. Through careful observations and painstaking research, Darwio built up .
a theory about the evolution of different forms of life from some simpler ones. You will read
more about Darwin's work in Block 3. Darwin's work destroyed the last justification for
Fk. 6.12: Charla Darw~n.
Aristotle's philosophy. And its conflict with the Church continues to this day.
Emergence of Modern To sum up,,we have oiltlined some of the major drvelopments in science and technology in the
Science eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this period, capitalism came fully into its own and with it
science came of age. It completely shed the ancient and medieval myths. and replaced them by a
rational analysis of observed or.experimenred phenomena. In this manner, it helped to carry the
Industrial Revolution to great heights and to spread it to several European countries. Science and
technology are now recognised to be essential ingredients of industrialisation. This has yet to take
place in most countries which were under colonial domination till recently.

Science educat~onwas introduced as a subject in some universities in Europe even during the
eighteenth century. However, it spread widely during the nineteenth century when scientific
academies were founded in many countries and scientific research took root in many European
centres. The Industrial Revolution and science grew hand in hand, and if the Industrial Revolution
bears certain characteristics of science. science too carries several features of that revolution, as we
will soon examine.

Unfortunately, these developments in industrialised countries further strengthened or expanded

the~rcolonial hold. lndla came under colon~alinfluence almost at the same time as the Industrial
Revolution and we suffered all the negative effects. Our industry was undermined, our
natural resources were packed off, as much as possible, to England which would
manufacture articles and force them on our market. Disruption of social life and extreme
poverty began at Lhe same time. Although science was irresistibly growing in the West, our
education and research were completely neglected. Thus, India fell back in the race of
economic developrnenl by at least a hundred years. Since the international rate of scientific
progress is very high, this uagedy nearly ineans that scientifically we are likely to be
dependent on b e West, perhaps, forever, unless we takc extraordinary measures to pull
ourselves up. We will take up tliis discussio~lin detail in the next unit.

I t would be interesting for you if we went on to explore the relation between sc~ence;technology
and society in the present-day world. But we would not be able to dojustice tosuch an exploration
without discussing the various branches of science and technology and their special role. In this
course, through' the units that will follow, you will begin to appreciate the present situation'by
studying problems of health, food, agriculture and industry. which will be presented in our social


In this unit, we have covered a long period from the fifth century A.D. to the nineteenth century
A.D. This was a pericwl of momentous changes which led to the emergence of modern science in
Europe. L,et US summarix what we have read in this unit.

The regimented thinking in the stagnant feudal society did not allow signifidnt growth of
science in Europe in the Middle Ages. However, there were many technical developments
necessitated by the expansion of agricultural land and the need for its better use at the time
when there was a shonage of labour.
Surplus produce led to trade which encouraged further production. Slowly, the hierarchical
feudal order based on the forced service of serfs gave way to a trading society in which
commodity production and maney payments became dominant.
@ The hallmark of the Renaissance were criticism and rejection of medieval thought. The
Copernican Revolution was an important scientific development of this period.
The post-Renaissance period saw the emergence of a new method of science-that of
observation and experiment. There were a serles cff path-breaking advances in science in this
pdriod, foremost among them being the works of Galileo, Harvey and Irlewton. It also set the
stage for the birth of modern science in many other areas.
The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain radically altered the means of production. With this,
the transition from a feudal economy to capitalist economy was complete in that country. The
social structure also changed accordingly. The feudal hierarchical order with a fixed hereditary
status gave way to the enterprise and monetary status of an ~nd~vldual. Modern science and
technology came of age in this period, and from then onwards, there was no looking back.
Renaissance, the Industrial
6.7 TERMINAL QUESTIONS Revolution and After

1) Against the technical innovations listed below, describe in one or two lines, the social,
economic, political or scientific consequences of each of these, which helped the
transformation of medieval economy.
i) The horse collar.. ...............................................................

ii) Wind-mills and water-mills ................................................

iii) Compass and sternpost rudder. ..................; ....................................


iv) Gunpowder ...............................................................


v) Paper and printing.. ..................................................................

2) State at least three developments that helped the advance of science and technology
during Renaissance.

3) In the following table we have compared the features of European and Indian societies
from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, that helped or impeded the growth of science
in Europe and in India, respectively. Describe the corresponding features of both the
societies in the blank spaces left below. You may have to look up Sec. 5.4 once again.

European society Indian society

i) After severe conflict, the hierarchical ........................................

feudal order had given way to a
climate of individual enterprise and one .. " .. ................................

in which monetary status mattered. ........................................

This paved the way for greater freedom
of thought and action.

ii) The hold of orthodox religious priests

had stifled creative and innovative
thinking in society.

iii) Manual work had acquired greater

social prestige. Artisans and craftsmen
who produced goods mixed on equal
terms with the scientists and thinkers.
iv) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Knowledge was limited to only a few

4) What was the difference between the science of classical and feudal times on the one hand
and science of the time after the Renaissance on the other?


Self Assessment Questions

I) i) T ii) S iii) T iv) T v) S
2) i) commodities, trade, self-sufficient
ii) profits, feudal lords
iii) money, serfs
3) i) Study of human anatomy; representing three-dimensional figures in two-dimensions;
detailed observations of'nature; pumping and hydraulic devices in mining; building
new ships and instruments of navigation; Copernican Revolution.
ii) Copernicus proposed a model of the solar system in'which the sun was at the centre
and all planets including the earth rotated around it. It was revolutionary as it
completely rejected the ancient geocentric model.
4) a) ii), b) iii), c) v), d) i), e) vii), f) viii), g) iv), h) vi)
5 ) a ) i) x ii) d hi) d iv) x v ) d
b) i) T ii) F iii) F iv) T V) T
ii) Instead, it increased the workers' drudgery and reduced their mental involvement.
turning them into virtual machines.
iii)'' Colonised countries supplied the raw materials and served as markets for finished
goods of the industrialised countries.

Terminal Questions
1) i) More acres of land could be cultivated leading to surplus agricultural produce for
ii) Helped in agriculture, forging iron or sawing wood and in overcoming the labour
iii) Opened the oceans for voyage leading to increased trade with far off lands which led
to developments in astronomy, geography and the industry of making navigational
iv) Led to studies in chemistry, mechanics and breathing.
V) Aided the spread of literacy and increased people's access to education.
2) i) The status of technicians, craftsmen and artists was enhanced as the practical arts
ii) Scholars questioned and challenged the medieval thought.
iii) Links between craftsmen and scholars were re-established.
iv) The method of observation, experiment and calculation became the new method of
3) i) The social order was stable. There was general satisfaction among the population with
no clamour to bring about change.
ii) In the changing social conditions, a compromise was worked out between science and
religion. From the seventeenth century onwards there was no religious interference in
iii) The learned people in the society did not interact with the manual workers who were
not considered respectable.
iv) Printing made education and information about science and technology available to
people at large.
4) Earlier works in science were mostly based on speculation ahout the world around. After
the Renaissance, observation, experimentation and calculation, accompanied by a will to
question and revise one's assumptions, became the new methods of science.
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Science in Colonial India
Sclent~ficResearch in Colonla1 Ind~a
Impact of the Freedom Movement
7.3 Science in Post-Independence India
7.4 What We Have Learnt
7.5 Summary
7.6 Terminal Questions
7.7 Answers


We have seen in Unit 6 that the Industrial Revolution had led to an ever increasing demand
for raw materials as well as markets for finished products. The newly industrialised countries
took care of their growing demands by colonising many Asian and African couatries. By the
mid-nineteenth century, the British had established their colonial rule In India. The fairly long
Indian tradition of science and technology and a rich cultural heritage, about which you have
read in Units 2 to 5, got destroyed due to the merciless exploitation perpetrated by the
colonisers. Only after Independence dld we become the masters of our destiny and chose to
consciously use science for the benefit of our people.
In this unit, we will outline the development of science and technology in India during the
colonial and the post-Independence period. We will also try to analyse some pertinent issues
relating to science and our society in the light of what we have learnt in the previous units.

, Objectives
After studying this unit you should be able to :
outline the few scientific developments in colonial India and analyse why these were so
describe the impact of the freedom movement on the developments in science m
pre-Independence India,
describe the problems before our country after Independence and our response to solving
, them,
discuss various issues related to the use of science and technology in our soc~alcontext.


We have seen in Units 5 and 6 that from the sixteenth century onwards, Europe began to
outdistance India in scientific and material advancement. The rise of modem science in Europe
strengthened European economic domination over the colonies where education, science and
research were kept backward.
The advancing European trading companies of Holland, Portugal, France and Great Britain
became deeply involved in political and military rivalries in India. The British East India
Company emerged as the dominant trading company. This culminated in the establishment of
the British supremacy over the Indian sub-continent. This was a very exciting time for the
British rulers; a new empire was in the making and in the process of consolidation. The
colonisers were out to collect the maximum possible information about India, its people and
resources. They faithfully reported what was best in India's technological traditions, what was
best in India's natural resources, and what could be the most advantageous for their employers.
The rulers were also quick to realise that a thorough knowledge of the geography, geology and
botany of the areas being conquered was essential. They fully recognised the role and
importance of science in empire-building. Let us now see what the few scientific developments
Emergence of Modem in the colonial times in India were. We will also try to analyse why there were so few
Science developments.

An interesting feature in the early phase of this period was that colonial scientists would try
their hand at several fields simultaneously and each scientist was, in fact, a botanist, geologist,
geographer and educator-all rolled into one. As data-gatherers, the individual scientists were
efficient.However, for analysis and drawing conclusions, they had to depend upon the
scientific institutions in Britain, which received such data from many colonies. The British
made investment in botanical, geological and geographical surveys from which they hoped to
get direct and substantial economic and military advantages. Medical and zoological sciences
did not hold such promise and, thus, they were neglected. Research in physics or chemistry
was simply out of question because these subjects were related to industrial development
which the British did not want to encourage. India was considered to be only a source of raw
materials and a wonderful market for all sorts of articles manufactured in Britain, from
needles, nibs and pencils to shoes, textiles and medicines.

However, the setting up of some scientific bodies and museums was a positive step. Pre-British
India had a weak scientific base and, therefore, neither scientific institutions existed nor were
there any journals to spread scientific information. William Jones, a judge of the Supreme
Court of Calcutta and some other European intellectuals in the city realised this and founded
the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in 1784. This society soon became the focal point of all
scientific activity in India. It was followed by Agricultural-Horticultural Society of India
(1817), Calcutta Medical & Physical Society (1 823), Madras Literary and Scientific Society
(1818), and the Bombay Branch of the Asiatic Society (1829). These societies rendered
invaluable service, particularly through their journals which compared very favourably with
the European ones.

When the Crown formally took over the Indian administration in 1858, activities for exploring
the natural resources in the country had already passed their formative stage. The problem was
more of consolidating the gains which individual efforts had made possible. For this, many
institutions were set up and the government expanded the survey organisations. In 1878, the
three survey branches-the trigonometrical, topographical and the revenue which had upto
that time been separate departments, were amalgamated. Naturally, Revenue Survey got the
upper hand. Similarly, geological explorations were patronised because of their direct
economic benefit. The Geological Survey of India was created in 1851. Unlike the Geological
Survey or Survey of India, an organisation for carrying out botanical explorations did not
come up.

The establishment and development of various scientific departments and institutions called for
a different cadre. The biggest and the oldest was the Indian Medical Service which was raised
and maintained basically to serve the army. The most disorganised sector was that of
agriculture. Though the maximum revenue came from agriculture, the problems of its
improvement were too complex and the government left it in the hands of private agricultural
societies. Much later, in 1906, an Indian Agricultural Service was organised. However, it did
not grow into a well-knit and integrated scientific department because of financial and
administrative constraints. A' few branches which were of military or instant economic
significance could manage to develop. But, on the whole, the efforts remained adhoc, sporadic
and local in nature. The government wanted practical results rather than research papers. An
excessive administrative control, exercised at different levels, ensured that the colonial scientists
would always dance to the official tune.
In the educational scheme, science was never given a highqpriority.The charter of 1813 called
for 'the introduction and promotion of knowledge of science among the inhabitants of British
India'. But it remained a pious wish, at least partly because the indigenous educational system
was also not sympathetic to the idea. In 1835, Macaulay succeeded in making a foreign
language English the medium of instruction. Also, his personal distaste for science led to a
cumculum which was purely literary. The entry of science in schools was, thus, delayed. A
few medical and engineering institutions were opened but they were meant largely to supply
assistants to British trained doctors and engineers. Ancient universities in India were leading
centres of learning in their time and attracted scholars from other countries. So were the
famous centres of Islamic learning in the medieval period in India. But these traditions did not
survive. It was in 1857 that the Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were set ap
more or less on the pattern of London University.
However, it was only in 1870 that the Indian universities began to show some interest in SdencemCdonisland
science education. In 1875, Madras University decided to examine its matriculation candidates Modern l o d l ~
in geography and elementary physics in place of British history. Bombay was the first to grant
degrees in science. Calcutta University divided its B.A. into two branches- 'A' course, i.e.
literary, 'B' course, i.e. science. A fact of great significance, however, was that the entire
direction of colonial education was not towards opening up the minds of students or
developing a questioning attitude. Rather it encouraged passive acceptance of what was taught
or written in the books. The books were in English and were mostly written and printed
abroad. They depicted the British culture. Education so imparted, by and large, tended to
alienate the educated people from their own culture. Further, the educational milieu ensured
lack of enterprise, and readiness to take orders from above, which was indeed the intention of
the rulers. Institutions and teachers looked at the British educational model as the ideal and, by
and large, they tried to copy it even though they were in a very different social and economic

State, in the space given, whether the following statements about the scientific developments
in colonial India are true or false. Write the correct answers for the false statements.
i) Botanical, geological and geographical surveys were carried out to map India's natural
ii) Research in physics and chemistry was encouraged to promote industrial development
in India.
iii) Some scientific societies came up and brought out some journals for disseminating
scientific information.
iv) Attention was paid to medicine only to serve the army and other British populace.
v) There was a systematic and organised effort to solve problems in agriculture.
vi) Several universities started offering courses in science education.
vii) At school level, too, science education was given much attention.
viii) The purpose of imparting education in British India was to create a spirit of free enquir
and innovative thinking. b
We have seen above, that the British were primarily interested in strengthening their political
and economic domination over India. They exploited India's resources to the full and
developed a nominal scientific infrastructure for this purpose. However, in all other areas, like
physics, chemistry and agriculture, in which scientific development was not imperative, no
atention was paid. In this period of colonisation, India's cultural heritage, scientific tradition
and educational system got destroyed. In its place came a tradition of servility and an
education that was designed to produce subservience rather than inculcate a spirit of free and
creative inquiry.
The status of scientific research in colonial India was not much better. Let us'see what it was.

7.2.1 Scientific Research in Colonial India

In the absence of higher scientific education, scientific research remained an exclusive
governmental exercise for a long time. It was, therefore, linked to the economic policies
pursued by the imperial power. A scientist serving the colonial power was supposed to not
only discover new economic resources, but also to help in their exploitation. In agriculture, it
was basically plantation research with emphasis on experimental farms, the introduction of
new varieties, and the various problems related to cash crops. These were basically cotton,
indigo, tobacco and tea, which were all to be exported to Britain. Next came surveys in
geology to exploit mineral resources, again for export as raw material. Another major area of
concern was health. The survival of the army, the planters and other colonisers depended on it.

In spite of diffiult conditions and the government's lukewarm attitude, quite a few scientific
works were camed out in this period. Ronald Ross did original work on the relation between
malaria and the mosquito. Macnamara worked on cholera, Haffkine on plague and Rogers on
kalazar. The famous medical scientist, Robert Koch visited Calcutta to work on cholera.
Bacteriological laboratories were set up in Bombay, Madras, Coonoor, Kasauli and
Mukteswar. This shift towards bacteriological research had one significant result. It led to the
growth of clinical treatment, private practice and a booming drug industry. However,
preventive measures like sanitary reforms, or even supply of drinking water to villages and
towns remained neglected. In other fields too significant developments took place through the
effort of foreign and Indian scientists working in institutions here.
The British activities did evoke some response from the local populace, particularly the
educated section, who were looking for jobs in the colonial administration and economy. A
few Indians participated in the officially patronised scientific associations or institutions.
However, they often searched for a distinct identity and established institutions, scholarships
and facilities of their own. Ram Mohun Roy's petition to Amherst asking for a proper science
education became well known. Bal Gangadhar Shastri and Hari Keshavji Pathare in Bombay,
Master Ramchander in Delhi, Shubhaji Bapu and Onkar Bhatt Joshi in Central Provinces, and
Aukhoy Dutt in Calcutta worked for the popularisation of modem science in Indian

Geography and astronomy were the areas chosen first because, in these fields, the Pauranic
myths were considered the strongest. Vyas, the author of Srimad Bhagwat, for example, had
talked about oceans of milk and nectar. This is part of popular myth even now, and this was
attacked by these persons. For instance, Onkar Bhatt explained that Vyas was only a poet, not
a scientist, and his interest was merely to recount the glories of God, so he wrote whatever he
fancied. Even Urdu poets, devoted mainly to the romances of life, took notice of the western
science and technology. Hali and Ghalib, for example, talked about the achievements of
western civilisation based upon steam and coal power. The next logical step from these
individual efforts was to give some organisational shape to the growing yearning for modem
In 1864, Syed Ahmed Khan founded the Ahgarh Scientific Society and called for introduction
of technology in industrial and agricultural production. Four years later, Syed Imdad Ali
founded the Bihar Scientific Society. These societies gradually became defunct. In 1876, M.L.
Sarkar established the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. This was completely
under Indian management and without any government aid or patronage. Sarkar's scheme was
fairly ambitious. It aimed at original investigations as well as science popularisation. It
gradually developed into an important centre for research in optics, acoustics, scattering of
light, magnetism etc. In Bombay, Jamshedji Tata drew up a similar scheme for higher
scientific education and research. This led to the establishment of the Indian Institute of
Science at Bangalore in 1909. There was, thus, greater awareness about science in India by the
turn of the century. This was especially so, as a movement to gain freedom from colonial rule
emerged. In the next section, we will discuss the impact of the freedom movement on the
scientific developments. But before studying further, why don't you work out another SAQ ?

a) State, in one or two lines, what the purpose for encouraging research in colonial India in
each of the following areas was:

i) Botany

ii) Geology, Geography

iii) Medicine

b) Which one of the following statements describes the contributions of Indians to the
scientific developments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? Tick mark the
correct choice.

i) There was considerable organised effort in setting up societies, research and teaching
Science in Colonial and
ii) There were some attempts here and there and some institutions were set up to Modem India
promote original investigationsas well as science popularisation.
iii) There were almost insignificant Indian contributions to scientific development.
iv) None of the above.

7.2.2 Impact of the Freedom Movement

By the early twentieth century, the Indian society had started witnessing the first stirrings for
freedom from colonial rule. While their political aspirations led to a demand for self-rule, the
frustration resulting from economic stranglehold found expression in their insistence on using
only goods made in India. Swadeshi Movement provided further impetus for :
i) promotion of education along national lines and under national control with special
reference to science and technology,
ii) industrialisation of the country.
In 1904, an Association for the Advancement of Scientific and Industrial Education of Indians
was formed. The objed was to send qualified students to Europe, America and Japan for
studying science-based industries.
As mentioned earlier, in colonial India the environment was not conducive to higher studies,
much less to research. Indians were allowed only. subordinate posts and even those who had
distinguished themselves abroad were given less salary than the Europeans of the same grade
and rank. This 'apartheid' in science made the Indians react strongly. J.C. Bose, the first noted
Indian physicist, refused to accept this reduced salary for three years. Not only this, till the
Royal Society recognised Bose,the college authorities refused him any research facility and
considered his work as purely private. J.C. Bose was unorthodox in one more sense. He was
one of the first among the modem scientists to take to interdisciplinary research. He started
as a physicist but his interest in electrical responses took him to plant physiology. To fight for a
place and recognition in the scientific circles in Britain was no less difficult than fighting
against the administrative absurdities of a colonial government. Bose persisted and won.

Fig. 7.1: (a) J.C. Bose;(b) the crcscrograph, one of the many instruments invented by J.C. Bose,could record plant
growth magnifying a small movement as much as 10,0m,(jootima.
Another noted Indian scientist, P.C. Ray had also suffered similarly. On his return from
England in 1888 with a doct ,?te in chemistry, he had to hang aiound for a year and was
fmally offered a temporary aksistant professorship. All through he had to remain in Provincial
Service. P.N.Bose,preferred to resign, when in 1903 he was superseded for the directorship of
the Geological Survey by T. Holland who was 10 years junior to him.
These problems were reflected on the political platform of the country. In its third session
(1887), the Indian National Congress took up the question of technical education and has
since then passed resolutions on it every year. K.T. Telang and B.N. Seal pointed out how, in
the name of technical education, the government was merely imparting lower forms of
practical training. The Indian Medical Service was also severely criticised. In 1893, the Fig. 7.2: Acharya P.C. by.
Congress passed a resolution asking the government "to raise a scientific m e d i d profession in
Indja by throwing open fields for medical and scientific work to the best talent available and
inc@enous talent in particular." Whether it be education, agriculture or mining, the Congress
touched several problems under its wide sweep. 47
Emergence of Modem We find that the activities of this era had two important features. One was that almost all the
exponents of Swadeshi looked to Japan as a major source of inspiration. Japan's emergence as
a viable Asian industrial power and its subsequent military victory over Russia in 1904-05
caught the imagination of Indians. Another characteristic was that quite often they showed
revivalist tendencies. This may have been because the distant past comes in handy for the
recovery of a lost self or reassertion of one's identity. This search for moorings made P.N.
Kunchanagraph is an instrument to Bose, a geologist, mention about whom has been made above, write A ' HLrtory of H~ndu
<how how plant body reacts to Civiliration' in three volumes. J.C. Bose gave Sanskrit names to the instruments he had
stimulus, by undergoing contractions.
fabricated, like Kunchanagraph and Shoshangraph. Many science popularisers had a tendency
Shoshangraph is an instrument for
studying absorption of water or any to show that whatever was good in western science existed in ancient India also. For example,
liquid by plants. Ramendrasundar Trivedi's discussion on Darwin ends with comparing his theory with what is
written in Gita. Later, B.K. Sarkar wrote on the Hindu Achievements in Exact Science.
All these scientists were for the industrial application of modern science but failed to overcome
certain cultural constraints, which was necessary for this effort. All they tried to do was to
demonstrate that the Indian ethos and the values of modem science were congruent and not
poles apart. In such a situation, it was not easy to evolve a correct understanding of our
intellectual and cultural heritage. This was all the more difficult because of the total colonial
domination both in education and in social life.
These efforts had, nonetheless, a galvanising effect. Taking advantage of the University Act of
1904, which allowed the existing Indian universities to organise teaching and research instead
of merely affiliating colleges, Sir Asutosh Mookhejee took the initiative of establishing a
University College of Science in Calcutta. Eminent scientists such as P.C. Ray, C.V. Rarnan,
S.N. Bose and K.S. Krishnan taught there. This very college, although starved financially all
through, produced a group of physicists and chemists who received international recognition.
By contrast, the contributions of many government scientific organisations staffed by highly
paid Europeans were rather poor.
Fig. 7.3: Nobel Laureate C.V. Those who put India on the scientific map of the world were many. J.C. Bose showed that
Raman. animal and plant tissues display electric responses under different kind of stimuli, like pricktng,
heat etc. We have referred to his work earlier also. S. Ramanujan, an intuitive mathematical
genius contributed a lot to number theory. P.C. Ray analysed a number of rare Indian
minerals and started the Bengal Che'mical and Pharmaceutical Works, a pioneering and pace
setting organisation in the field of indigenous chemical and pharmaceutical industry. C.V.
Raman's research on the scattering of light later won him the Nobel Prize in 1930. K.S.
Krishnan did thedretical work on the electric resistance of metals. S.N. Bose's collaboration
with Einstein on the study of elementary particles led to what is known as the BowEinstein
Statistics. D.N. Wadia worked in the field of geology, Birbal Sahni in palambotany, P.C.
Mahalanobis in statistics, and S.S. Bhatnagar in chemisq. Apart from the individual
contributions of these scientists, their greatest contribution was in the field of teaching and
guiding research.Many institutes were set up. For example, the Bose Institute (1917),
Sheila Dhar Institute of Soil Science (1936), Birbal Sahni Institute of Palambotany
etc. This gave further impetus to scientific activity in India.
The need for an annual scientific meeting had been felt all along, so that different scientific
workers throughout the country might be brought into touch with one another more closely.
So far it had been possible only in the purely official and irregular conferences such as the
Sanitary Conference or the Agricultural Conference. Thus, was born the Indian Science
Congress Association (ISCA) in 1914 with the following objectives :
to give a stronger impulse and a more systematic direction to scientific enquiry,
to promote the interaction of societies and individuals interested in science in different parts
of the country,
to obtain a more general attention to the cause of pure and applied sciences.

The objectives have not changed much since then and the ISCA has now grown into the
largest organisation of Indian scientists and technologists representing all disciplines of science
Fig. 7.4: S. Ramanujan. and technology.
In the wake of the first World War (1914-18), the Government realised that India must
become more self-reliant scientifically and industrially. It appointed an Indian Industrial
Commission in 1916 to examine steps that might be taken to lessen India's scientific and
industrial dependence on Britain. The scope of the resulting recommendations was broad,
covering many aspects of industrial development. But few of the Commission's
recommendations were actually implemented. Similar was the fate of numerous other
Conferences and Committees. Whenever requests were made by I n d i i for starting new.
institutions or expanding existing ones, the government pleaded insufficiency of funds or Science in Colonial and
Modem India
inadequacy of demand. The interests of the colonial administration and those of the
nationalists in most instances often clashed.
If we look at the events during the first quarter of the twentieth century, we find that this
period was characterised by debate about further development. When Gandhiji started his
campaign for cottage industries, varying notes were heard at the annual session of the Indian
Science Congress. P.C. Ray, for example, held that general progress through elementary
education and traditional industries, is a necessary precondition for scientific progress. But
many mered with him.M.N. Saha and his Science & Culture group opposed the Gandhian
path of economic development and supported setting up of big industries. The socialist
experiments in Russia had unveiled the immense potentialities of science for man in terms of
economy and material progress. The national leadership was veering towards heavy
industrialisation and sucialism, both of which s t d on the foundations of modern science and
technology. On Saha's persuasion, the then Congress Resident Subhas Chandra Bose agreed
to accept national planning and industrialisation as the top item on the Congress agenda.

The result was the formation of the National Planning Committee in 1938 under the
chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru. This Committee appointed 29 subcommittees, many of
which dealt with such technical subjects as inigation, industries, public health and education. Fig. 7.5: S.N. Bose.
The subcommittee oa Technical Education worked under the Chairmanship of M.N.Saha.
Other members were Birbal Sahni, J.C. Ghose, J.N. Mukherjee, N.R. Dhar, Nazir Ahmed,
S.S. Bhatnagar and A.H. Pandya. The subcommittee reviewed the activities of the existing
institut~onsto find out how far the infrastructure of men and apparatus was sufficient'in
turning out technical personnel.
The outbreak of the Second World War (1939-45) and the interruption of the direct sea route
between India and England made it necasary for the colonial government to allow greater
industrial capability to develop in India. It was, therefore, felt necessary to establish a Central
Research Organisation and this was eventually followed by the establishment of the Council of
Scientific and Industrial Research in 1942. As part of the post-war reconstruction plan, the
government invited A.V. Hill, President of the Royal Society. In 1944, he prepared a report that
identified various problems confronting research in India. These developments offer& greater
opportunities to Indian scientists in policy-making and management of scientific affairs.In fact,
the origins of the science policy of free India and of the whole national reconstruction d n be ,
traced to these activities.
Before you study further about the scientific developments in post-Independence India, you
may like to attempt an SAQ to consolidate these ideas.

Fill up the blanks in tHe following statements that summarise the impact of freedom
movement on scientific developments in pre-Independence India : Fig. 7.6: B~rbelSahni.

i) An impetus for promoting science education and industrialisation according to national

needs came from the ........... movement.

ii) There were several notable contributions by individual ............However, the

overall atmosphere did not encourage the growth of. ........and
colonial India.
iii) The leaders of the freedom movement realised this and put forth a demand for raising
the standards whether in education, ............mining or ..................

iv) As the freedom movement intensified and scientific activity grew, there was a debate
about further development, Eventually, the path of ........... and national ......
............ was chosen.

V) Committees were set up to review the activities of existing infrastructure, to identify the
problems and to suggest ways of solving them. All these efforts formed the basis of the
............. of free India and also of national reconstruction.
The foregoing analysis of British India illustrates that it was futile to expect the emergence of FIR. 7.7: M.N. Saha.
science here under an alien administration obsessed with one-sided commercial preferences. In
such a situation, field sciences were developed to exploit natural resources and grow
. commercial crops; but a balanced development of research did not take place. When industry
was not allowed to develop, many related sciences could not grow properly. As we have seen
Emergence ofModem in Unit 6, an atmosphere of vitality and exuberance in the social and economic life was
Scimcc necessary to bring forth innovative ideas and to encourage scientific progress. Individual
scientists, however, did shine in adverse circumstances. It was all the more so under the
influence of a larger social movement and struggle, which promised to liberate and transform
society. Thus, the situation changed when India became independent in 1947. Let us now
discuss, in brief, the developments in science and technology in post-Independence India.


When the Second World War ended in 1945, Germany, Italy and Japan had been defeated
and France had been badly shaken. Even Britain had suffered tremendous losses and its
economy was almost ruined. Thus, the colonial powers which had ruled the world and spread
poverty, hunger and disease everywhere, were in no position to suppress people anywhere any
more. The constant struggle for freedom in the colonial countries had also reached a high
pitch. The result was that, one after another, more than a hundred countries of Asia, Africa
and South America became free. The war had shattered the old system, and a new world had
been born, with an entirely different set of opportunities and problems.

The countries which had become newly independent had the tremendous problem of
reconstructing their economy so that tolerable conditions of living could first be created for all
their people. The old ruling countries, on the other hand, had to think of ways and means of
continuing to drain the wealth of their erstwhile colonies. This was necessary to enable their
business enterprise. to continue making high profits so that they could maintain relatively high
standards of living to which their own people had become accustomed.

Science and technology had to be deliberately employed by both sets of countries. The only
differencewas that the developing countr~eshad to make a start trom scratch-with hardly my
institutions or people who could engage in competitive science and technology, whereas the
advanced or developed countries now had a stronger base of science and technology than ever
before. During the war great sums of money had been spent on developing nuclear science and
the atomic bomb, on electronics as applied to radar and communication, and on advanced
designs of aircrafts, submarines and other means of waging war. All other sciences were also in
a much better position than before. This base of science and technology was. to be used to the
advantage of developed countries to regain the old glory and power. In other words, our
struggle for "development" and their struggle for supremacy are two sides of the same coin.
Science and technology play a pivotal role in this international competition.
The Indian freedom movement had been conscious that political independence was only a
stepping stone to economic independence. Our leaders had realised that our decisions about
industry and trade would have to be taken by us alone without compulsion of foreign
governments or their business counterparts. And that our economic development would have
to serve the people and meet the minimum needs of their food, health, shelter, education, culture
eft For this, we could not leave amnomic development to chance, or to the purely profit motive
on which private industry and trade operate, their natural tendency being to produce what can
sell, rather than what is needed in our social context. Therefore, an essential part of our
approach to development was to plan our economy to bring about maximum human
satisfaction combined with growth.
The role of science and technology was crucial for this endeavour and this was clearly
expressed in the "Scientific Policy Resolution" adopted by the Parliament in 1958. This
resolution was drafted and piloted through the Parliament by our first Prime Minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru. In the words of this Resolution :
"The key to national prosperity, apart from the spirit of the people, lies, in the modern age, in
the effective combination of three factors, technology, raw materials and capital, of which the
first is, perhaps, the most important, since the creation and adoption of new scientific
techniques can, in fact, make up for a deficiency in natural resources, and reduce the demands
on capital. But technology can only grow out of the study of science and its applications."
sin& Independence, and particularly after the passage of the Rwlution, a great expansion of
science and technology in both education and research has taken place. The situation today is
far different from what it wvas in 1947. We have now about 200 universities including 6
In- Institutes of Technology, over 800 engineering colleges and 110 medical colleges, a
few hundred scientific research laboratories under the Central and State governments, as S c i e in Cdoniel and
also R & D units in private industry. Research is k i n g done in almost all areas of modern Modem India
science. The conspicuous success of our scientists atomic energy, space research and
agriculture is wcll known.

The funds allocated to research have also vastly increased over what they used to be 40 years
ago. But in the modern world, it is not enough to be in the forefront of creative science or
innovative technology. Out of the total world expenditure on research, excluding the socialist
countries, 98%is spent by the developed countries, the old imperial powers. Only 2% is spent
by all the developing countries taken together. In this, India's share may be half a per cent.
Moreover, since the developed countries have better facilities, better opportunities for scientific
world and higher standards of living, a fairly high proportion of our talented young people
migrate to those countries. They are, thus, unable to contribute towards national development
by solving our problems through science and technology. New discoveries and new inventions,
therefore, still come from the advanced or developed countries. p i s position does not seem
likely to change in the near future.

A new feature of the world since the Second World War is the armaments race. It started with
the Americans dropping the radically different weapon, the atom bomb, on Hiroshima and

r Nagasaki in Japan. Since then, modern bombs, each equivalent to a million tons of the old
explosive, were dcvclopcd both by the U.S., the then Soviet Union and other nuclear
powers. Nuclear powers have missiles which can carry the bombs to targets half way round
* the globe. Each offensive weapon has led to a new defensive system. There has also been a
race to obtain bases in olher countries, A dangerous aspect about nuclear weapons is that
these could be triggered ofC even by mistake. and could destroy all civilisation. Thus, we
can see that Ule security of neilher of these countries has improved. In fact, many other
countries are drawn into tllc race because weapons of onc country have to be matched by
another. It is calculated tl~atUle world is spending more than 1,00,000crore rupees per year
o n :mn:imcnt :uld dlc dcvcloping corlntries arc spcnding ahout 20% of this amount, much of
\vh1c11p w s lo buy weapons from linns in tllc dcvcloped countries.

Imagine such a lot of money, representing human labour, being wasted year after year.
Naturally resources for development are diverted to "security". On the other hand, people in
underdeveloped countries are still largely illiterate and deficiently served in basic requirements
of life, such as food, drinking water, medicine etc. Interestingly, it is said that the arms race has
led to huge profits being made by a small number of firms, and it is designed to suck away the
resources of developing countries so that their dependence on foreign loans, technologies and
strategic policies is increased. The more sophisticated the weapons are, the more is our
dependence on the advanced countries.

Surely, this is neither a happy situation nor a stable one. The power of science has reached
such a pitch that international relations haveto be readjusted, and national effort has to be
recast so as to bring the benefits of science to the lives of common people.

We now end this discwion with an SAQ for you!

Tick mark the three statements that reflect the efforts of our country in solving our problems
with the help of science and technology. ,
i) Adopting a carefully formulated science policy.
ii) Allowing young scientists to migrate to developed countries.
iii) Expansion of science and technology in both education and research.
iv) Increased research funding.
v) . Diverting resources, for buying weapons..
Emergence of Modem

What we have discussed so far in Blocks 1 a@ 2 leads us to underline the following points
about the use of science and technology in our social context.

i) Knowledge is one, and its various components such as physics, chemistry, biology,
medicine, technology, economics etc. are profoundly inter-related. However, we have
become accustomed to separating the study of science from that of social sciences and
humanitib. This may be explained by historic circumstances as we have mentioned in
Sec. 2.2.1 and Sec. 6.4.1, but it is an undesirable feature of the present educational
and research system. It does not allow a person to have a unified view of how the
components interact, or more particularly, how science plays a role in changing the
socjoeconomic system and how the sctio-economic plans and policies affect science.
For many years, scientists believed that science is good in itself. This continued until the
sociologists pointed out how science can be destructively used, how diseases can be
spread rather than controlled by science, how aeroplanes and even the modern space
science can be misused to wage wars for subjugating people or even killing them on a
massive scale. For science to be good, it must be designed to help in serving the purpose
of uplifting and improving the human condition.

ii) We have seen in Unit 6 that much of the modern scientific and technological
development has taken place in the context of, and according to, the demands of the
West European society, and, later, the American society. We should carefully examine if
all the ideas developed there suit our Indian society. For example, practically all
mechanisation was to increase productivity of labour, or, in practical terms, to have
more production from fewer people. This is a labour saving outlook,.fit for a country
where labour was in short supply-as in the European countries. What would be the
effect of mechanisation on the employment situation in a populous country like ours?
Mechanisation as an exact copy of what happened in the western world may not be in
our best interest, unless employment and the related buying power of the people is

Mechanisation and modernisation may reduce the labour cost of production and hence
profits may increase, but the social costs may become unbearable in a country in which
the majority of population is poor. Obviously, a careful and cautious policy is needed. A
concrete example is in agriculture: non-mechanical agriculture typically produces 5 to
10%surplus so that the population in the towns can be fed. Mechanisation does not
increase the yield from soil. What happens is that only fewer people, say 5%, can
produce the entire needed surplus. But then what would the rest of the rural population
do? If they are unemployed and made poorer still, they may not be able to buy the food
which is produced. The answer is to open up other avenues of employment. It means
that careful and many-sided planning is necessary to take real advantage of
mechanisation in agriculture or in industry.

iii) Another disputable idea is that of "efficiency" of an enterprise, say, a factory. As we

have seen in Unit 6, historically, maximising profit was the only concern of the factory
owner. Therefore, he made an analysis of the inputs to the production system and the
outputs. Social concerns did not figure in his scheme of things. For instance, some
factories set up on the basis of 'high efic~ency'have led to terrible pollution of the
environment, with smoke and soot and all kinds of dirty stinking or acidic water coming
out of the factories and stagnating around them. We see such a situation in India even
now when we have not reached as high a degree of industrialisation as in the West. In
Europe or America, where industrialisation was even more intense, whole cities like
Birmingham in U.K. or Chicago and Detroit in USA had become black, often covered
with smoky fog. Similarly, scarce resources from the earth were mined and sold for a
handsome profit without caring either for degradation of the soil or depletion of the
resouras in the long run. Thus, with the so called 'efficiency' related only to the profit
that one could make, social problems were often made more acute. We cannot afford to
further complicate our problems by uncritically using an idea, approach or a definition
from the developed countries.

iv) There are many other ideas which would need to be scrutinised and modified before
being accepted for our conditions. One is "economy of scale", which means you can
make more profit if you produce goods on a large scale, since the overhead costs do not Science in Colonial and
Modem India
increase proportionately. This idea was good in the past when markets, particularly in
the colonies, and export markets were more freely available to the industrialised
countries. Today, the social needs, howsoever limited, will have to be taken into
account. For instance. in our context, men and machines should be producing what is
urgently needed by our own people. Gearing production to an export market, even if
one were available, at the cost of our own needs, is not an unmixed blessing.

v) Another misbonception that people have is that science and technology are freely
available to all who care to use them. Unfortunately, technology and the most advanced
ideas in science are used to produce goods which are sold either at exorbitant prices or
to bargain for concessions of another kind. You may have read in the newspapers about
defence equipment, "super computers", and other sophisticated technology being offered
to developing countries under all kinds of conditions. Technological secrets are the most
jealously guarded secrets in the present world. Even scientific advances made by
laboratories in the developed couptries are withheld for as long as circumstances would
Thus, we can see that. even after the colonies have gained their independence, the
colonial yoke has not completely gone. Science and technology are being used as tools
to make developing countries behave more or less according to the interests of the
developed countries. We will resume this discussion in the last block of this course and
explore how we can use science and technology for the national good.


In this unit, we have dealt with the developments, in science in colonial and post-Independence
India. The newly industrialised countries had in their search for raw materials and markets for
finished products, colonised many Asian and African countries. India came under the British
colonial yoke. This influenced the subsequent scientific developments in India. Let us now
summarise the main features of this unit :

The colonisers were interested only in exploiting India's natural resources. Thus,
developments took place in a few areas like botany, geology, geography etc. However, the
long standing Indian tradition of science was destroyed. All creative thought was sought to
be stifled by the colonial masters to keep the Indians backward.

The local populace responded by setting up institutions of their own that worked for the
popularisation of science. The freedom movement gave further impetus to this cause.
Several Indian scientists received international recognition for their work. But, above all,
there emerged a conscious thinking about using science and technology for the benefit of all
our people.
This was reflected in the policies adopted by our country after gaining independence.
Several steps were taken to effectively use science. Yet, there are still several aspects which
f need careful attention. Notable among these is applying western ideas and approaches to
i our problems regardless of our social milieu. We have also to fight against the tactics of the
developed countries to dominate us by withholding scientific or technological information,
1 embroiling us in the arms race etc. We have yet to go a long way in attaining the standards
of the developed countries.


1) State, in four or five lines, why there were such few developments in science in British
2) List two aspects of the role of developed countries, which impede our development in 1
science and technolopv.



3) Which three options from among the following would you expect our country to I

exercise for using science and technology in our social context? Tick your choices.

i) Increasing the funding of education and research.

ii) Preventing braindrain, i.e. the migration of young scientists to developed

countries by creating favourable conditions. 0 I

iii) Leaving economic and scientific development entirely to private enterprise. I

iv) ~ n c o u r L ~an
i n all-round
~ education in the various components of knowledge. 0
v) Adopting uncritically, the ideas or practices of the developed countries.
Self Assessment Questions

1) i) T ii) F iii) T iv) T v) F vi) T vii) F viii) F.

ii), v), vii), viii): It was just the opposite for each case as you can see from the text.

2) a) i) T o solve the problems of introducing new varieties of cash crops like cotton, tea,
indigo for export to UK.
ii) T o exploit mineral and natural resources.
iii)To provide healthcare for the colonisers.

b) ii)

3) i) Swadeshi
ii)Scientists, science, technology
agriculture, medicine
iv) Industrialisation, planning
V) science policy
4) i) J ii) x iii) J iv) d V) X

Terminal Questions
The primary aim of the colonisers was to maximally exploit India's natural resources for
supplying raw materials to Britain and sell finished products in the Indian market. They
were just not concerned with preserving India's scientific and cultural tradition or
encouraging any development, scientific, educational or material in India.

2) i) Use of science and technology to assert their dothination over underdeveloped

countries and to make them behave.
ii) Encouraging the arms race so as to make huge prbfits and increase the dependence
of poor countries on loans, technologies and strategic policies.
3) i) J ii) J iii) x iv) J v) x
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Science - Its Many Facets
8.3 The Method of Science
Laws, Models and Theories
Some Examples
8.4 The Nature of Scientific Knowledge
8.5 ScientificApproach to Problem Solving
8.6 A Reflection about Science
8.7 Summary
8.8 Terminal Questions
8.9 Answers

In modern times, there is not a single aspect of our life that has not been influenced by science.
Science intervenes to clarify our sense of wonder at distant stars and galaxies. And, at the same
time, science peeps into our innermost self. Be it fine arts, history or sociology, science and
technology are no longer disinterested on-lookers. Concepts of ageing and longevity, pain and
pleasure, work and leisure, war and peace have all now acquired new meaning in the context
of scientific developments.
As science has increashgly pervaded our lives, it has become more than a sum of physics,
chemistry, biology, and mathematics. It is something more than just learning how to increase
industrial or agricultural production, or inventing better machines, materials or drugs.
Science is a question of ideas, a way of thinking. It involves observation and insight, reasoning
and intuition, systematic work and creative impulse. Science gives rise to an attitude of mind
which is conscious of vast areas of ignorance, and is yet optimistic about human ability to
unravel the mysteries that surround us. Science gives many of us a culture and a philosophy of
life which leads to the pursuit of truth without prejudgement.
What is the method of science by which one gathers knowledge, sifts and interprets it, in order
to lead to an understanding of nature and, to some extent, of man? What is the nature of
scientific knowledge? It is important to grasp these ideas because they find applications in
many other fields and often in resolving personal dilemmas. We will also give you a brief
insight into the scientific approach to problem solving. The unit ends with a broad overview
of various aspects of science. But the discussion does not end here. You will find echoes of the
ideas presented in this unit, in the units that follow.

After studying this unit you should be able to :
describe what constitutes the body of scientific knowledge,
describe the characteristic features of scientificknowledge,
outline the scientific method and describe each of its operations.
apply the scientific approach to solve problems of everyday life.


Science is at once a personal and a social pursuit. It is marked by intense creative involvement
of the individual. At the same time, scientific development is affected by social conditions and
Fmergence 01 Modern demands. And, in turn, science has a powerful impact on society. It is, thus, a vehicle of social
Science change. The human approach to life and environment has always been conditioned by a sense
of wonder and curiosity on the one hand, and the struggle for survival and well being on the
other. Both these basic instincts have shaped human thought from times immemorial. Science
being an integral part of human thought and endeavour is also influenced by these instincts.
Either of these motives could be dominant in any individual scientist. Society benefits from
both, from a better understanding as also from a better control of world around 'us.

Science is modern in the sense that it tries to explain things as they are known today. But we
know that its origin is as old as human existence. The tradition of science has existed from the
earliest ages of man. It was there long before the name 'science' was invented or a 'method of
science' distinct from common sense and traditional lore had evolved. We have seen that early
practitioners of this tradition were found among astrologers, priests, magicians and craftsmen.
not to mentlon the latter day alchemists. In fact. depending upon thecharacter of societies. and
the historic period of their existence, the nature of questions posed to man and his response
have been changing and so has science been changing.

What is the world that science is concerned with? The world that science describes-the
universe that science explores-is the natural world, the world of experience. It encompasses
terrestrial and celestial, living and the non-living. Science may be regarded as a means of
establishing new kinds of contacts with the world, in new domains, at new levels.
How do we establish these contacts? These are-mainly through our senses. However, the range
of our senses is limited. For instance, we cannot see things that are too far or too small; we
cannot hear sounds that are too low or too high, and so on. There are other limitations as well.
For instance, as you can see in Fig. 8.1, the perceptions gathered through our senses may be
relative. Modem science has enabled us to overcome many of the limitations of our senses. For
instance, limitation of the eye with respect to size or distance do not limit scientific observation
because of the invention of tools like microscopes, telescopes etc. Atoms can now be 'seen' and
so can the distant stars, invisible to the naked eye. With the help of scientific instruments, it is
now possible to make observations which are independent of an individual's sensory
perception. For instance, in Fig. 8.1 a thermometer would always record the same temperature
of water in glass B, though it feels hot or cold to our fingers.

Fig. 8.1 : If you put a finger of one band in hot water (glass A) and a finger of the other hand in mld water ( g l s C )
for some time and then put them both in lukewarm water. you will find that the two fingers feel ditlerent
sensations. The water in the glass B appears wann to the finger that was in cold water and cold to the finger
that was in hot water.

New 'sounds', new 'lights', new 'spaces', new 'contacts' of various sorts-that is what the
modem science is about. Our role as 'observers' of nature, as witnesses to events happening
around us, has undergone a tremendous change. The ability to observe nature beyond what
our senses enable us to do, gives us a feeling of nearness or closeness with natural world, as
well as a sense of control over the world and ourselves.
Science helps us to constantly invade areas of ignorance and convert them into fields of
knowledge. It extends our experience by the continual exploration of new domains. For
example, man landed on the moon and now preparations are going UII ior landing men in the The Method of Science and the
coming future on Mars for investigating it. Means are now available to explore the internal Nature of ScientiL Knowledge
structure of the earth, as well as to study the structure and function of the human bram. As
newer and newer problems are encountered, regions of experience are enlarged .
Apart from the basic needs, the complex world of today has varied requirements, of better
means of production to reduce human drudgery, of better facilities for health care, education,
communication, transport, entertainment etc. These pose far greater challenges to science than
did the bare needs of food and shelter of the primitive man. These challenges lead to new areas
of study which may not, at first, be clear or well defined. However, systematic study using
suitable methodology, leads to an understanding of these new areas. This is how the pursuit of
science is an endless search for knowledge, and an unlimited endeavour.
Science is the search for knowledge about the world, the quest for understanding it. Man has
always speculated about the unknown. When speculation about an unknown area is replaced
by knowledge, then that area becomes a part of science. If we do not understand an observed
phenomenon we often tend to give it a mystical justification or explanation. Science enables
us to 'demystify' natural phenomena, through an understanding based on facts and reason.
The body of scientific knowledge has grown tremendously in the modem times. It
encompasses numerous areas. For convenience, we have demarcated these areas as biology,
medicine, chemistry, geology, physics, astronomy, engineering, agriculture, and so on.
However, they are all inter-related. For example, the study of biology goes down to the cell,
and further to the atoms and molecules which make it. In this way it is related to the study of
chemistry and physics. On the other hand, biology, especially botany, is related to forestry and
agriculture implying a connection with climate and soil, and, in turn, to geography and
geology. Thus, we find that scientific knowledge and experience has a connectedness at the
basic level.
Further, quite often, knowledge and experience from different areas have to be pooled together
for solving scientific problems or making technological advances. For example, monitoring
and control of environmental pollution need the involvement of scientists from areas of
physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, sociology etc. Similarly, if we want to explore and
utilise some sources of energy which do not get exhausted, like bio-gas, wind or solar energy,
experts from various related areas would have to pool their knowledge and work together.
Also, in the last few decades, the boundaries between different areas of natural sciences have
faded. Chemical reactions, biological processes and physical phenomena are, nowadays studied
by the same methods and are based on common theoretical concepts.
State whether the followng statements about sc~entific
knowledge are true or false. Give your
response in the boxes prov~ded.
i) Science helps us to explore the natural world around us, continuously enlarging our
regions of experience.
ii) The world of sclence is strange and it has nothing to do with our everyday experience
~ii)Through science, not only can we understand nature but can also control it to suit our
iv) Science has done nothlng to dispel our fear, wonder and mysticism about natural
v) Since scientific knowledge is acquired through our senses, and sensory perceptions are
subjective, sc~entificknowledge will vary from individual to individual.


We have seen above that science is an enaeavour to understand nature and to mould it to
satisfy human needs. In earlier units we have seen that, in this process, we have collected a lot
of information and a distinct body of scientific knowledge has grown. Let us now see how this
knowledge has been acquired. Is there any special method of obtaining scientific knowledge? If
so, how is it different from the way in which we ordinarily perceive the world around us? The
answer to the fmt question is, yes. As you have read in Unit 1, there is a 'method' of science.
You are also familiar with the terms observation, hypothesis, experiment, theories and laws, 57
Emergence of Modem which we mentioned in Unit 1. These are the various mental and physical operations that
Science make up the method of science. Let us take a closer look at each one of these operations.

8.3.1 Observations
All of us learn a lot about the world from our observations. Our everyday experiences arising
from what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell, form a part of common knowledge. For
example, we observe that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; a ball when thrown up,
comes down. A farmer usually separates the good seeds from the bad ones by putting all of
them in water. This is based on the observation that the good seeds sink and the bad ones
float. Similarly, you can know whether an egg is rotten or good by putting it in a bowl of
water. A rotten egg will always float. To make such observations is, no doubt, very useful.
Artists are also very keen observers of the world around us. Their creative art is an expression
of these observations, transformed in the light of their own experiences and feelings. These,
however, cannot be called scientific observations.
In science, we go beyond just the common observation and experience and try to understand
how a phenomenon occurs and why it occurs. Therefore, a scientist has to be clear about
'what' to ohserve and 'how' to observe it. Further, the observations made by the scientists have
to be correct, and independent of their sentiments and wishes. In science, subjective response
must be subordinated to fact. It & in these respects that a scientist differs from an artist or a lay

The confusion caused by inadequate or false observations can well be imagined. It is well to
remember what the great naturalist Charles Darwin said on this point, that the mischief of
false theories is slight compared with the mischief of false oh?rvations. Inadequate
observations can be equally misleading. For example, the believers in the earthantred
astronomy urged for years that the Copernican hypothesis could not be true. They argued that
if this were so, Venus, which is a planet between the sun and the earth, would show phases
like the moon. But since the phases of Venus could not be observed at that time, the
Copernican astronomy was held to be false. This seemingly sound argument against the
Copernican astronomy was shown to be baseless when people actually observed the phases of
Venus through the telescope (see Unit 9).

Scientific observations may be about natural events. For example, the rainfall may be
measured for each month for many years, to determine its pattern in a given place.
Observations could be about processes created by man. For example, in order to increase the
efficiency of existing machines, or to develop new machines, observations would have to be
made about their design and working. Similarly, new materials like synthetic fibres, or rubber
would have to be observed for their wear and tear, or any other desired property like fire
resistance etc. Observations are also necessary about social phenomena. In order to analyse the
~ n o m i status c of people in a given area or society, observations have to be made
regarding the land holdings, incomes, educational level, standard of living etc. All these
observations are carried out systematically, through carefully -ed expeximents or my^,
in order to explain natural or social phenomena.
These systematic observations are then put in order, i.e. dasified, carefully recorded in the
form of tables or graphs and analyd. The aim is to discover wgubities and patterns in the
factual information obtained. A number of questions may be posed on the basis of the
observations, data, facts and figures. The importance of questioning cannot be undermined.
Science progresses through asking questions and finding their answers.

83.2 Hypothesis
The next step is to formulate hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement, put forward on the basis
of reasoning, about the things that are being studied. It is an attempt to answer the questions
that are posed. One example of hypothesis which you encountered in Unit 1, was that
bees are attracted to flowers, either due to their colour, or nectar, or botb (Fig. 1.4).
Qtber examples could be that plants need sunlight to grow; or a body falls to the ground
because it is attraded by the earth: A hypothesis is formulated by taking into account all the
observations that am known about the phenomenon under investigation. It tries to explain the
known or p r d c t the unknown but possible features of the phenomenon. We may describe a
hypothesis as an inspired guess, based on reason and experience. We may use both inductive
and deductive logic to frame a hypothesis.
What do we mean by inductive logic? If we have direct evidence about only a part of the The Method of Science and the
phenomenon, or some objects or situations and, if, on that basis, we infer about the properties, of Scientific Knowledge
behaviour and other features of the whole phenomenon, or the entire group of objects and
situations, then we are using inductive logic. For example, if we know that the population of a
country has doubled in a given period of time, we may use induction to hypothesise that it will
double again in the same time. Again, if we study the shadows of simple objects like triangles, I
rectangles and circles cast on a wall due to light from a small bulb, we may conclude that light I

travels in a straight line. The conclusion is a big jump in thinking, and it is a sweeping, general
statement based on induction. Inductive logic can mis1,ead also: for example to infer that all
roses are red, if you happen to see only red roses in a garden is illogical. So you can see that
inductive statements can have very different degrees of credibility and reliability. You cannot
jump to conclusions on the basis of insufficient evidence, and the conclusions have to be
further tested for their reliability.

Deductive logic may be considered as the opposite of induction. Here the reasoning is more
direct. If we know a statement about a whole class of objects, phenomena or situations then
we can logically deduce the same statement about one particular object, phenomenon or
situation belonging to that class. Examples of deduction are: roses can be of any colour, hence
some roses can be red. All birds have wings; therefore, a sparrow, which is a bird, will have
wings. Deductive logic is extensively used in chemistry. For example, if a group of chemical
salts exhibit some properties or behaviour, we can safely say that any salt belonging to this
group will exhibit the same property or behaviour. You could say that deduction may also
mislead, because in the examples how do we know that a sparrow is a bird, or a salt belongs
to that group of salts. These facts would have to be established before such deductions can be
Thus, logical analysis takes us from the known to the unknown and it involves an element of
isk or doubt. Hence, the hypotheses arrived at from both kinds of reasoning have to be tested
before they are accepted. A major operation in the method of science is that of setting up
experiments specifically designed to test the hypotheses.

8.3.3 Experiments
Experiment is an essential feature of modem science. Experiments are artificially created or
contrived situations designed to make certain observations under strictly controlled conditions.
The objective sometimes is to mimic nature. This allows the complexity of natural phenomena
to be simplified for stepbystep study. For example, many of us might have used a bicycle
pump to inflate a bicycle tube. What we do is to pump air in it by pressing the piston (see Fig.
8.2). As you can see in the figure, by pressing the piston the volume decreases, thereby
increasing the pressure and forcing the air into the tyre. Similarly, if we fill a balloon partially
with air and leave it in sunlight, the air inside becomes warm and expands, thus inflating the
balloon. These instances show us that the volume of a gas depends both on its pressure and

Fig. 82: Compression of air by decreasing its volume in a bicycle pump.

Emergence or' Modem If now we want to determine exactly how much the change in volume is with a certain rise or .
Scienct fall in pressure or temperature, we will have to conduct an experiment in two steps. In the first
step we can keep the temperature constant and observe the changes in volume with pressure.
In the second step, we will have to keep the gas at constant pressure and record the change in
its volume with changing temperature. These experiments were carried out by Robert Boyle
and J.A.C. Charles. They derived precise mathematid relationships for the change of volume
with pressure and temperature, respectively. These relationships are known after them, as
Boyle's Law and Charles' Law.

The objective of an experiment may sometimes be to observe phenomena more minutely by

the use of very sensitive instruments. For example, in order to study minute details of cell
structure, biologists now use the electron microscope. Sometimes experiments are carried out
with a sinister purpose. For example, atom bombs were dropped on two cities of Japan in -
1945 not only to cause destruction but also to study how the buildings collapsed, the extent to
which fires raged, and how radiations killed or injured people.

Cause and effect relationships are studied through a great variety of experiments. Great
ingenuity and care is required in designing experiments so that maximum information and
clearcut results may be obtained from them. The results of such experiments prove or disprove
a particular hypothesis. Sometimes, a hypothesis may have to be rejected outright and a new
hypothesis framed to explain the results obtained from the experiment. At other times,
experiments provide additional data for refinement or modification of a hypothesis.

Scientists use various kinds of instruments for observation and expenmentation. Instruments
like telescopes, microscopes or microphones can be used to extend or make more p?Zf%, the
observations made through senses. Scientists also use instruments to manipulate things or
phenomena in a controlled way. For instance, distillation stills are used for purifying liquids,
incubators for keeping biological samples at a constant temperature, and computers for storing
large amounts of information, for complicated calcuiations, for designing industrial products
etc. Over the course of centuries, scientists have evolved a set of material tools of their own-
the 'apparatus' of science. Some of these are simply adapted from ordinary life for special
purposes, like the balanck, forceps or crucibles. In turn, most of the apparatus used by
scientists comes into everyday use. For example, the major component of a television set is a
scientific device called the cathode ray tube, which was originally fabricated to measure the
mass of an electron. The commonly used pressure cooker is a form of the autoclave, an
instrument used by the biologists for sterilisation with high pressuie steam.

8.3.4 Laws, Models and Theories

From the observations and the results of experiments comes a good deal of scienthic
knowledge. But scientific knowledge is not simply a list of such results. The results are tied up
and related to each other in the form of logical, coherent theories or laws. In general, a
relationship between things covering results of observations and experiments over ri wide range
of individual cases is called a law. Hypotheses are accepted as 'laws' only if they are s u p p o d
by a meat deal of experimenkl evidence and there are no known exceptions to them. Some
csamplcs ul laws x c as follows:
Keplcr's Laws hf Planetary hlbtion based on Ihe observat~o~~s 01 the
movements of planets around the sun. Tbese state that

2 lo-

7 I

01 01 1 10

kigk8.3: Kepler's laws of planetary motion. (a) First law: a planet (P) moves in an ellipsc with the Sun (S) at one of
ths two foci; (b;) second'law:lt takcs as long for a p1d~i.tto travel tiom B to A and from F to-E as kan~D to
C; the'shadcct areas ASB, €SF, CSD are all equal; Q third law: The size of a planet's orbit and the time
taken by it to go once around the Sun are related through a precise mathematical relationship. The more
60 disunt a planet is from the Sun, the longer it takes to Complete one qrbit.
a) the planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun and the sun is at one of the two The Method of Science and the
foci; Nature of Scientific Knowledge

b) a planet sweeps out equal areas in equal times;

C) the square of the period of revolution of a planet round the sun, is proportional to the
cube of its mean distance from the sun.
You may study Fig. 8.3 to understand these laws better.
ii) One of the basic laws in chemistry says that "a chemical substance in its pure form will
always have the same chemical composition". For example, water is always made up of
the elements hydrogen and oxygen which combine together in the ratio of 1 : 8, i.e. one
part of hydrogen for eight parts of oxygen by weight. This is known as the Law of
Constant Chemical Composition.
iii) Heat does not flow on its own from a cold body to a hot body. This is the Second Law of

You already know about Newton's law of universal gravitation which we have described, in
brief, in Unit 6. It is a statemznt about how the force of attraction between two bodies
depends on their masses and on the distance between them. This single statement explains not
only the motion of the planets but also of a ball on the earth which always falls down when
thrown up. In other words, it is applicable to the motion of a wide variety of objects.
Whenever a law appears to be broken in a new experiment, it inspires a search for new
hypotheses, new phenomena or new processes that would explain the discrepancy.

There are two more terms which you will come across in scientific works, model and theory.
Often scientists create a model to simulate the object, phenomenon or situation they study. A
model is an artificial construction to represent the properties, behaviour or any other features
of the real object under study. For example, the human heart is modelled as a mechanical
pump, to study its structure and functions. In the earlier phases, the atom was modelled after a
plum pudding. as shown in Fig. 8.4a. Later it was modified and modelled after the solar system.
In a general sense, you may use a word, a picture, a formula or a symbol to model a situation. Don't confuse these models with toy
A model should communicate some information about whatever it represents. Models are models o f s p a m h i ~ aeroplanes
s~ Or

useful because these represent in a simpler and familiar manner, a new, unknown and with physical models of solar system,
atom, DNA molecules etc.!
complicated object, situation or phenomenon.

Fig. 8.4: (a) Plum pudding model of a n atom. The negative charges are embedded like plums. in a
positively c h a r p i sphere (shaded area) (h) the a t o m modelled after the solar system.

A theory is a set of a few general statements that can correctly describe or explain all
experimental observations about the properties and behaviour of a large number of varied
objects, phenomena, situations or systems. In Unit 6 you have read, in brief, about Darwin's
theory of evolution, which explains how a large variety of life forms have evolved from simple
living organisms. In Unit 10, you will read about the theory of how stars are born, how they
evolve and die.
A law or theory can also predict observations. A classic instance is the prediction of the
existence of Neptune. By 1845, the paths of all planets had been precisely calculated. All
planets except Uranus were observed to follow the calculated paths. Adams in Cambridge and
Leverrier in Paris reasoned that the observed deviation in the path of Uranus could be due to
an unknown outer planet beyond it. Using Newton's law of universal gravitation, they
Emergence of M o d e m predicted its size and exact path. Then on September 23, 1846 Neptune was seen at almost
Science exactly the predicted position by Galle at the Berlin Observatory. In fact, when a new theory
is propounded, great care is taken to propose an experiment which would result in a particular
kind of observations if the new theory were true. In this way theories get validated or rejected.
To sum up our discussion so far, scientific work is really a chain of operations such as the
following :

refined hypothesis analysis. questions

or theory/law based on them

Further analysis
explanation of
\ Experimental observations
designed to verify, modify
or reject hypotheses

Fig. 8.5: The method of sn'enoe.

8.3.5 Some Examples
Let us illustrate the method of science described above by a few concrete examples.
Example 1: It is a well known scientific fact that plants make their own food by using
sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and give off oxygen in this process. Sunlight is made up of
seven different colours visible to the eye, which you must have seen in a rainbow. The
question we may like to ask is whether light of all colours is equally effective in this process of
making food or is light of any specific colour more effective than others? Thus, we can have a
set of hypotheses such as :
i) Light of all coIours is equally effective.
ii) Light of one specific colour is more effective than other colours.
The next step is to set up an experiment to test these hypotheses. The experiment can be very
easily set up. We take three twigs of a water-plant like Hydrilla, submerge them in water
separately and cover them with bell-jars as shown in Fig. 8.6. Then we wrap each bell-jar .;;ith
cellophane papers coIoured green, yellow and red, and put the three sets out in the sunlight.
Thus, each of these twigs is getting light of only one colour. We assume that the amount of
light reaching the twigs is same. After sometime, we observe bubbles of oxygen gas coming
out of water in the bell-jar. The rate at which gas bubbles come out indicates the rate at which
the plant is able to make its food.

Fig. 8.6: An experiment to test whether light of a specific mlour is more effective than light of other mlours for

In this experiment, there are four factors that are likely to vary: the three twigs could be
different, the amount of water and the amount of carbon dioxide in the three bell-jars, and the
colours of light they receive .could vary. To test the effect of any one of these factors we have
to ensure that the others remain the same. Therefore, if we are testing for the effect of light of
different colours, the twigs, the amount of water and the amount of carbon dioxide should be
the same in all the three cases.
We can take similar twigs from the same plant and we can assume that the amount of carbon The Method of Science and the
dioxide is same in each bell-jar because they are of equal size. We can also ensure that the Nature of Scientific Knowledge
amount of water is same in each bell-jar. Now, if the rates at which gas bubbles come out in
the three bell-jars are different, we can say that this is due to the difference in colours. In this
particular case, we find that the rate is highest in the &e of the twig receiving red light.
Thus, we can conclude that red light is more effective in food-making by plants, when
compared with green or yellow coloured light. This result rejects the first hypothesis and gives
a partial proof for the second one. We could continue this experiment and test whether other
colours like orange, blue etc. are more effective than red.
We would like to add here that this is a very simple set-up. Similar studies have been carried
out by scientists under precisely controlled conditions using very sophisticated equipment.
Example 2: We have taken this example from the history of science. In the seventeenth
century, miners and well diggers observed that it was impossible to raise water more than
about thirty-two feet, through ordinary hand pumps. Galileo thought that a water column
higher than this was unable to bear its weight. His pupil Torricelli (1608-47) proposed another
hypothesis, that the rise of water in a pump was due to the pressure exerted by the air in the
atmosphere. He reasoned that if the rise of the water was due to atmospheric pressure alone,
then any other liquid would rise only upto a certain height. He then calculated mathematically,
that a column of mercury would rise upto a height of thirty inches. To test this, he set up a
simple experiment taking mercury in a dish and inverting a glass tube filled with mercury on
it. Mercury did not rise above thirty inches, proving Torricelli's hypothesis. Thus, the
barometer was invented (Fig. 8.7). It is a n instrument to measure atmosphenc pressure. Fig. 8.7: Barometer.

It is also known that high up in the mountains, the atmosphenc pressure is lower than that at
sea level. To further verify Torricelli's hypothesis, Pascal took the barometer up a mountain
where the level of mercury fell. This showed that the low atmospheric pressure supported a
lower height of the mercury column. Thus, it provided further confirmation of Torricelli's
Example 3: This one is from chemistry. It is commonly observed that if we bum a candle, it
gives light, some heat and what remains in the end is a little bit of wax. It may appear as if a
significant amount of matter has been destroyed in this process. However, this is not the case.
In fact, in everyday processes like this, only a minute amount of matter (about 10-l2 gm. i.e.
one million-millionth fraction of a gram) converts into energy and the rest is converted to
other forms of matter. How do we test this?
For this, we perform a very simple experiment (Fig. 8.8). We put a small candle in a dah, put some
water in the dish, cover it with a bell-jar and weigh this assembly. Then we light the candle
and allow it to bum inside the bell-jar. When it burns out, we allow the assembly to cool
down and weigh it again. We find that there is no difTerence in the weight, though apparently
some wax has been lost What then has happened to the burnt wax and the wick?

If we look carefully, we notice some droplets of moisture and some soot on the inner sides of
the bell-jar. The other substance that is formed is carbon dioxide, which we cannot see. But we
can test it by putting a small amount of Iime water into the dish. We observe that the lime
water turns milky. This is because the lime water has absorbed the carbon dioxide that was
formed, to give a white substance that does not dissolve in water.

In fact, when a candle bums, water and carbon dioxide are formed and some wax is left
unbumt. The amount of matter lost is so tiny that its loss cannot be detected because even the
most sensitive balances available today can measure masses only upto 10" or lo-' gms.(about
one millionth fraction of a gram). Therefore, for all practical purposes, the total amount of
matter remains unchanged. Hence, we refer to this result as the 'law' of conservation of mass
in chemistry.

The sequence of operations as shown in Fig. 8.5 is general and valid for 0bSe~ationsand
hypotheses in many fields of science. However, every scientist need not follow all these steps to Fie. 8.& Verification of the law of
'do science'. Usually, at any time a number of scientists are working on different steps of the commation of mass.
sequence. A new scientist may enter the sequence at any stage. For example, a group of
scientists had worked on a common plant like Mentha and had found out that it contained
menthol, a familiar substance that we have in peppermint drops and in some toothpastes,
cough syrups etc. Now, another group of scientists may study under what conditions Mentha
Emergence of Modem can be grown to increase the yield of menthol, when it should be harvested to get optimum
%he yield etc. These two groups are concerned only with observation and experimentation of
practical nature. A third group of scientists might like to study how menthol is synthesised in
the plant, and formulate a theory about this aspect on the basis of their study. All the three
groups may work almast independently of each other, at different places, even at different
times, although they may use each other's findid& for their own purposes.

Or else, a group of scientists may be examining many links in this sequence representing the
method of science over many years. For instance, they may be monitoring environmental
pollution or they may be concerned with monsoon forecasting. Thus, in the same group of
scientists, some would be collecting data on wind velocity, temperature and humidity in the
atmosphere. Others would be working out theoretical models using this data and still others
would cany out detailed experimental analysis of some substances in the atmosphere to prove
or disprove their models.

So we find that scientists may 'do science' in different ways. Some may be good at collecting
information, data, facts and figures. Some may excel in the design of experiments but may not
be so good at proposing theoretical explanations. There may be some very fine theorists using
data collected by others, who would not be able to identify even simple instruments in a
modem laboratory, but who can apply reasoning and mathematics to arrive at new
conclusions. All these scientists may be making significant contributions. But, it is not what
individual scientists do or how they do it, that constitutes science. Science embodies the
collective effort of all the scientists.

In short, the method of science can be summed up in the words of Einstein who was said to
have remarked, 'If you want to know the essence of scientific method, don't listen to what a
scientist may tell you. Watch what he does'. To this we may add, watch a large number of a
variety of scientists. For, 'doing science' involves many different kinds of activities.

The example given below describes a scientific investigation about a drug's efficacy against a
certain disease. Identify the various operations of the scientific method shown in Fig. 8.5 that
each statement represents. The statements are all jumbled up. First read them all carefully.
then write your answers in the space provided.
i) A chemical substance X is accidentally spilled into a dish full of certain disease causing
germs. It kills all the germs in the dish.. ....................
ii) In such and such a disease, the drug X is effective in around 50 per cent of the
iii) The results show that around 30%of the patients in Group 1 do not recover despite
treatment. That is, out of every 100 patients being treated, 70 recover on treatment. On
the other hand, 20%get well even without treatment in Group 2. So out of the 70 patients
who recover, 20 may have got well even without treatment. Hence the drug is effective in
only 70 per cent minus 20 per cent, or 50 per cent of the cases.. .....................
iv) Can drug X be used to protect human beings against these disease causing germs? Yes or
No. ......................
v) A sample population of mice, all infected with the same disease is taken. Half the mice
(Group 1) are treated with the drug and the other half (Group 2) are kept without
treatment. A predetermined quantity of drug is administered to the first group of mice.
The number of treated mice of Group 1 that die or recover is recorded and compared
with the other mice of untreated Group 2. The number of mice that recover is found to be
significantly higher in Group 1 as compared with that in Group 2. A similar test is
repeated, first with guinea pigs .and then with a large sample of human beings in different
localities. ......................

From the examples given above, you would have noticed that, in science, there is a wide
difference in the objects, phenomena or situations studied, in the techniques used for their
study, or in the kind of descriptions that result. Yet, the resulting body of scientific knowledge
has certain characteristic features. Let us now discuss the nature of scientific knowledge and
the features that make it distinct from other kinds of knowledge. In fact, these features are due
to the specific method of objective observation, and verifying hypotheses through rigorow
experimentation, about which you have just rcad. .
The Method of Science and the
8.4 THE NATURE OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE Nature of Scientific Knowledge

Science, as we have seen, is inseparable from the rest of human endeavour. In the past few
thousand years of human history, an immense fund of scientific knowledge has been built up,
the most dramatic scientific advances having been made in the last few hundred years. This
vast storehouse of scientific knowledge encompasses everything, from particles smaller than
atoms to the great system of the universe containing planets, stars and galaxies. It covers the
study of plants and animals, health and disease, food and medicine and such complex
problems as what life is, how the human mind functions, what the beginning and the end of
the universe are etc.

As we have said before, we have been able to use this knowledge to meet our daily necessities
of life, provide leisure, communicate better and faster. We are able to harness energy in a great
variety of forms. From land-based creatures entirely dependent on nature for their survival,
human beings have come to a stage where no bariier seems insurmountable. We have tried to
traverse every nook and corner of this earth. the vast lands as well as the deep oceans and the
high mountains. And now we are extending our sights upwards, not only to the solar system
t but to the space beyond. Our journey in space is a tremendous endeavour which has only
just begun.

t All such endeavours further enrich the body of scientific knowledge. Thus, scientific
knowledge is never at a standstill. It is a dynamic, and an ongoing process. It is an
evergrowing enterprise which will never end. This is because, in science, there is no single
ultimate truth to be achieved after which ail the scientists can retire.

A remarkable feature of scientific knowledge is that it is never complete. The more we add to
this knowledge, the more questions arise about the unknown mysteries of nature. New
information is, thus, continuously gathered. New theories arise if new facts can't be explained
by the existing ones. Practitioners of science can never lay claim to a complete or ultimate

We have seen that science is not static. Going a step further, we may say that scientific
knowledge is also not immutable. Nothing can remain unchallenged in science. In fact, some
of the most honoured scientists are those who try to alter, modify or replace existing theories
by providing revolutionary evidence or argument. In this sense, science is a self-correcting
enterprise, i.e. it is open to change. Many hypotheses proposed by scientists turn out to be
wrong. Science is generated by and devoted to the idea of free inquiry, the idea that any
hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. Thus, science is not
dogmatic. It does not unreasonably insist on standing by preconceived notions, concepts or
ideas that have been proved wrong through careful experimentation. Science progresses by
. disproving. It has no high priests who cannot be questioned What would be considered highly
undesirable in science is the unquestioned acceptance of things as they are.

Any new discovery, finding or interpretation of phenomena is carefully scrutinised, discussed

and verified by the scientific community before its general acceptance. In this sense, the
scientific 'truths' are truths by consensus, and, therefore, always tentative. The consensus is
arrived at after carefully following the method of science. But, if new facts emerging from the
natural world challenge this 'truth', scientists are always ready to re-examine their theories.

Last but not the least, scientific knowledge is objective. That is, scientific results are
repeatable and verifiable by anyone anywhere if proper facilities are available. This feature of
science is related to the ultimate test of any scientific statement; that it should be in accord
with the observations of the natural world. Science prefers hard facts to the dearest illusions
of scientists. T o be accepted, all new ideas must survive rigorous standards of evidence.
Sometimes it takes years, or even hundreds of years, before the ideas are verified. Nonetheless,
in the long run, no brilliant arguments, high authority or aesthetic appeal can save a scientific
theory which disagrees with experiment or observation of nature. You may recall from Unit 6
that it was th& feature of obiective observation in science, that led to the demolition of
Aristotelian ideas about the universe. Since hard facts are lnde~endentof the prejudices
and preferences of individual scientists, and experiments or observations are essentially
repeatable, objectivity becomes an essential feature of scientific knowledge. In no sense is
science based on experiences open only to a select few.
Emergence of Modem SAQ 3
Science Which two among the following statements do not charicterise science? Put a cross against
those. Which feature/s of scientific knowledge, discussed above, is/are described by the
remaining statements? Give your answer in the space provided.
i) One day,science will help us to know everything about the universe.
ii) In the nineteenth century, it was believed by chemists that when a metal burned,
something called Phlogiston escaped. Experiments showed that the residual material had
more weight than the original metal. The adherents of the Phlogiston theory explained
this by saying that Phlogiston had negative weight! Repeated experiments showed that
metals combined with oxygen to make chemical compounds called metal oxides: The .
Phlogiston theory was thus set aside.. ....................
iii) A famous astronomer claimed that he had discovered a new galaxy in the distant
universe. Other groups of scientists could not confirm this observation. Yet, the
astronomer was believed because he was a great authority in his
field. .....................
iv) We are all familiar with pasteurised milk. This means that the bacteria in milk are
destroyed by heating it to a high temperature. This practice has its origin in a famous
experiment of Louis Pasteur, in which he showed that living organisms could not be
created spontaneously. Pasteur boiled water, thus destroying the gcrms in it, filled it in a
flask and sealed it. When. after many days, water in the flask was examined under a
microscope, no germs were found in it. This would not have happened if germs were
spontaneously created out of water. Pasteur's experiments were repeated in several
laboratories and it was confirmed that only life could beget life.. ....................
V) Well upto the end of the nineteenth century, it was thought that the atoms were
indivisible. In the early twentieth century, experimentalists showed that atoms were made
up of electrons, protons and neutrons. In recent years, many more elementary particles
have been discovered.. ....................

The scientific method and the features of scientific knowledge described above are in no way
restricted to the domain of scientists alone. These characterise a scientific approach to solving
problems whether they are scientific, economic, social or even personal. These attributes of
science reflect an attitude of mind which is basically rational and can be adopted by anyone
who has understood them. Thus, scientific approach can, and indeed should, form the basis of
not only solving different kinds of problems in laboratory situations but also in everyday life.

Even if it seems repetitive, let us once again outline the scientific approach to problem solving.
If we are faced with a problem, what should be our mental attitude towards it? First of all. we
should approach it with an open mind, without any preconceived notions, whims or
prejudices. Then, no external pressures of authority should be allowed to affect our
observations or analysis.

What methods should we adopt for solving the problem? While analysing it, we should try to
look at it from all posible angles, Consider all the factors involved, ask all posSible questions
and gather all data and facts about it. Doubt and scepticism are the hallmarks of scientific
approach. We should not accept blindly, on faith, any statement without examining it
critically. We should base our analysis on rational and objective thinking and then come to
conclusions. In no case should we rush into hasty decisions. We should also avoid making
generalisations on the basis of insufficient evidence.
Further, we should not consider our conclusions as the last word on the said problem. If any
new facts or evidences come to light which alter our results, we should always be prepared to
revise our conclusions. We shouid be flexible in our attitude and avoid being dogmatic in our
views regarding any matter. Hard work, discipline and basic integrity arc certain other
attributes which we will have to adopt if we are to make the scientific approach a process of
thinking and a method of acting, in other words, a way of life.

We will now consider certain examples from our everyday life which can help in clarifying the
~deaspresented above. There are many social problems associated with developmental projects The Method of Science and the
Nature of SeiPntifii Knowledge
wherein it becomes imperative to adopt a scientific approach.

Let us take the problem of choosing a location for an industry to manufacture chemicals.
Apart from the technical aspects, social factors would also have to be taken into account while
taking this decision. For example, how densely populated that area is, how the displaced
people will be resettled. what the industry's effect on the surrounding environment will be.
how and where would its waste products be disposed of, the wind direction in case there are
j any toxic leaks, where would the workers be housed, what industrial safety measures would be
needed and so on. Unles5 we take all such factors into account, weigh the pros and cons
sc~entificallyand then take decisions, we will never be able to avert disasters like the Bhopal
I gas tragedy of December. 1984. There can be many other similar examples, like setting up
- ~ u c l e ~ p w x + l a n t s h. u g d q d e l p ~ j e c t s and
, otherindustrial projects which involve a careful
planning based on a,scientific approach.

This approach is applicable in social sciences too. For instance, a few years ago a study w'as
II carried out to test the general belief that 'student unrest is caused by first generation learners
whose parents are not educated'. Extensive data about such students was collected and the
analysis showed that this belief was wrong. Even in our everyday life, we use this approach to
I optimise our efforts. For example, if you have to meet three persons in different parts of the
town, you can plan your visit to optimally use your time and money. Housewives often
optimise their monthly purchases by checking the prices and quality of goods at various stores;
F if a cheap store is far away, they have to decide to buy a larger quantity so as to justify more
travelling expenses.

Problems often crop up in our society when people living in different regions, speaking
different languages, following different religions or social practices develop prejudiced opinions
about each other. You may have come across alllkinds of prejudiced generalisations made on
the basis of very little evidence, such as, 'North Indians are brash'. 'South Indians are weak
minded', 'Gorkhas are brave', 'Punjabis eat very rich food', 'Scheduled Castes are dull headed',
'Poor people are dishonest' etc. All these notions would not have arisen if we were scientific in
our approach, because evidence and analysis indicates that these are not generally true.

Often in a region, people fight with each other on issues that are thoroughly irrational and
illogical. Much of the rioting and bloodshed in communal violence can be avoided if the
people involved don't blindly believe in rumours or get swayed by those who preach hatred. If
one used scientific reasoning and logic, examined facts and the basic issues underlying these
incidents, such as uneven economic development, role of vested interests in fanning riots etc.,
one would never become a party to such crimes. Instead, one could always help in averting
these situations.

In our own lives, too, we should adopt a scientific approach to solving problems. For example,
if things go wrong in relations between people, they could always sit together and analyse their
problems in a rational and objective manner instead of being carried away by emotions and
adopting the dogmatic attitude of 'I am right, you are wrong'. Similarly, if at any time of our
lives, we do not do well and are faced with problems, we should not lose heart and become
fatalistic. Instead, we could show a positive approach of making an effort to understand what's
wrong, ask searching questions, seek their answers and try to proceed in a rational way. There
are many problems around us relating to health and nutrition, environment etc. where it
would serve us well if we made the scientific approach an integral part of our thinking and

To sum up this discussion, using the scientific method to solve our day-today problems would
mean to shun the attitudes of dogmatic beliefs and arrogance on the one hand, and
helplessness, despair and diffidence on the other. It would do us good to adopt the positive
attitudes of curiosity, a questioning bent of mind, confidence in our ability, open-mindedness,
rational thinking, objectivity, flexibility and above all, humility. If we are successful even
partially in this endeavour, we would have understood the essence of scientific method.

In the following situations, which of the responses would you term as scientific and which
ones as unscientific. Indicate it by putting S (for scientific) or U (for unscientific) against each
a) Somebody comes and tells you that he has seen a bright light descending from the skies to
the earth on previous night. You
Emergence of Modem i) believe him and go and tell another person that you have seen the light too.
Science ..........
ii) question the person in detail and try to find out the facts. ........
b) You are in an organisation and some persons working under you complain about one of
their colleagues. You
i) suspend that person right away. ....................
ii) don't pay any attention to the complaints as you rather like that person. ..........
iii) conduct an enquiry, gather the facts and then decide. .....................
c) A child in your family is very ill and seems to be dying. You
i) believe that it is God's will and nothing can be done about it. ...................
ii) take the child to a witch doctor for treatment, thinking that she or he can cure the child.
iii) take the child to a hospital for proper medical treatment. ....................

iv) bring some medicine from a quack after telling him the symptoms.


We have said many things about science, and there are many other things you may know
about it on your own. Now is the time to reflect about the nature of scientific knowledge, of
scientific work by individuals, and of the limitations of science.

We have seen that there is a tremendous store of knowledge which has been created in the
short spell of perhaps a few thousand years. This knowledge has helped us to do wonderful
things like flying in the air, landing on the moon, transmitting pictures over long distances.
increasing the average span of human life to over 70 years in some countries. It has also
enabled man to engage in mass destruction. There are millions of people today who are
engaged in various aspects of using this store of scientific knowledge-educators, engineers.
doctors, instrument designers and so on.

There is, however, the other side of scientific work which is creative. New knowledge is being
discovered all the time. Millions of people are working to enlarge the store of knowledge, be it
about the cosmos, or the elementary particles, or the nature of genes and chromosomes in
living beings. There are those working with huge apparatus scanning the sk~esor smashing tiny
particles against each other, and those working with pencil and paper to propound theories by
condensing a great variety of observations into simpler statements of laws of nature. If the first
kind are mostly using logic and reason, the creative workers are additionally using the power
of imagination and intuition. It is also true that a large number of scientists are engaged
simultaneously in both kinds of activity, because no hard and fast line can be drawn between

We have seen that the struggle of the scientists to penetrate the sphere of the unknown can
rightly be called a quest for truth. It is to be realised that the result is beautiful-beautiful in its
expression, and fascinating in the further possibilities that it opens up. Truth and beauty are
one and the same thing, according to some philosophers. In science it is true that a good deal
of theoretical and experimental work which led to significant findings was triggered off by the
considerations of symmetry or elegance in an equation. It gives as much thrill to a creative
scientific worker to see his experiment yield new results, or to be able to express diverse
scientific facts in a simple equation, as the painting of a picture to an artist or the conceiving of
a new raga to a musician. The subjectk c. experience of "doing" science, and the motivation of
the scientists are as important in their creative work as the experience of a poet.
We have also tried to show that while there is tremendous variety in scientific work, and
scientists of different specialisations use a great variety of methods, there is also a set of
common features in the methods that are followed. One can speak of a method of science in
this sense, and if one considers the attitude of mind which leads to successful endeavours in
science, one could call it as the temper of science. In India one of our great promoters of
science, Jawaharlal Nehru preferred the word 'scientific temper' because it can be applied to
many areas of social and personal life. If the great scientific enterprise has succeeded because
certain broad methods of enquiry have been used, or problems have been tackled by certain The Method of Science and the
attitudes of mind, it is worthwhile to examine these so as to benefit from them in all other Nature of Scientific Knowledge
spheres of life.

We have tried to show that "objectivity" is one such characteristic of the scientific temper
which implies approaching a problem open mind, without trying to fit our personal
whims, fancies or prejudices into the result. It also implies, on the other !land. that social
pressures or the existence of some great authority already having a r opinion on the question,
should not affect our scientific approach to a problem. For example. let's suppose that 5000
acres of land is to be cleared for making a station for testing missiles. Scientists may be asked
to figure out the consequences of changing the pattern of land use on the environment, and
also on human beings who may presently be living in that area. The scientists should neither
be carried away by emotion, nor unconsciously justify the clearing of land, or yield to any
pressure by politicians or local inhabitants. Great integrity is part of objectivity in making a
scientific study. Of course, it does not mean that human problems or even suffering likely to be
created by the change of land use would not be carefully assessed in the study apd given due
weight in arriving at the conclusions.

In the course of scientific work, one has to be flexible and ready to change from one kind of
approach to another if the first approach does not succeed. Change is the very essence.of all
existence and a scientific attitude is that which is not daunted by%. In fact. science as a whole
is a harbinger of change, and it flourishes in a society which is non-dogmatic and is in search

In the scientific temper, reason and logic have a major part to play because they are the'basic
tools of all analysis. But imagination and even speculation are simultaneously used to tackle
every problem.

A few limiting features are also very important to note. Scientific knowledge is not complete.
nor is it ever likely to be final. This is because our experience so far has been that as ignorance
is removed and knowledge is established in any sphere, fresh questions are posed before our
intellect, or a new area of ignorance is uncovered. For example, when it was established that
matter consists of particles and voids, we talked of "atoms" or elements; when atoms were
deeply investigated they were found to be made up of electrons, protons and neutrons; and
when these have been further scrutinised, more fundamental pirticles have been discovered.

The search goes on. Scientific knowledge increases by leaps and bounds, but each advance
opens up fresh avenues of enquiry. That is why scientists cannot be fundamentalists, they will.
always be enquiring into new areas. Nevertheless, in a scientific sphere, the best that we know
is represented by the current knowledge of science. One cannot say that if present scientific
knowledge has no answer to a problem, one should believe whatever a non-scientist says
about it. If the cure for cancer has not been discoveied, a quack or a godman cannot cure it
either. A profound trust in science, in spite of its limitation, is the sign of being civilised.

One s h o ~ also
3 know that there are spheres of knowledge other than science-there is ,

knowledge or .be individual in terms of his feelings, behaviour, dreams and aspirations. This
actually borders on scientific knowledge of the body and the brain; there is knowledge of
human behaviour in groups and habitations: there is knowledge df history, of economic and
political systems, international affairs, and so on. Knowledge of one sphere impinges on that of
the other-economics and international affairs involve science and technology in a big way. It
is because of this reality that a scientist being also a citizen, possessing access to a very
powerful field of knowledge, must acquire other kinds of knowledge, for example of sociology,
economics and politics.

It is again because of many different facets of knowledge that there is a need to iniegrate it and
develop what may be called a "philosophy" or an "ideology" or a "world-view". Effective use
of science can be made to overcome shocking deprivations which hundreds of millions of
people living in the old colonies of the "developed" countries suffer, such as malnutrition, ill
health, lack of drinking water and sanitary arrangements, lack of shelter from sun and rain.
But, for this scientists have to possess social consciousness, and a spirit to change society for
the better.

Some people say science has io be combined with "spirituality". Now, if spirituality means
ability to distinguish between good and evil, falsehood and truth, social justice and mere
pursuit of profit, corruption and integrity-no one could contest the statement. But if
"s~irituality" includes blind belief in certain dogmas, accepting superstition and obscurantism,
Emergence of Modern or belief in supernatural powers then, obviously, the statement is not true. Scientific knowledge
Science has come to be established, and scientific attitudes have come to be refined precisely by a
struggle against unfounded, preconceived notions and beliefs, and the ideology of ignorance.


In this unit we have discwed some aspects of the nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific
knowledge is objective. evergrowing, open to change, nondogmatic and never complete.
We have given an idea about the method of science and its various operations, like
objective observation. framing hypotheses, experimentation. verification and refinement of
We have also shown how the scientific approach can be applied to the world around us
and how using it we can solve our social and personal problems.


1) Observe the figures carefully and answer questions about them in the space provided :
i) Where is the missing piece of cake in Fig. 8.9?


ii) How will the solution taste to the man in Fig. 8.10?
iii) Which distance in Fig. 8.1 1 is longer. AB or AC? The Method of Science and the Nature of
Scientific KnonWge

Fig. 8.1 1

iv) What is the difference between the germination of seeds in cases (a) and (b) shown in Fig. 8.127

(a) Fig. 8.12 (b)

2) State at least one hypothesis based on each of the following observations in the space

i) Some plants were kept in a closed dark room where no light could reach them. The plants
wilted and died in a few days time.

ii) In a rice growing area, it was observed over a period of few years that infant
mortality rate was highest in the months of July and August when the rice sowing
operation was in full swing. About 40%children born during this period died within
the first month after birth or were still born.


iii) It is observed that chameleons or moths living in different surroundings have different
Emergence of Modem 3) i) Test the hypothesis that all the circles are,plsccd in the lower right corner of
Science Fig. 8.13. Write down your result.

'Illiterate mothers have more children than
mothers with university degrees.'
Fig. 8.13 .......................................................................................
4) State in the space provided, the conclusions that you derive from the experiments
described below?
i) The stalk of a white flower is divided into two parts. One half is put in one glass
containing coloured water, the other half in another glass containing plain water, as
shown In Fig. 8.14. After a few hours, one side of the flower becomes red.

ii) A serum containing pneumonia-causing bacteria is injected in a sample of mice, all of

which die after a few days. The same serum is boiled thoroughly and again injected
in another sample of mice. None of the mice die this time (see Fig. 8. I5 ) .

Fig. 8.14

iii) When a turmeric stain made on a cloth by a vegetable cooked in oil is washed in
water and hung to dry in sun, the stain remains. If the cloth is washed with a
detergent and hung to dry in shade the stain remains but if dried in bright sun, the
stain disappears.



Self Assessment Questions

1) i) T ii) F iii) T iv) F V) F
2) i) Observation ii) Theory iii) Analysis of results iv) Question and hypothesis
~ i g8.15
. V) Experiment
3) i) x "ii)Objective and open to change iii) x iv) Objective v) Never complete, open
to change

b)i)U ii)U iii)S

(c) i) U ii) U iii) S iv) U
Terminal Questions 'lhM e w d.Scieneerd Uae
1) i) Turn the figure upside down. Nature d SdontWc b w b d p t
ii) The man can't tell it because he has not licked the finger that he dipped in the
iii) Both are equal. You'll find out if you measure them.
iv) In case a), the seed leaves remain under the ground; in case b) they have come above
the ground.
In all these examples, you would have noticed that observations should be done carefully, you
should not always, rely on your sensory perceptions but on measurement, and observations
should be accurate.
2) i) a) Plants need light to grow.
ii) a) The expectant mothers may be malnouri'shed.
b) Mothers continuously sow rice in a back breaking kneeling posture which puts a
strain on them.
iii) a) Chameleons or moths adapt themselves to the surroundings to protect themselves
from predators.
b) The surroundings cause the change in chameleons or moths.

3) i) 'Far more circles areplaced in the lower right comer than elsewhere.'
ii) A large sample of illiterate and university educated mothers representing varied socio-
economic backgrounds belonging to different regions, religions and castes should be
taken and the sizes of their family found out to amve at any result. You could add to
this answer.

4) i) Water from the glass goes up through the stalk into the pek!. nf the flowers.
ii) Boiling the serum destroys the pneumonia bacteria completely.
iii) The detergent soap dissolves the oil and the bright sun bleaches away the colour of
turmeric on the cloth.

acoustics: the study of sound
alchemy: a medieval chemical art and speculative philosophy aiming to conveh other metals
into gold, to discover a universal cure for disease and to discover a means of indefinitely
prolonging life
amalgamation: making an alloy of mercury with another metal
apartheid :a policy of segregat~nr.or discriminahon on a racial basis pmctised even now
in South Africa
arcuate: curved like a bow
atlas: a bound collection of maps, iables, charts etc.
atmospheric pressure: pressure exert& by air in the atmosphere
. atomic energy: energy that is released corresponding to the decrease in the mass of an
atomic nucleus when two atomic nuclei combine to form it or due to the fission of heavy
atomic nuclei
bacteridogy: the study of,bacteria
calligraphy: the art of producing elegant handwriting
cartography: the science or art of making maps
caulking: stopping the seams and making them watertight by filling with a waterproofing
material '

cell: the unit of life; all living organisms are made up of cells
Emergence of Modem chromosomes: thread-like bodies that occur in the nuclei of living cells: they carry genes.
celestial: of the sky, heavenly

cosmos: the universe

crystallisation: the process of forming crystals
dioptrics: studies about the passage of light from one medium to another
distillation: a chemical process used for purification or separation of substanca
dynamics: the study of the motion of bodies under the action of forces

electronics: the study of electrons, their behaviour and effects

electron microscope: an instrument similar in purpose to the ordinary microscope; it is
different in design and is able to produce a much more magnified image of an object

elementary particles: the basic particles of which all matter is composed

environment: surrounding objects, natural and social conditions, circumstances of life of
person or society
feudal: related to feudalism; feudalism was a system of political organisation which had as its
basis the relation of lord to serf; all land was held by the lords in fee and the forced service by
tenants, i.e. the serfs, was its characteristic feature
galaxies: luminous bands of stars, gas and dust existing in space
genes: unit of heredity in chromosome, controlling a particular inherited characteristic of an
geography: a science that deals with the earth and the life on it
geology: a science that deals with the history of the earth and its life, especially as recorded in
gradation: a scale showing regular degrees
grafting: causing a detached portion of a living plant to unite with the main stem of another
horticulture: the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants
hydraulics: the science dealing with practical applications of water or other liquid in motion
through pipes etc.
lathe: a machine for cutting and shaping materials
latitude: angular distance north or south of a point from the earth's equator measured upon
the curved surface of the earth
logic: science of reasoning
longitude: the angle which the meridian through the geographical poles and a point on
Earth's surface makes with a standard meridian (usually through Greenwich) is the longitude
of the point
magnefism: science that deals with magnetic phenomena that includes the attraction for iron
observed in a magnet.
meridian: a great circle on the surface of the earth passing through the geographical poles and
any given place
microscope: instnunent to magnify image of objects, to reveal details invisible to the unaided
mordant: a chemical that fixes a dye on a substance
mystlelsm: obscure or irrational speculation
nuclear science: science dealing with the study of nucleus of an atom
obscurantism: deliberate vagueness and an opposition to the spread of knowledge
observatory: a place equipped for observation of natural phenomena, as in astronomy
optics: the science that deals with light, its properties, behaviour, etc. and other phenomena
associated with it
orthopaedics: thc area of medical science h a t deals with the correction or prevention of
delbrrnities in tlie skeleton
oxidation: the act or process of combining a substance with oxygen or removing one or more
electrons from the atom, ion or molecule
palaeobotany: a branch of botany dmling with fossil plants
pneumatics: a branch of mechanics that deals with the mechanical properties of gases
quadrant: an instrument for measuring altitudes (heights)
radar: an abbreviation of the words 'radio detection and ranging'; a device for locating an
object by means of radiowaves reflected from the object and received by the device
renaissance: revival, rebirth; a movement or a period of vigorous artistic and intellectual
resist: chemical agent applied to parts of cloth that are not to take the dye
rhetoric: the art of speaking or writing effectively
serf: a member of the servile feudal class bound to the soil and more or less subject to the will
of his lord
sericulture: the production of raw silk by. raising silkworms
soldering: joining metallic surfaces by a metal or metallic alloy
specific gravity: the ratio of the density of a substance, i.e. its mass per unit volume, to the
density of a substance like pure water taken as standard, when both densities are obtained by
weighing in air
steppe: level and treeless land
srerilise: to free from living germs
h u l u s : any agent that directly influences the activity of living organisms-as by exciting
sensory organs, causing muscular contractions etc.
telescope: instrument using lenses or mirrors or both to make distant objects appear nearer
and iarger
terrestrial: of the earth
theology: rationaI interpretation of religious faith, practice and experience
topography: detailed description of the natural and man-made features of a place or region
on maps or charts
trabeate: designed or constructed of horizontal beams
trigonometry: the study of the properties of triangles and of trigonometric functions like sine,
cosine, tangent, etc. of an angle, and their applications

1 Medieval India, A Textbook for Classes XI-XII, Part I, Satish Chandra, NCERT, 1986.
2 Medieval India, A Textbook for Classes XI-XII, Part 11, Satish Chandra, NCERT, 1986.
3 The Story of Civilitation Volumes 1 and 2, Arjun Dev, NCERT, 1987.
4 Science and Society an Anthologv, compiled and edited by A.K. Jalaluddin, U. Malik a'nd
R.P. Bhatia, Rajkamal Prakashan Private Limited, 1977.
5 Science, Nonrcience and the Paranormal edited by Dr. H. Narasirnhaiah, Bangalore
Science Forum, 1987.
Block 1 : History of Science
Unit 1 Science as a Human Endeavour
Unit 2 Science in the Ancient World
Unit 3 Iron Age
Unit 4 The Golden Age of Science in India
Block 2 : Emergence of Modern Science
Unit 5 Science in the Medieval Times
Unit 6 Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and After
Unit 7 Science in Colonial and Modem India
Unit 8 The Method of Science and the Nature of Scientific Knowledge
Block 3 : Universe and Life -The Beginning
Unit 9 Universe as a System
Unit 10 Exploring the Universe
Unit 11 Solar System
Unit 12 Origin and Evolution of Life
Unit 13 Evolution of Man
Block 4 : Environment and Resources
Unit 14 Ecosystem
Unit 15 Components of Environment
Unit 16 The Changing Environment
Unit 17 Natural Resources
Unit 18 Resource Utilisation, Planning and Management
Block 5 : Agriculture, Nutrition and Health
Unit 19 Food and Agriculture
Unit 20 Scientific Possibilities and Social Realities
Unit 2 1 Food and Nutrition
Unit 22 Health and Disease
Block 6 : Information, Knowledge, Insight
Unit 23 Mind and Body
Unit 24 Psychological Aspect of Behaviour
Unit 25 Information and Communication
Unit 26 Modes of Communication
Block 7 : Science, Technology and Development
Unit 27 Science and Technology in Industry
Unit 28 Technology and Economic Development
Unit 29 Modem Development in Science and Technology - I
Unit 30 Modem Development in Science and Technology - I1
Block 8 : New Perspectives
Unit 3 1 Perceptions and Aspirations
Unit 32 Science -The Road to Development
AudioNideo Programmes
Audio : 1) Science and Society (Block I)
2) Astronomical Development in India (Block 3)
3) Measuring Astronomical Distances (Block 3)
4) Evolution of Man (Block 3)
5) The Forest Ecosystem (Block 4)
6) Population Pressure (Block 4)
7) Common Misconceptions about Health (Block 5)
8) Human Factors in Engineering (Block 6)
4) New Information Order (Block 6)
10) Technology and Self-Reliance (Block 7)
11) Nuclear Disarmament (Block 7)
Video : 1) Method of Science (Block 2)
2) A Window to the Universe (Block 3.)
3) The Story of a River (Block 4)
4) Green Revolution (Block 5)
5) Infectious Diseases (Block 5)
6) Jean Piaget Development Stages of a Child (Block 6)
7) INSAT (Block 6)
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Historical Perspective
Geocentric Universe of the Ancients
The-Copernican Revolution
Rejection of Heliocentrism
9.3 The Physical Universe
Cosmic Distances
The Solar Family
The Night Sky
The Milky Way Galaxy
Beyond the Milky Way Galaxy
9.4 Summary
9.5 Terminal Questions
9.6 Answers

In Unit 8 you have studied about the method of science 'and the nature of scientific
knowledge. The scientific method has helped us unravel many mysteries of nature, the
origin and evolution of universe being one of them. In the last few thousand years, we
have made many discoveries about the universe. But, the most spectacular and
unexpected discoveries have been inade only recently, in the twentieth century.
Modern science has revealed to us a vast and ancient universe.

In this unit we will see how our understanding of the universe has progressed through
the ages and what our current perceptions about the universe as a system are. We will
briefly describe whatever we now know about the physical universe, that is, the objects
that constitute the universe. Our present understanding of the universe has resulted
from the powerful and elegant methods placed at our disposal by science. These include
the analysis of light, heat and other radiations coming from space, as well as space
explorations by various probes and human beings. In Unit 10 we will describe what
methods are now used for exploring the universe, and what our current ideas and
concepts of the universe are.
After studying this unit you should be able to:
e describe how human understanding of the universe has changed through the ages,
from prehistoric to modern times,
e explain the major observations [hat radically altered the perceptions of the universe
prevailing at various times in human history,
e describe the varicus physical ot~jectsthat constitute the universe,
e list some features of our galaxy, the Milky Way.


You have briefly studied, in Units 2 to 6, whit[ our ;~nccstors'ideas about the heavcus
were. You know that. the primitive human beings clcpcnded on food gathering and
hunting for their survival. The availability of food dcpcndcd on thc seasons and the
seasons depended on the movement of thc Sun and star>.7'hus, the Sun and the stars
controlled the Seasons, food and warmth. similarly, the Moon's motion controlled thc
tides and the life cycles o f many animals. Hcnce, it was natural that the primitivc
people noted the rising and setting of the Sun, the reappearance of the crescent moon
after the new Moon and the waxing and waning of the Moon. Thc more accurately
they knew the position and movemcn!s o f thc Sun, Moon and stars. the more rcliably
liniverse and Life: they could predict when to hunt, when to gather the tribe and when to move to warmer
The Beginnings
places. In other words, their survival depended, to a great extent, on their ability to read
the 'calendars' in the sky (read the margin remark). The earIiest such records are in the
Certain stars rise just before form of bone engravings depicting the phases of the Moon. These are estimated to be
or set just after the Sun, at about 30,000 years old.
times and positions that vary
with the seasons. If one made However, the primitive people's universe was restricted to only the small patch of land
careful observation of the
stars and recorded them over
bounded, perhaps, by rivers, distant hills or by the blue line of the sea. Overhead was
many years, one could predict the sky across which rode the Sun, a god giving light and warmth, and the Moon, a
the seasons. One could also lesser god shining with paler light. With the Moon at night rode innumerable brilliant
rncasure the time of year by stars. Outside this little universe lay unimagined mystery.
noting where on the horizon,
the sun rose each day. Thus,
there lay in the skies a great
With the discovery of agriculture came the need for sowing and reaping of crops in the
'calendar' available to anyone right seasons. As you have read in Unit 2, fairly accurate calendars based on the
who cared to read it. regular movement of the Sun, Moon and stars were made in Babylon and Egypt long
before 2500 B.C. With the passage of time, human thought grew and improved.
Between 600 and 400 B.C., a great revolution in human thought began when
philosophers in many societies all over the world tned to understand the universe
without invoking the intervention of gods. They observed the world around them and
looked for rational answers to questions like : Why did the Sun rise at different places?
Why did the Moon change its shape? Why did a few stars, later called planets, move
among the others? Did such things have any meaning for men? However, with their
limited tools of observation and experimentation, their theories about the universe did
not, for a long time, progress beyond an earth-centred system. Let us see what the
ancient ideas about the universe as a system were.

9.2.1 Geocentric Universe of the Ancients

The earliest ideas of the Egyptians and Sumerians about the universe may seem strange
to us. The Earth appeared flat 2nd solid tg them. The Egyptian cosmos has been
depicted in Fig. 2.21 in Unit 2. Similarly, the Sumerians visualised the universe as a flat
Earth covered by the heaven made up of tin! Between them lay the glowing Sun, Moon
planets and stars which were conuolled by the gods. The Earth was &vbmlj the
principal thing in the universe. Indeed, they knew no reason to think otherwise. They
accepted the Sun, Moon, planets and stars for what they looked like.

The Earth is Round

The idea of a flat Earth was discarded by the Greeks. As early as 600 B.C.; the
philosopher Thales thought the Earth to be round. Pythagoras and his disciples also

Fig. 9.1: Thc Earth is not flat; (a) if the Earth were flat, a ship would aIways be seen complete, though
fainter as it moved away; (b) actual observations show a departing ship to be sinking as it disappears below
the observer's horizon.
maintained that the Earth was spherical. They reasoned that it must be round because Udvecse as a System
of the way ships seemed to sink below the horizon of h e sea (Fig. 9.1) or because
of the circular shadow it cast on the Moon during an eclipse
Give snort answers in the space provided.
a) Of what practical value were astronomical observations of the ancients?

b) What ooservations led Pythagoras and his followers to conclude that the Eanh was

Greek astronomers had also mapped the stars and constellations and had estimated the The word 'planct mcans a
orightness of the stars. They had observed f i e apparent motion of the planets which wanderer in Greek.
seemed to wander amidst the stars, with some, like Mars, even travelling backwards.
The problem before them was to figure out the 'real' motion of the planets as seen
from up in the sky, away from the Earth, in such a way that it explained their apparent
motion as seen from the Earth. We will now descr~bethe model of the universe figured
out by the Greeks.
The Ptolemaic System
The theoretical n'mdel of the universe given by the Greeks had a stationary Earth at its
centre, around which the Sun, the Moon and the planets moved in circular orbits. I,n
this model of the universe, stars merely acted as a b e d r o p , much iike a painted
screen hung by a photographer at a village fair! But, doesn't this seem to be the most
natural idea in the world? The Earth seems steady, solid, unmoving, while we can see
the heavenly bodies rising and setting each day.
MOst of the models constructed by the Greeks to explain the movement of planets
consisted of perfect concentric spheres or circles. They held that each planet was
attached t o an invisible sphere or a circle that rotated around the Earth at a different
speed from .the rest of the spheres. You may recall Eudoxus' model of 27 spheres,
shown partly in Fig. 3.12 in Unit 3.
The astronomical ideas of many earlier Greeks were gathered by Ptolemy who
published them in his Almagest. This series of thirteen volumes contained the ideas of
such men as Aristotle, Apollonius, Hipparchus, in addition t o his own ideas. This
combined picture of the r~niverseis called the Ptolemaic system (see Fig. 3.14 in Unit
There were some exceptions to this model. Notable among these was the argument of
Aristarchus of Samos, that the Earth was one of the several planets, which like them
orbits the Sun which was at the centre of the universe. He also argued that the Sun was
much bigger than the-Earth and stars were enormously far away. However, we do not
know how he reached these conclusions, each of which is correct. As you have read In
Unit 3, these ideas were rejected under the overwhelming influence of Arlstotel~an
In Units 2 to 4, you have also read about the parallel developments in India in the fieid
of astronomy. You know about Aryabhatta, a leading Indian astronomer of the fifth
century A.D., who believed in the rotation of the Eanh about its axis. He had also
given a rational explanation of the occurrence of eclipses. However, his ideas did not
survive for long in the prevalent social conditions in India.

Indicate whether the following statements are !rue (T) or Fa,se (F). Write your answers
in the space provided.
a) Ptolemy believed that the Sun was stationary .................................
b) In the geocentric model, the Earth was at tlic centre, the rest of the heavenly
Sodies moved around it in circulal orbits ..........................
c) The geocentric model held that the Earth was at rentrc and statiol, ry, the Sun
Mimn and thc planets moved around it, the stars were fixed in the sky.. ..............
d) An exception to the geocentric model giveh by Ar istarchus, was a model. with the
Sun-at the m t r e ........................
'The Ptolemaic model of the geocentric universe held sway for over 1,000 years. With
liniverse and Life: the Renaissance in Europe, scientists took to the path of observation and experiment.
The Beginnings
The fifteenth century European astronomers built observatories, improved Ptolemy's
instruments and devised novel ones. As was bound to happen, their observations bcgan
to clash with Ptolemaic theory. As the observations about the paths of the planets
became more accurate, Ptolemy's model was increasingly strained to fit the facts.
The Renaissance had opened the vast storehouse of ancient Grcek knowledge to
European astronomers. A Polish astronomer, Nicholas Copernicus, re-examined the
long neglected sun-centred theories of the universe. In 1543, he published quite a
different hypothesis, from the prevailing Ptolemaic model, to cxplain the apparent
motion of planets. Its most daring feature was the proposition that the Sun. not the
Earth, was at the centre of the universe.
9.2.2 The Copernican Revolution
The Copernican model consisted of the Sun at the centre with the six planets, Mercury,
Venus, the Earth with the Moon-round it, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn going round it in
circular orbits. In this model too the stars formed a fixed sphere in the background (see
Fig. 9.2). Copernicus also believed all planets to be of the same size. His model worked
as well as Ptolemy's spheres in explaining the apparent motion of the planets. But it led
to a confrontation with the adherents of geocentric model. It was not generally
accepted until much later when Galilee's and Kepler's works proved that the
heliocentric model was valid.

Fig. 9.2: Copern~cansystem

The sun-centred model of Copernicus was established by the astronomical observations
of Galileo Galilei when in 1609, he turned his small, imperfect telescope towards the
sky. In the first few nights of observs:ion of the heavens, Galileo saw enough to shatter
the ancient picture of the serene, perfect, harmonious world.




Fig. 9.3: (a) The phases of Venus cannot be explained by Ptolemaie model;
(b) phases of Venus in Copernican model.
For, the Moon, instead of being a perfect, smooth sphere, was found to be uneven, universe os a System
covered by mountains and deep depressions; the planet Saturn seemed divided into
three. He also saw four Moons circling around the planet Jupiter. Hence in the heavens
was a small scale model of the Copernican system. The planet Venus showed phases
like the Mmn. The fact U~althe Venus showed a fully lighted phase when it was-near the
'Sun could not be explained by the Ptolemaic system. Only the Copernican model which
allowed Venus to circle around the far side of the Sun from the Earth, could explain it
(see Fig.9.3).
In spite of the prevailing opposition to Copernican model, these observations were
eventually accepted and they led to the final overthrow of the geocentric model.
Interestingly, the earth-centred ideas remain with us in our everyday lives even now. It
is almost 2,200 years since Aristarchus and almost 400 years since Galileo, but our
language still 'pretends' that the Earth does not rotate. For instance, we still talk about
the Sun 'rising' and the Sun 'setting'!
a) The Copernican model was not ableto explain the planetary motion much better.
than the Ptolemaic model. Why then, was it accepted in spite of the initial general
opposition? Write your answer in the space given below.

b) Which two among the following observations provided conclusive evidence in

support of Copernican model? Tick 6) the appropriate choice in the boxes
i) The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
ii) The planet Venus shows phases like the Moon.
iii) The planet Saturn seemed divided into three.
iv) Four moons can be seen moving around the planet Jupiter.
Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
Further support to the heliocentric model came from the work of Johannes Kepler at
around the same time as Galileo's observations. Kepler, a German astronomer, was

Fig. 9.4 (a) Tycho Brahc; (b) Brahe's observatory at Uraniborg in Denmark. Note the' huge brass quadrant arc.

trying to work out a theoretical model which explained all observations of planetary
motion. The most accurate observations of apparent planetary positions had been
made bv Tvcho Brahe (Fie. 9.4).
L'niverse and Life: Brahe invited Kepler t o work with him. He recommended that Kepler study the planet
The Beginnings Mars because its motion seemed most anomalous, most difficult to reconcile with an
orbit made of circles. Further, planets in circular orbits ought to move with constant
speed. But Kepler found that their speeds changed with their distance from the Sun.
After years of trial and error, he found that the only explanation of the observed
movement of Mars was that its orbit was an ellipse with the Sun at one o f its foci (Fig.
9.5b). Thus, the idea of circular orbits was abandoned. Kepler eventually succeeded in
explaining Brahe's observations which could all be expressed simply, in the form of
three law$ of planetary motion (see Fig. 9.5). You have read about them in Sec. 8.3.4.

Fig. 9.5: (a) Johannes Kepler; (b) Kepler's laws df planetary motion..

Kepler's laws removed the main objection of the Copernican model, that this model
could not give an accurate description of the observed path of the planets. These laws
also led to the rejectioli of Pythagorean-Platonic view of the heavens showing only
perfect circular motions, which even Copernicus had retained. By.the end of the
seventeenth century the heliocentric model of the universe came to be accepted
starlight generally. Interestingly, the physical proof of the movement of the Earth came when it
was no longer necessary, because by then everybody had already accepted that the
Earth moved around the Sun. Let us see what it was.
Stellar Parallax i
Study Fig. 9.6. If the Earth were stationary, a given line joining point A on the Earth, a
nearby star C and any given distant star would never vary. However, if the Earth
changed its position in space and moved from A to B, this alignment would also
change. Thus, in the background of more distant stars, the hearby star would apwar
to shift from C , to C, as the Earth moved from A t o B. This apparent shifting of
nearby stars against the background of more distant ones has been observed, and the
phenomenanis called Stellar parallax. It is a periodic kind of a chahge. A given star first
shifts one way and then the other, during the course of one year, hence it must be due
to the fact that the Earth is moving around the Sun.

The change is small, less than a second of an arc. It was only in 1838 that Friedrich
Fig. 9.6: Stellar parallax, the
method for determlnlngthe Bessel, a German astronomer, could measure the stellar parallax of a star. -1he nearest
distance to a 'near' star. The star, the Sun when viewed against distant stars appears to shift approximately 1" per
distance r is related t o the day.
angle 6by a siniplz fofmula

Give short answers in the space provided
The angle ismeasured in a) What is the shape of the planetary orbits? ...............................
seconds of an arc. One second b) Express Kepler's second and third laws in common language. (.Hint:see Unit 8).
of an arc is equal tG
1 ................................................................................................................................................
c) What observation shows that the Earth moves round the Sun?..................................... Universe PS a System

................................................................................................................................................. The Milky Way was namcd so

because it looked like a trail I
of milk spilled in the sky. <)ur
Stars in the Limelight culture.callcd it Akash
Among Galilee's m y discoveries with the telescope was his observation that the Ganga, i.e., the river Ganga in
the heavens. What fertile
white nebulous band In the sky known as the Milky Way (Akash cranga) was in fact imagination our ancestors
made up of very many stars. T i this time, the model of the universe had consisted had!
merely of the then known Solar System, with stars being nothing more than point
sources of light. With'the availability of bigger and better telescopes in the
post-Galilean era, the remaining planets of the Solar System, Uranus, Neptune and
Pluto were discovered and the stars came to be examined in greater detail.
The first ever study of the stars was made by the English astronomer William Herschel
(1738-1822), who had earlier discovered the planet Uranus. Herschel showed in 1785
that the stars were not the backdrop to 'the Solar System but were individual objects The term nebulae is now used
that extended to infin~ty..He prepared the first ever map of the Milky Way Galaxy for glowing clouds of gas and
and showed that it was, in fact, a part of a flat disc of countless stars. In his model, the dust in a galaxy. A galaxy ts
made up of gas, dust and
Solar System was situated within the ~ i l k yWay Galaxy which constituted the whole stars. Galaxies arc islands of
Universe. At that time, the telescopes were not very powerful. One could see in the sky, stars scattered in the vast
point-like objects, the stars. One could also see white fuzzy clouds called nebulae. space, like islands in an
endlcss ocean or oascs in a
When we entered the twentieth century, the model of the universe was still heliocentric. boundless desert. The white
band seen in the sky and
Our Sun was at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy which with its stars and nebulae called the Milky Way, is only
was the whole of the universe. However, it did not take long for the heliocentric model a pan of the Milky Way
to be abandoned. We will now describe, in brief, the observations that led to the Galaxy
rejection of heliocentric model.

9.2.3 Rejection of Heliocentrism

This happened in the year 1918 when the astronomer Harlow Shapley (1885-1972)
first surveyed the size and shape of the Milky Way Galaxy. H e showed, by his most
original researches, that the Sun does not lie at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy,
but is located a great distance away from the centre. But the question whether the
Milky Way Galaxy was the whole of the universe or not, still remainsd. The answer
came in the year 1924, when Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), another great astronomer,
showed that the fuzzy cloud called Andromeda nebula was not a member of the Milky
Way Galaxy. In fact it was a separate galaxy. Soon, other galaxies were spotted, but the
Milky Way Galaxy appeared to be the largest. This was some consolation to the human
ego: if the centre of the universe was neither reserved for our Earth, nor for our Sun, at
least we lived within the largest galaxy. This idea also did not last long. Walter Baade
(1893-1959) turned the telescope on many cosmic details that Hqbble had skipped
over. He discovered that the other galaxies were farther away than we had supposed,
and the Milky Way Galaxy was no bigger than the others. It was merely one galaxy
among countless others.
The revolution that had begun with Copernicus was now complete. We had no special
place in this universe! We were not at its centre. In fact, the universe was found to have
no centre and not even a boundary. Indeed, the greatness of Copernican ideas lies not
so much in what Copernicus did as what his work led to.

The following statements about the way human pcrccption of the universe has changed
through the ages, are arranged randomly. Put them in a chronological order by placing
the numbers 1 to 7 against the appropriate statements.
a) The Sun is not at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy which is still the whole of
the universe .................................
b) The Universe is without any centre or boundary, the Milky Way Galaxy is one
among the countless galavies in the Universe .................................
c) The Earth is flat and solid, with the sky on top and the Sun, Moon and stars in the
middle.. ...............................
d) The'Sun is at the centre of the universe and the planets move around it in circular
orbits .................................
Universe and Life:
e) Other galaxies are there in thq universe, but the Milky Way Galaxy is at the centre.
The Beginnings .................................
I f) The Earth is spherical. It is at the centre of the universe. It does not move.

g) The planets move around the. Sun in elliptical orbits according to certain laws but
the sun is at the centre of the universe .................................
So far we have given a brief description of how human perception of the universe has
undergone a change in the light of more accurate observations in the last four centuries.
We will now present our current perception of the universe as a system, of its physical '
structure. We will describe the varied forms in which matter is distributed in the
universe, such as planets, stars, galaxies etc.


The universe is vast. The Earth we live on appears to be just a speck of dust circling a
small star in a remote corner of an obscure galaxy. If we are a speck in the immense
space, we also occupy dnly an instant in the expanse of time. The universe is also very
old. We now know that it is about fifteen or twenty billion years OM, while we, the
human beings have been around for only two million years or so. This vast and ancient
universe is populated with a variety of objects. Let us now understand what objects
constitute the universe and how they are distributed. In other words, what the physical
structure of the universe is. In doing so, we will not go into its chemical composition or
aoy other details. However, before we embark on this venture, we will give you an idea
of the cosmic distances, so that you're able to appreciate what follows.

9.3.1 Cosmic Distances

If we asked you what the distance between Delhi and Kanyakumari is, you would say
that it is roughly 3000 km. Another way of answering the question would be that a
distance travelled train takes.about 50 hours to cover the distance. And if we know the average speed of
Speed = time taken a train, we would get a fairly good idea of the distance.
The unit used to measure
speed is kilometres per The dimensions of the universe are so large that using familiar units of distance like
second written as km/s. kilometres would make little sense, Therefore, cosmic distances are measured in'"ight
years". One light year is the distance travelled by light. in one year. Now, light
travels,about 300,000 kilometres in one second, i.e. its speed is 3 X 105 kms. At this
s p e d it can travel seven times around the Earth in one second. A year has about
3X 107seconds (i.e. about 30 million seconds) in it. Therefore, the distance light travels
in one year is about
The accurate value of u ~ i c 3 X 10%m/s X 3 X 107s=9 X 1W2km, i.e. about nine trillion kilometres.
light year is 9.46 X 10'' km.
It is calculated by putting in This unit of length is called a light year, It measures not time but distances, enormous
the accurate values of the distances. Space and time are interwoven. We cannot look out into space without
spced of light. and the number
of seconds in a year. looking back into time. If we see a galaxy a billion light years away, we are seeing it the
way it was a billion years ago. Thus, the distance in units of light years also tells us
how far back into time we are looking.

9.3.2 The Solar Family

Let us now take you on a journey across the universe. We begin from our planet EQrth.
T h c tcrm spinning or rotatlon It is our home. The Earth is active, lush and fertile. It is a place of blue skies, vast
refers to a body's turning on
its own aiis, like a spinning *oceans, cool forests, a world full of life. Its surface is cloaked by an atmosphere in which
top. Thc tcrm revolution of a 'we can breathe, and which keeps the Earth's temperature quite-constant. It spins or
body is uscd to refcr t o its rotates on its axis and revolves around the Sun, completing one orbit in one year. The
motion around anothcr body. Earth is not alone. It has a companion on its travels, the Moon which orbits the Earth
T h e E a n h rotatcs on its axis
once cvcry 24 hours. and once in 27.33 days. But the Moon is airless, waterless and lifeless; it is a dead world.
revolves around thc Sun oncc From the Moon, the Earth appears as a beautiful bluish-white planet.

i in 365'/, days.
The Earth is not the only planet orbiting the Sun. There are eight other planets that
orbit the Sun. The nine planets and their satellites togethkr with the Sun and many
asteroids and comets make a family, the Solar System (see Fig. 11.1) The planets arc
diverse in size, ranging from the giant Jupiter, efeven times the size of Earth, down to
tiny Pluto, less than half the size of our planet. Each planet's distance from the Sun is Universe as a System
different, Mercury being the nearest and Pluto, the farthest. They are all different from
each other in many respects. But let's not dwell on the Solar System for long as we will
take a closer look at it in Unit 11. Let's see what the space beyond contains.

9.3.3 The Night Sky

When you look up at the sky on a clear night, what d o you-see? Most of it is dotted
with twinkling stars. You may see the moon or Venus as a bright point or Mars as a
reddish one. Venus is sometimes seen in the evening just after sunset and, at other
times, in the morning before sunrise.Except for the planets, all sthcr points of light
are stars. From our planet Earth, on a really clear, dark night, we aan see .about 6,000

Stars and Constellations

The night sky is interesting. The stars seem to fall into certain patterns. You must have
seen the Saptarishi, also known as the Big Dipper or the Plough. It is a part of a
bigger group of stars called the Great Bear or the Ursa Major which is seen in the
northern sky. We can see many different star patterns like the Hunters, the Lion, the
Dog, the Balance etc. These pictures are not there really in the sky. Our imagination
has put them there. The early star gazers and the ancient astronomers traced out these
star patterms and named them after gods and heroes, objccts or creatures which these
groups of sqrs resembled in their imagination (see Fig. 9.7a).
,The sky is divided into these patterns of stars or star groups which are called
constellations. A constellation is an arbitrary grouping of stars and it merely defines an
a x a of the sky. All cosmic objects in a given region of the sky form a constellation. There
are eighty eight constellations each havillg a definite boundary. Modern astronomers use
thc ancicnt names of the constellations to refer to these eighty eight regions of tl~: sky, and
not to thc imaginary ligures of long ago. In Fig. 9.7 we show the star charts of bright stars
and constellations visible in the Northern and Southem hemispheres. You could also look
up the star charts published in many newspapers and magazines fiom time to time and
familiarise yourself with the stars and constellations in the night sky.

Figure. 9.7: (a) Constellations Libra (the balance), Ursa Major (Great Rear); (b) Charts O f major
consrellations and stars as viewed from Northern and (c) Southern hemispheres.

The stars and constellations help explorers and navigators. In the ancient tiril*s, they
helped the seagoing ships. By watching the position of the constellation with respect to
the horizon night after night, the early sailors could determine the ship's latitude. And
now the spacefaring ships find their bearings in space with the help of stars and
constellarioces. lt we extend the llne jo~ningthe last two stars of the Saptarish~called the
Pointers, we can see'the Pole star. It is a bright star s~tuatedin the North, almost on the
Universe and Life: Earth's axis of rotation. Therefore. lt appears like a fixed s.tar. Its posltlon gives the
I fhe Beginning geographical north. Thus, the Pole star also helped the earliest navigators in finding
their way at night.
I As the ' ~ a r t hrevolves around the Sun, different constellations appear, disappear and
I reappear at different times of the year. Thus, there are different constellations in
different seasons. The motion of planets, when viewed against these constellations,
I appears as if the planets were entering or leaving a constellation at a specific time of
I the year. Such movements of planets and stars have also been put to 'use' in astrology
to predict events in human iives! But, we'll say solnething more on this in Unit 11.
I . ,

a) Identify the group of stars called Saptarishi, in Fig 9.9b.
b) Which of the stars marked A and B in Fig. 9.9b, is the Pole star?
On the clear nights you must also have seen a glorious white band stretched across the
sky. This is the Milky Way or Akashganga which, as you have read in Sec. 9.2.2, was
seen by Galileo to have many stars in it. It is a part of our galaxy, the Milky Way
Galaxy. Often we simply call it the Galaxy. A galaxy is an enormous collection of gas,
dust and billions upon billions of stars. There are millions of such galaxies in the sky.
The Solar System and all the stars that we see in the sky belong to the Milky Way
Galaxy. Let's now find out more about the Milky Way Galaxy.

9.3.4 The Milky Way Galaxy

The white band stretched across the night sky is, in fact, a partial view of the Milky Way
Galaxy. Being inside the Galaxy, we can see it only in parts. We cannot see the whole
of it, the way we see the other galaxies. Visualising the whole Milky Way Galaxy and
determining its shape has not been easy. By watching a large number of galaxies
distributed in all directions in dozens of views as far as modem telescopes can see,
scientists have been able to form a picture of what our galaxy must look like from
outside. In ihis, they have also been helped by the observations about the stars in our
galaxy, their distances and motion, etc. The picture of the Galaxy constructed by
the astronomers is shown in Fig. 9.8. Doesn't it look somewhat like a disc or a
gramophone record with a swollen centre? The Milky Way Galaxy contains about 100
billion stars. The stars are not uniformly distributed. You can test this yourself by a
simple activity.
spiral a r m

a ?*bular cluster
Sun's location - 0

\F"" , G2T%*,@t%J..
a * *. && - &;


I C *
R t
* I *

-I 100,000 light years

" -@I
Figure. 9.8: The Milky Way Galaxy; (a) edge-on view (b) face-on view.


Cut out a small cardboard Erame with a square opening of side 5 cm.Hold the ffame at
an arm's length and count the stars that you see within the frame. Repeat this for
different parts of the sky. Record the location and number of stars counted on each
occasion. Are they the samR

You will find that the dishibution of stars is not uniform. There is higher
concentration of stars in certain parts of the sky. There is a great concentration of stars Universe ss P system
towards the centre of the Galaxy, which is located in the constellation of Sagittarius.
The Sun is.situated on its remote outskirts, about 30,000 light years away from the
centre. Note that when you see the portion of the Milky Way in the sky near
Sagittarius, you would be looking toward the centre of the galaxy. When you observe
the portion near Orion, you would be seeing the "edge" of the Galaxy, nearest the Sun.
The Galaxy, as you can sec in Fig. 9.8, is disc shaped. If we could see our galaxy from
the top, we would get the face-on view (Fig. 9.8b). If we could see it from the edge, we
would get the edge-on view (Fig. 9.8a).

In the edge-on view, the Galaxy consists of two basic parts: the disc and the halo. The
disc consists of stars, as well as clouds of gas and dust called nebulae. It has a diameter
of 100,000 light years, and a thickness of about 5,000 light years. This collection of gas
and stars rotates about the centre (also known as the nucleus) of the Galaxy, with each
part moving at a different speed. The Solar System at a distance of about 30,000 light
years from the centre, in the outskirts of the Galaxy, also revolves. Moving at a speed
of 250 km per sec., it takes roughly 200 million years to complete one revolution
around the centre of the Galaxy. There are individual stars like the Sun as well as
groups of stars, called galactic clusters, that move together in the disc. Astronomers
have identified about 1000 galactic clusters in the disc, each containing 10 t o 1,000

Thc diw of the galaxy contains spiral arms, which are about 2,500 light years wide. The
dlstance between the adjacent arms is about 1,500 light years. The spiral arms are seen
clearly because that is where the brightest stars and gas clouds are found. Dark clouds
of dust and gas line the inner rlms of the arms. The other stars in the disc are not
arranged In any conspicuous pattern. The Sun, for instance, lles between two spiral
arms (see Fig. 9.Xb).

The halo is spherical and has its centre at the nucleus of the Galaxy. The central redon
of the halo consists of a vast concentration of stars that form the nuclear bulge of the
disc (Fig. 9.8a). Elsewhere the halo consists of very little gas and widely separated stars
and about 120 globular clusters. The globular clusters are compact spherical systems
each containing aily number of stars from ten thousand to several millions. It is
observed that the halo, or the spherical component of the Galaxy, does not rotate with
the disc.

From a study of the distribution of globular clusters, we may conclude that the Sun
cannot be at the centre of the Galaxy. Because if it were so, the globular clusters would
have been distributed around the Sun. They are not, and hence we may surmise that
the Sun is not at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. The centre of the Galaxy is, in
fact, the centre of the distribution of these globular clusters.


a) Fill up the blank spaces in the following statements about the Milky Way Galaxy.

i) A galaxy is a collection of ................................ The Milky Way Galaxy 1s one

among ................................of galaxies in the universe.
ii) In the face-on view of the Galaxy, we would see it from ................................,
viewing it from the edge, we get an ................................
iii) Seen from the edge, the Galaxy seems to be made of two
parts: ................................ and ................................
iv) The disc is made up of clouds of gas and dust, individual stars
and ................................ that rotate around the centre of the galaxy. The disc of
the galaxy also contains two ................................ arranged in a spiral. The sun is
situated ................................ the spiral arms.
v) The halo is shaped like a ................................ In its centre, there is
a ................................ concentration of stars. Elsewhere, it is made up
o f . ......................and ...........................
vi) A ................................cluster has about 10 to 1000 stars. A ...............................
cluster is made up of 10,000 to millions of stars.
vii) The globular clusters are found in the ................................ and the galactic
clusters in the ................................ of the galaxy.
Universe and Life: b) Taking. 10,000 light years to be 1 cm on scale, draw the Milky Way in an edge-on
The Beginnings view; the diameter of the disc would be 10cm. Show its disc and nucleus. Locate
I the Sun on this diagram.

9.3.5 Beyond t h e f ~ i l kWay

y Galaxy

Let us now move away from the Earth and venture into the space beyond. If we were
at a point far out in space we would see scattered in space, a large number of faint,
wispy tendrils of light. These are all galaxies. As we have said earlier in Sec. 9.3.3,
these galaxies are made up of billions of stars, and clouds of gas and dust. The universe
is full of galaxies. Some of them are soliky wanderers. Most ofthem movein clust&s.
drifting endlessly in the great cosmic dark.

'I Shapes of galaxies

The galaxies are usually found in three shapes: spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies and
irregular galaxies (see Fig. 9.9). Further refinements have been suggested in recent
years, but we will not go into those details. The elliptical galaxies are so called because
they have an elliptical shape on a photographic plate. Elliptical galaxies in general do
not have much gas or dust from which to form new stars, and they consist of old stars.
The irregular galaxies do not show any coherent structure. ' h e number of elliptical
and spiral galaxies is almost equal, whereas the irregular ones comprise about 10% of
all salaxies.

I'ik. ').a): (i;tl;txi~,\ 01 \.;~ric,tr\shape>: (a) thc galaxy M X 7 at thc ccntrc of thc virgc; cluster
i~mil\\ of 300 I>illi~>n sun\. ancl is the m!~st tni~ssivcvnlaxy knc!wn: ( Q cdp-on vrcw of the spiral
16 Sombrero galaxy; (c) spiral galaxy, face-on .!iew; (d)ilTe@ar Large Magellanic Cloud . ..
Before going too deep into the space, let's take a closer look at, what astronomers on' Universe as a System
Earth like to call, the Local Group of Galaxies. Its cross-section is several million light
years, it is made up of around twenty galaxies. The nearest galaxies to the Milky Way
Galaxy are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, visible in the Southern hemisphere.
They are irregular in shape. The galaxy Andromeda'lies nearly two million light years
away and is visible to the unaided eye. It is a spiral galaxy, three times bigger and
brighter than ours.

As we move further out, we find that such groupings, or clusters of galaxies, are
extremely common. There are some hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe
which form clusters of all kinds. There are rich clusters containing as many as ten
thousand galaxies and poor clusters having only a few galaxies. Our own galaxy is a
member of a poor cluster. The nearest rich cluster, at a distance of about 70 million light
years, is Virgo. It is irregular in shape and is huge, extending 7 million light years from
end to end. Like galaxies, clusters are also shaped like spirals, ellipses or they may be

In recent years, one more step has been added in understanding this physical structure
of the universe. There is evidence to suggest that the clusters of galaxies, rich and poor,
in turn form superclusters or supergalaxies (i.e. clusters of clusters) that are 200-300
million light years in diameter. They may be made up of about a 100 member clusters.
The clusters, Local Group and Virgo, are members of the same supercluster. The
superclusters are very much alike. They are rather evenly distributed in space. Thus, on
a larger scale than this, the universe appears uniform, that is, it has the same structure
and composition everywhere, it looks the same in all directions.

The structure of the universe that we have described above is not static. It is changing.
New stars and new galaxies are being born. Stars, galaxies and clusters move.
Sometimes they collide giving rise to new galaxies. All these stars, galaxies, clusters and
superclusters have a story to tell about ancient events on the largest possible scale. We
are only now beginning to read this story.

a) Think of the universe as a system and our planet as its smallest subsystem. Then
rearrange the following elements in such a way that shows each successive entity as
containing the previous one. List, against each entity, the objects that constitute it.
i) Earth
ii) Milky Way Galaxy
iii) Superclusters
iv) Solar systkm
v) Clusters/Local Group of Galaxies

b) In the pictures of galaxies given below, identify the shape of each of them.

Before we end this journey, let us show you what the space between the stars and
galaxies is made up of.
Universe and Life: Interstellar and Intergalactic Space
The Bednnings
The space between the stars and the galaxies looks empty, doesn't it? But this 1s not
An atom is the smallest
particle of an element. It is
true. In the great dark between stars in the galaxies, and galaxies in the clusters, there
made up of a nucleus are clouds of gas and dust. The gas clouds are mainly made up of hydrogen atoms and
containing protons and " cannot be seen by the unaided eye. Only the modem astronomical instruments have
neutrons. and electrons been able to detect these particles. Cosmic dust is made up of bigger particles. These
revolving around it. See
Fig. 8.4b in Unit 8. A clouds of dust are revealed when they reflect the light of stars falling on them (Fig.
molecule is made up bf 9.10). Cosmic dust and clouds of gas in a galaxy are found to play a great role in the
two or more atoms. formation of a star. You will read about this in Unit 10.

Fig. 9.10: (a) Orion nebula; (b) Crab nebula, remnant of a supernova exvlosion seen in 1054 A.D.

In the gas clouds and cosmic dust we also find traces of different kinds of ordinary
molecules, like water, ammonia, carbon monoxide etc. There are many organic
molecules, like msthane, methanol (also known as wood alcohol), formic acid (the
substance that gives ant and bee bites their sting), and many more. The organic
molecules are the matter out of which our kind of life arose on the planet Earth. The
Organic molecules are those
molecules which essentially
abundance of such organic molecules in the interstellar space suggests that there might
contain carbon and hydrogen be life somewhere out there, perhaps in a different form. We may not be the only ones,
atoms. They may or may not after all!
have other atoms like
nitrogen, oxygen etc.
Another major constituent of the universe are cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are beams of
charged particles, such as the electrons, protons and helium nuclei etc., that freely
travel in space at nearly the speed of light. These particles carry large amounts of
energy across space.

Let us now end our brief journey of the universe, and summarise what we have
discovered. The matter of the universe is concentrated in large superclusters of
galaxies, each measuring 100 to 200 million light years across and each containing
millions of galaxies. The galaxies are grouped in rich or poor clusters, have different
shapes and are distributed in different ways. The galaxies contain stars and clouds of
gas and dust. Stars may be grouped in clusters or they may be individual stars like the
Sun having planetary systems like our Solar System. Our planet Earth is a part of the
Sun's family.

Don't the diversity and the expanse of the universe seem truly amazing? Lost
Carl Sagan is a renowned
somewhere in the vastness of space and immensity of time is our tiny planetary home.
American astronomer This is a humbling thought. Yet, our species is young, curious and brave. We would
rather not feel overwhelmed by the expanse of universe in space and time. We would
like to end this unit with the words of Carl Sagan from his book 'Cosmos' (p.1):

"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be ...........In the last few years, we
have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our
place within it, explorauons that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that Univeme as a System
humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is a
prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos
in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."

In this unit, we have tried to present a picture of the universe as a system, what the
picture is now and how it has changed ever since human beings watched the heavenly
objects and wondered about what they were. Let us now summarise what we have
studied so far.
For our prehistoric i d Bronze Age ancestors, the Earth was at the centre of the
universe. The dark heavens beyond were a mystery to them working under the
control of some supernatural forces.
The Greek philosophers tried to understand the universe on the basis of
observations, logic and reasoning, and gave many models which were absorbed in
the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe.
Galileo's observations and later Kepler's formulation of the three laws of planetary
motion based on the observations made by Tycho Brahe established the
revolutionary heliocentric model.
The discovery that the Sun was one of the millions of stars in the Milky Way and
was located only at a large distance from the centre of the Galaxy led to the
rejection of heliocentrism.
a We now know about the structure of the universe on a large scale. The planets,
stars, gdaxies, clusters, and superclusters form a dynamic universe which is always


1) What was the need to look for a better model than Ptolemy's model of the
universe? Give your answer in the space provided.

2) Explain, in four or five lines, how Galileo's observations led to the rejection of
Ptolemy's model?

3) State in a sequence, the modem observations that have led to the rejection of
heliocentrism and our current perception of the universe that it is vast and has no
centre and no boundaries.
Universe and Life:
The Beginnings

4) State in the boxes given, whether the following statements about the universe are
true or false:
a) The Milky Way Galaxy is at the centre of the universe
b) Seen on a scale of distance larger than the superclusters, the universe seems
the same everywhere.
c) The space between the stars and galaxies is empty.
d) We can see the edge of the universe.
e) The interstellar space is full of clouds of gases, dust, cosmic rays. Organic
molecules have also been found in the interstellar matter.
f) The universe is vast, billions of light years in extent. It is also ancient, being
about 15 to 20 billion light years old.
5) Match each of the entities listed in column 1 with their features given in column
2 ,below.Draw an arrow between the items that match.

1 . 2
a) Earth i) Groups of galaxies, containing a
few to a few thousand galaxies.
b) Sun ii) A group of stars arranged in a pattern,
defining a region of the sky.
c) Constellation iii) A tiny planet moving around the Sun.
d) Milky Way Galaxy iv) A collection of clusters, extending upto
several hundred million light years.
e) Clusters v) A star situated at a large distance from
the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy.
f) Superclusters vi) A galaxy containing billions of stars, dust and gas.

Self Assessment Questions
1) a) To predict changing seasons, draw calendars, set the time for hunting,
gathering tribes, sowing crops, reaping harvests etc.
b) The ships seemed to sink below the horizon; the Earth cast a circular shadow
on the Moon, during a lunar eclipse.
2) a) F b) F c) T d) T.
3) a) Due to the observations of the heavens by Galileo.
b) ii), iv).
4) a) Ellipse.
b) Second Law:Planets move faster in their orbits when they are nearer to the
Sun and siower when far away from it.Third Law: The more distant a planet is
from the Sun, the more time it takes to complete a revolution around the Sun.
c) Stellar parallax, i.e. the apparent shifting of nearby stars against the
background of more distant stars when viewed from the Earth at an interval of
six months.
5) a) 5, b) 7, c) 1. d) 3, e) 6, f ) 2, g) 4.

The star group Saprarrshi.

b) The star A is Pole star.
7)' a) i) stars, gas and dust clouds, billions, ii) top, edge-on view, iii) disc, halo.
iv) clusters of stars, arms, between, v) sphere, large, little gas, a few stars, globular Universe as a System
clusters, vi) galactic, globular, vii) halo, disc.

8) a) i), iv), ii), v) iii).

Earth -All living beings, land, weans, forests etc.
Solar System -Sun, planets and their satellites, asteroids and comets.
Milky Way Galaxy -Stars, clouds of gas and dust.
Clusters -Galaxies.
Superclusters -Clusters of galaxies.
b) i) irregular, ii) elliptical, iii) spiral.
Terminal Questions
1) As the observations about planetary motion became more and more accurate,
Ptolemy's model could no longer explain them.
2) The observation of the moons going around Jupiter showed a smaller version of
Copernican model in the heavens. Secondly, the phases of the Venus could not be
explained with the help of Ptolemaic system. The only way to explain these
observations was that the Venus went around the Sun (see Fig. 9.3).
3) i) There were stars other than the Sun, which were not a backdrop to the Solar
System but were objects scattered upto large distances in the vast space.
ii) Solar System was a part of the Milky Way Galaxy, a huge collection of stars,
gas and dust clouds.
iii) The Sun did not lie at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy.
iv) There were other nearby galaxies similar to the Milky Way Galaxy such as the
Andromeda Galaxy.
v) The Milky Way Galaxy was one among the countless galaxies strewn in the
vast space, no bigger than the others.
vi) Galaxies grouped together to form clusters which were a part of giant
superclusters scattered in space. Thus, the universe had no boundaries,
neither any centre.
4, a) F b) T C)F d) F e) T QT.
5, aJ iii b) v c) ii d) vi e) i Q iv.
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Probing the Universe
Visible and Invisible Radiations
In Pursuit of Starl'ght
Tuning in on the Lars
Messengers from the Sky
Ventures in Space
10.3 Understanding the Universe
Let Us Know about Stars
The Life Story of a Star
The Expanding Universe
Closing in on Creation
10.4 Summary
10.5 Terminal Questions
10.6 Answers

In Unit 9 you had a brief glimpse of what the universe is made up of. You know that
the universe has a structure. Seen on a large distance scale, it is made up of
superclusters which are groups of large clusters. Clusters contain anything from a few,
to a few thousand galaxies. The galaxies are, in turn, made up of stars and clouds of gas
and dust. Our own star, the Sun, is an ordinary star in the Milky Way Galaxy, one
among 100 billion stars. It is surrounded by nine planets including the Earth, that move
around it.While reading all this, did you not wonder how we came to know about the
structure of the universe in such detail? Because, all we can see by our unaided eyes are
the few thousand stars scattered in the sky.

In this unit we are going to satisfy your curiosity on this count. We will describe the
various techniques and instruments that have helped us in gathering information about
the universe. But the information gathered is of no use if it cannot be analysed
systematically and used to develop an understanding of the universe. This is what
thousands of scientists all over the world are doing everyday. They take the bits and
pieces of information from here and there and try to paint a coherent picture of the
enigma that our universe is. We will try to pfesent this picture before you, in as simple
a way as possible. As we explore the universe, we may come across many puzzles that
are rather difficult to solve. However, there is a tiny part in this whole universe that we
understand a little better than the rest. That tiny part is the Solar System. In the next
unit, we will tell you about the Solar System.

After studying thisunit you should be able to:
enumerate the various astronomical methods of exploring the universe, and explain
how these methods are put to use to gather information,
describe our current knowledge of the stars-their distances, brightness,
temperature, motion etc.,
explain, in a simple manner, how stars evolve,
describe the prevalent theories about the origin and evolution of the universe
alongwith the supporting evidence, if any.


'Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but
I queerer than we can suppose'.
C ~ ~ i t e r sand
e Life: This remark of Haldane, a famous scientist, reflects, in a way, what most of us feel
The Beginnings about this subject. The universe is a rather difficult subject to study. We cannot bring it
to the laboratory to carry out experiments on it. We cannot compare,it with any other
universe, this is the only universe we have. And finally, we are a part of it. We can
J.B.S. Haldanc (1892-1964)
study it only from within. We cannot go out of it and look at it from the outside.
was a British biologist who '
hecame an Indian citi7en. and So, how do we study it? It is here that the scientific method comes to our aid. You
~ t t l c din Cuttack, Orissa. must understand that the study of the universe is a rather special example of the
j ' u u will read about his work
in L'ltit 12. method of science, as we cannot experiment on it. However, the observations that we
make about it provide us with an enormous amouit of information that we can analyse
and interpret in terms of the known laws of nature. Based on these laws, various
theories and models of the universe are given by scientists.

Observations are the pillars on which models and theories are based. You may ask:
What observations can be made about the universe? And how are they made? We will
now answer these questions. Wc will not discuss the underlying principles of Ihc
methods and instruments in detail. Our* is to give you an idea of the vast variety ot
tools and methods ava.ilable tor making observations about the universe.

Most of what we know about the universe has been learnt from a study of light, heat
and other radiations like the radiowaves, X-rays, gamma rays etc. coming from the Sun
and the stars. These radiations are detected by special instrumznts \ct up at
astronomical observatories on the Earth and in orbit around the Earth. In the last few
decades, we have been able to send to the neighbouring world\. Many men
have also visited the Moon and brought a lot of lunar material for study. 7'hu\, there
are a variety of ways for making observations and collecting information ahout thc
universe. However, before describing these methods, we will explain to you \om;
features of the radiations from space that bring the secrets of the universe-right to our

10.2.1 Visible and Invisible Radiation

1,ight is very much a part of our existence. Without it we cannot see; It Iends colour
to the world around us. Light is also termed as visible radiation. There are other kinds
of radiations in nature, that we cannot s e e . ' ~ h e s are
e termed invisible radiations.
Some examples of invisible radiations are the infrared and ultravioler radiations,
radiowaves, X-rays and gamma rays. We may c6me across all these radiations in our
lives. For example, infrared (IR) radiation is given out b\y warm objects, such as our
bodies, room heaters, buildings and the Earth after a warm day. Rattlesnakes dctcct
infrared radiation very well. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can kill germs. It is invisible'to
us but can be detected by bumblebees. Radiowaves are.emitted by TV and radio
broadcasting stations and are received by our TV o r radio sets through the antennas.
Thus, they are useful in communication. They can also be detected by bats. X-rays are
used in medicine, gamma rays aie us@ in cancer treatment and are also emitted in
nuclear explosions.

All these radiations-the gamma ray, the X-rays, ultraviolet rays, light, infrared rays,
and radiowaves-are useful in astronomy. Actually they are different forms of the sanle
kind of radiation called the electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is a
form of energy. There are other forms of energy with which you must be familiar, like
heat, sound or the energy stored in thespring of a watch. We usually think of
electromagnetic radiation as being made up of waves that travel with the speed of light
in vacuum. Now, the simplest examples of waves that you may know are waves of
water in a pond or sea, waves on a string. You may have seen waves on a curtain
fluttering in the air. Some people have wavy hair. We will not go here into the details of
what waves are, or the special nature of electromagnetic waves. For details, you may
like to refer to the books listed at the end of the block.

But clearly, from their description given above, the various kinds of electromagnetic
radiation do not seem to be alike. What is the difference between each of them?

1 The difference lies in their wavelengths and hence in the energy they carry. I
What do we mean by the wavelength of a wave? Study Fig. 10.1 to understand this.
This is the usual way of showing a wave. The distance between two successive crests
(hills) or two successive troughs (valleys) is defined as its wavelength. It is measured in Exploring the Universe
metres. The curve marked OABCD is called one cycle. The frequency of a wave is
defined as the number of cycles it travels in a second. It is then measured in terms of
cycles per second (cps) or Hertz. The product of the wavelength A and the frequency
f of an electromagnetic wave is equal to its speed c:

The symbol h is a Greek letter

profiouiCededas'lambda' with
'b' silent.

~ i g ' .10.1: Sketch of a wave showing its wavelength.

Thus, if we know any two of these parameters, we can determine the third. The energy
E carried by a wave of frequency f is given as:
E=hf=hc/ A
where h is a constant number, known as Planck's constant. Thus, the higher the
frequency of a wave or the lower its wavelength, the more energy it can carry across
space. UV rays, X-rays and gamma rays carry huge amounts of energy. Therefore,
constant exposure to them can prove very harmful. Luckily most of these harmful
radiations are cut off by the Earth's atmosphere. All kinds of electromagnetic
radiations arranged according t o their wavelengths, constitute the electromagnetic
spectrum. (Fig. 10.2)

Mountain Office Human Thumb Pinhead Dust Bacteria Virus Atom Atomic
building nucleus

Radiowaves lnfra red UV Xrays Gamma rays

'Iy .-l-
Visible (red, orange. yellow, green, blue, violet)

(ems) 106 10s 104 103 102 101 10 10-1 10-2 10-3 10-4 10-5 10-6 10-7 10-8 10-0 10-10lo-" 10-12jO-13

Fig. 10.2: Electromagnetic spectrum. Thc unshaded arcas show thc radio window, and the optical
t ) 8.0 X 1
window which ranges from 4.0 ~ ' l ~ - ~ c m : ( v i o l cto 0 %m. (red) wavelcngths. Objccts shown in
the figure arc of the same ~imensionsas the corrcsponding wavclcngths.
a) An announcement of the day on any AIR station may start like this:
This is All India Radio. You aretuned lo the medium wave band at 375 metres.
that is 800 kilohertz.
What is the wavelength and frequency of the wave t o which you have tunccl the
radio? In what region of the electromagnetic spectrum does it lie?
Universe and I.ife:
b) Calculate the speed of radio waves mentioned in part:(a) in this SAQ?
The &Binning
c) What is the range of wavelengths and frequencies used for broadcasts made on
radio? You may read the markings on a radio set .......X ..................................................
d) What are the waves with lowest wavelengths called? ...............................................:......
e) What is the wavelength of the longest radiowaves? .........................................................
Light is the radiation to which human eyes arc sensitive, i.e., our eyes can.detect visible
radiation. However, it fohns only a tiny part of the electromagnetic.spectrum.The
colours in white light o r light from the Sun can be seen when it is sent through a prism
which splits it into the familiar spectrum of rainbow colours-violet, indigo, blue, green,
yellow, orange and red. By definition, each colour of visible light has a specific
wavelength, the violet light having the shortest and red light the longest.

Cosmic objects emit radiations of all wavelengths. For instance, visible light forms only
40% of the Sun's radiation. The rest is made up of the other kinds of electromagnetic
radiation. However, as these radiations fall on the Earth, all except light and
radiowaves get absorbed in its atmosphere. Only the visible light waves and radiowaves
penetrate the atmosphere to reach the Earth's surface. These are, therefore, referred to
as the two windows to the universe. We can view the-wavelengths lying outside these
windows only if we move out of the Earth's atmosphere.
a) What is the range of wavelengths for which electromagnetic radiation is visible to
our eyes? Calculate the frequency of the violet and red colours.

b) Which colour of light cames more' energy, blue or green?

c) What wavelengths of the electromagnetic radiation reach the surface of the Earth?

Now that you have some idea of the various kinds of radiations coming from the stars,
let us see what different methods astronomers use to collect them. We start with a
discussion on how light from the stars is collected.

10.2.2 In Pursuit of Starlight

The easiest method of studying light from a cosmic object is to collect it through a
telescope and record it on a photographic plate. ~ h o t o g r a ~ hfilms
i c are exposed for
long periods of time-sometimes night after night-to the light being collected by a
telescope aimed at distant stars. Since the Earth rotates on its axis, the stars appear to
move in the sky. The telescope is rotated following the daily movement of the stars at
which it is aimed. Thus, its movement is synchronised with the movement of the stars
being studied, stars, far too faint for human eyes, slowly begin to register on the plate.
This method of collecting and investigating light from the cosmos is called optical
Over the centuries, astronomers have refined the telescope from the first crude lenses
of Galilee's day to giant 'telescopes in use today. Three simple pieces of glass, the lens,
the mirror and the prism over the period of a few hundred years. have turned into
sophisticated and powerful tools in human hands. Shouldn't we marvel at the ingenuity
of the human mind'?
As of today, a huge optical telescope called the Hubble space telescope. after Edwin
IIubble, is in orbit around the earth. Several large telescopes are stationed in the USA,
Hawaii, Australia, Chile, Russia, U.K.etc. In India the major optical observatories are at
Nainital, Gurusild~ar(Near Mount Abu), Udaipur, Japal Rangapur (near Hyderabad),
Kavalur and Kodai Kanal. Many smaller telescopes scan the skies every night, adding to
our knowledge of the cosmos.
There are many other ways of learning about the heavens than by just studying the light
coming from them. One of them is radio astronomy. Nowadays, scientists use very
scrlsitive radio telescopes to tune in on the cosmic objects and study them. Let us see
what this method is.
Exploring the iini\er\c
10.2.3 Tuning in on the Stars
The fact that stars emit radiowaves was discovered accidentally in 1932 by a young
engineer Karl Jansky. He was trying to find the source of noise in a transatlantic
telephonic link. He made an experimental radio receiver set to study this problem. To
his surprise, he found that the disturbance was due to radiowaves coming from the
Milky Way Galaxy. This w2s the beginning of radio astronomy, i.e. the study of cosmic
objects through radiowaves emitted by them. The radio telescope, a basic tool of radio
astronomy, collects radiations from space in the radiowave region. One of the largest
radio telescopes in the world was designed and set up by Indian astronomers at
Ootacamund. The other radio telescopes in India are stationed at Gulmarg,
Ahmedabad, Gauribidanur near Bangalore.
Radio telescopes may be tuned to receive radiowaves of the desired wavelength in the
same way as we tune a radio to receive only the station we want. Radio telescopes not
only give a 'view' of the invisible universe, but can also probe much deeper into space
when compared with optical telescopes. Radiowaves can propagate through dust clouds
in space, just as radio signals on the Earth can penetrate cloudy or foggy weather.
Thus, they enable'radio astronomers to construct images of regions completely hidden
from the view of optical telescopes. However, radio telescopes normally receive
radiation within a narrow band of wavelengths.
Radio telescopes have led to the discovery ot hundreds of cosmic objects that emit
radiowaves. Most of these could be identified with the objects seen by optical
telescopes. With the help of radio telescopes objects like pulsars were discovered.
Pulsars are stars that send out pulses of light and radiowaves in regular bursts. For
example, a pulsar in the centre of the Crab nebula at a distance of 6000 light years
from the Earth sends out bursts of light and radiowaves 30 times a second.
Certain radio sources like 3~273,detected by radio telecopes and later examined by
optical telescopes, were named quasars (Fig. 10.3). Quasar. an abbreviation of
'quasi-stellar radio source', is a star-like object situated billions of light years away. Fig. 10.3: A quasar.
Not all quasars are radio sources. Since the electromagnetic waves from quasars are
being detected on the Earth, they must be sending out huge amounts of energy.
Quasars are comparatively small in size, only about a light month across. That is, if you
imagined the Milky Way Galaxy to be a football field, a quasar would appear like a
grain of sand. But it emits 100 times more energy than the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

Scientists have also found that many elliptical galaxies that seemed unimportant when
seen throug6 optical telescopes, were powerful sources of radiowaves. These galaxies
were named radio galaxies. Often, the centre of a galaxy is a powerful source of
radiowaves. Violent movements of huge quantities of matter and gas take place in the
central part of the galaxies, emitting radiowaves in the process. Radio telescopes also
showed that organic molecules exist in interstellar space.

a) List four features which distinghish a radio telescope from the optical telescope.

b) What new discoveries could be made with the help of radio telescopes?

10.2.4 Messengers from the Sky

Light and radiowaves are not the only messengers from tht: sky t o our planet Earth. A dc5crlptlon ot meteorrtcs
There are others; like the meteorites entering the Earth's atmosphcrc from time to h . ~ \hccn elvcn ~n scc I 1.4.
time. They bring us many messages about the cosmic ohjcct\ frorn which they were of Unit I I.
chipped off. Earth is also constantly bombarded by cosmic ray\ which, as you've read
earlier. are beams of electrons. proton5 and helium cruise through spac, at
very high speeds, approaching the speed of light. Their orlgln and their travel through
space is a puzzle that scientists have not yet been able to solve completely. Onv- it is 27
l'niverse a n d Life: solved, we will get to know a lot more about interstellar gas clouds, the stars and the
T h e Beginnings galaxies.

10.2.5 Ventures in Space

Sometimes the atmospheric conditions distort the light or radiowaves coming in from
space. For instance, there may be a storm disturbing the radiowaves. Or clouds may
obscure light. Then it is not possible to study the universe in these regions of the
electromagnetic spectrum. Even otherwise, modern science and technology have given
astronomers several new ways and means of probing the universe. We will briefly
describe each one of them.

Observatories in Space
With the coming of the Space Age, observatbri&equipped with telescopes and
cameras could be placed right in space, beyond the Earth's atmosphere. An
observatory in space may be in the form of an orbiting satellite like the Unmanned
Orbiting Solar Observatories, Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, Skylab, Einstein
Observatory, IRAS (Infra Red-Astronomy Satellite) and many others. An observatory
may also be stationed on the Moon or any other planet having suitable temperature and
other conditions. Instruments are also put aboard high flying balloons, rockets and
aircrafts to record observations. These observatories can record radiation from a
cosmic object in the regions of the spectrum such as the IR, UV, gamma rays and
X-rays that do not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere.

Visiting the Neighbouring Worlds

As space research came of age, it became possible for us to send spacecraft to other
planets and even land men and instruments on the Moon. These ventures also provided
a rich stock of information about the Solar System. For instance, astronauts of the
Apollo mission to the Moon in tne nineteen wventies brought back lllnar rocks and soil
samples, photograplis of the lunar surface' and Ieft several instruments there for further
We have been able to send spacecraft, also called probes, across the Solar System to
know more about our planetary neighbours. Space probes have visited a number of
planets and a host of their moons, and jsuccessfully landed and operated on the surfaces
of Mars and Venus.

The American spacecraft, Pioneer-10, Jcrossed the orbit of Neptune in 1983, and, thus,
became the first man-made object to lepve the Solar System. With the hklp of
observations from the Earth and the dqta sent by these probes, scientists have been
able to arrive at a better theoretical understanding of the origin and evolution of the
Solar System. We will present this information about the Solar System derived from
observations in Unit 11.

a) What is the difference between the Einstein Observatory and the probe
Pioneer- lo?

b) What other ways than the space.observatories ,and space probes, have been used to
collect information about the universe from beyond the Earth's surface?

To sum up, in this section we have given you a bird's eye view of the wide variety of
tools and methods that astronbmers use to make observations about the universe, We
gave this brief description so that you may appreciate the importance of observations in
astronomy. The'universe is far more complex than we can imagine. Whatever
hypotheses or theories we come out with, must be validated by observations. This is the
reason why astronomers devise newer and better.techniques of observation, to know
more about the universe, to test their hypotheses and theories.

At this point, wc advise you to take a break! Have a cup of tea or coffee and review
what you have studied so far.
Exploring the Universe
So far you have studied how infolrmation about the universe is collected.'lt is stored
mainly in the form of photographs of the cosmic objects, and spectra of their light. The
other radiations coming in from space are recorded in various ways. This information is
analysed and interpreted to construct theories about the universe and the objects that
constitute it.
The hypotheses and theories about the universe and its constituents are always open to
change in the light of new discoveries. Quite often a given theory may turn out to be
wrong. Observed data may also be misinterpreted. In fact, a given theory may never
agree hundred percent with the observations about the universe. A good scientific
theory about the universe is one that is extremely close to all relevant observations. A t
the other extreme are tentative and speculative theories. We will now present some
theories and concepts which represent the best possible understanding of stars, galaxies
and the universe as a whole. Let us see what can be known about stars on the basis of
the information obtained.

10.3.1 Let Us Know about Stars

The point-like stars have always presented astronomy with many questions such as:
Where are the stars? How bright are they really? What is their temperature, size, age,
etc.? What are they made up of? The developments in astronomy have provided
astronomers with an ability to interpret starlight correctly and answer such questions.

Where are the Stars?

Astronomers use various methods to measure the distances to stars. For determining
the distances to nearby stars, the method of stellar parallax is used (see Fig. 9.6). For
stars farther away, more sophisticated methods are used. We will not go into their
details. The distance to astronomical objects situated very far away is found by
measuring the 'red shift' of their spectral lines. As far away objects, such as galaxies
and quasars, move away from us, the lines in their optical spectra are shifted towards
the red end. This shift can be measured and their distances calculated by using
appropriate formulae.
Fingerprinting the Stars
- -

Maximum information about starlight can be derived from its spectrum. When a
lens-sized prism is put over the front (or objective) end of a telescope, each star can be
seen as a colourful spectrum. We can place a photographic film at the focal plane of
the lens-sized prism. Then it becomes possible to register the spectrum of starlight.
! Ironically, the astronomer sees the spectra, not as brilliant rainbows, but as black and
white patterns shown in Fig. 10.4. Each star has its own characteristic spectrum-a
fingerprint of its individual personality. From its spectrum, we can learn what elements (b)
i a star is made up of, what its temperature is, how bright it is, how fast it is moving etc. ~ i ~ (a) . The
composition of a star is found
Stellar Motion by identifying thc pattern of
lines cast across its bpectrurn
Stars are not fixed in the heavens. They are moving within the galaxies. The speed of a by its chemical clement.,.
star moving toward or away from the Earth is indicated by a shift of its spectral lines. If (b) The temperature of a star is
a star is approaching the Earth, its lines shift towards the blue end of the spectrum. If it : , h ~ ~ ~ ~ C liner
is moving away from the Earth, its lines shift towards the red end of the spectrum. The highcr tcmpcratures have
greater the star's speed, the more its lines shift. fcwcr Iincs, as in uppcr
You have read that there are many kinds of stars-blue, yellow or red, normal or giant,
pulsating or releasing excessive energy. Most stars nlove together in groups. Only one
out of four stars may travel alone. Of the rest, almost a third are double stars and the
rest are groups of many stars. In a double star system, known as a binary, two stars
, orbit one another. In a triple system; there are three stars-all three may move around
each other, or two of them may move around the third. Then there are loose clusters,
with a few dozen stars, to the large globular clusters containing hundreds of thousands
of stars, all moving in many possible ways.
List four pieces of information that can be deduced by analysing the fingerprint of a
I star i.e. the spectrum of its light.
L'nlversc and Life:
The Beginnings

Having studied the stars in t a m s of their distances, colour, brightness, motion etc.,
astronomers and astrophysicists have turned dore a'nd more to questions like: How did
the stars come to be as they are? The search for answers has revealed a grand picture ,
of stellar evolution. This picture tells us the story of how a star is born, how it evolves .
and how it dies. We can now explqin the diversity of stars as also the unusual species
of stars, simply as different stages in the lives of normal stars.

But. in this brief observation span of a few decades, how has it been possible to
construct the story of stellar evolution which takes place at a time scale of millions and
billions of years? How this is done can be seen by a simple analogy. Suppose a visitor
from outer space arrives on Earth for one hour and wants to know about us within that
time. He lands his spaceship in a busy place and hurriedly videotapes the people there.
After heparting he looks at the tape. He observes that the majority of the people are of
the same size, but some are quite small, some are so tiny that they need to be camed.
Still others, although of normal size, walk bent over with the help of canes. Being
intelligent, our visitor soon realises that he is observing an ageing process: people are
born very tiny, they grow up and spend most of their lives as active adults, and eventually
they become old. Since the old people are few in number, he concludes that in the end
they die.

Astronomers are in the same position with regard to the stars as our visita from
outside is with regard to people on the Earth. In a relatively short span of time,
astr,onomershave observed more than a million stars. They have taken detailed spectra
of their light, measured the brightness and surface temperatures. By carefully analysing
this information they have deduced the story of stellar evolution. We will now relate
this story.

10.3.2 The Life Story of a Star

A young star is thought to be composed largely of hydrogen gas. Hence, the most likely
place for a star to be born is in one of the numerous clouds of hydrogen gas that exist
in the interstellar space. Stars are now believed to form inside large dense interstallar
clouds of gas. It may happen that for some reasons, not fully known so far, a gas 'cloud
starts contracting. Under the influence of gravitational pull of the gas, its contraction
may continue further. Once such a process begins, a very large volume of gas clouds is
affected. As gravity pulls in the clouds, the pressure in the cloud increases. Also, as the
cloud contracts, the temperature at its. centre increases. At this stage, it is called a

When the temperature becomes sufficiently high (about 4 million degrees centigrade),
a nuclear reaction starts in the protostar, in which the hydrogen nuclei fuse together to
make helium nuclei (see Fig. 10.5). In this process a large amount of energy is
released. The energy travels to the surface of the star and is radiated in the form of
light, heat and other electromagnetic radiation. This energy creates an outward
pressure and force. The contraction of the star stops oqly when the inward pull of
gravity is balanced by the outward force of this radiant energy. At such a time the star
becomes stable in size and temperature.

The Sun has been in such a stable situation for the past 5 billion years. Nuclear
reactions in the Sun convert about four hundred million tons (4X10t4grns) of
hydrogen into helium every second. It is expected that the Sun will remain in thk state
for another 5 billion years.

Fig. 10.5: An lmaglnary As the star consumes a significant percentage of the hydrogen fuel in its core, the
'howlnl! Ihc nuclear nuclear reaction decreases and the outforce of the radiant e n e m weakens. The core of
f u w n proccc\ In \tam.
the star further contracts because its gravitational pull becomes more than the
out-force of radiant energy.

But this raises the temperature of the core. Meanwhile, the hydrogen nuclei 'burn' in
the outer layer or shell surrounding the core. The extra heat from the core as well as
the heat generated in the outer layers cause the star's outer region to 'boil' and expand.
30 The star becomes big and its brightness increases. But, as the outer layer expands
farther away from the nuclear furnace, its temperature falls. The puffed-up star Looks Exploring the'tlrirorw
red and cool. If it is many times more massive than the Sun, it becomes a red super giant
like the Betelgeuse. If it is sun-sized or only slightly more massive than the Sun, it
becomes a slightly swollen red giant.

The red giant stage of a star is a relatively short stage. I n this stage, the star consumes ~ t s
hydrogen at a v e j fast rate, piling'up helium in its core. As the fuel burns, the core
contracts further, producing temperatures as high as 100 million"^. At this point the
helium nuclei in the core fuse together in another nuclear reaction to form carbon
nuclei. This is a critically unstable moment in a star's life with two layers of the star
burning at the same time-an outer layer where hydrogen is being turned into helium
and inner core where helium is being turned into carbon. Hereafter the fate of the star
depends on the mass of its core. We will merely describe the process without going into
the reasons.

If the mass of the core is less than 1.4,, where M, is the Sun's mass, the contraction of
the core halts when it is about the size of the Earth. This limit of 1.4M, is known as
the Chandrasekhar limit, after S. Chandrasekhar, the famous Indian scientist who won the
Nobel Prize for this work. He had settled in the U.S.A. Such a star is known as a white
dwarf. From the Earth it would be seen as very small and very faint but it is hotter than the
Sun. One of the first stars recognised as a white dwarf was Sirius B, the faint companion of
the bright star Sirius. Sometimes a white dwarf suddenly flashes millions of times more
brightly. Such a phenomenon is known as 'nova'. As it cools, a white dwarf may turn into a
black dwarf, disappearing from our vision.

If the core mass of the star is in the range 1.4M,--3Mo, or the star mass is between
8M, to 15 M,, the core shrinks to a radius of about 10 km and a neutron star is
formed. If a neutron star is born rotating very fast, it emits electromagnetic radiation,
which astronomers detect as pulses of radiowaves. Such stars are called pulsars. Pulsars
were discovered in 1967 and about 400 are now known.

In stars with higher mass, the helium in the core turns into carbon. However, it
continues burping in the outer layer. The core goes on contracting and becoming
hotter. It sets the carbon nuclei burning to form oxygen nuclei. As each nuclear fuel is
exhausted in the core, it contracts, increasing the temperature and sets the fuel in the
core burning. Meanwhile, the earlier fuel keeps burning in the shell surrounding the
core. Thus, the star contains several nuclear burning shells (see Fig. 10.6). This
process may go on in massive stars all the way upto a core of iron.
Fig. 10.6: The structure of
I f a star starts with a mass of more than 20 M,, its contraction continues. Then the a massivc star (30M,,)at'a
core of the star collapses to become a black hole. Itsgravity is now so strong that latc \tagc in its cvolution.
nothing, not even light, can leave it. Obviously, we cannot see a black hole. 'Thc star consists of scvcral
laycrs with different
coniposition scparatcd h?;
Sometimes, massive stars (with the core mass between 3 M,and 15 M , ) explode, nuclc;~rhurning shclls.
releasing a tremendous amount of energy. Such explosions are called 'supernova'. The T'hc layer\ arc of '

brightest of the supernova hurl out almost as much light as the entire galaxy-its Hydrogzn (I). Helium (2),
Carbon, Oxygen (3),
brightness becoming equal to hundred million Suns. A supernova was seen in Silicon (4): and Iron (5).
the Milky Way Galaxy as recently as in 1987 A.D.

a) Arrange the following stages of a star in their correct sequence:
i) protostar ii) stable star iii) gas cloud

b) What happens when a gas cloud contracts?

c) What is the source of energy in a star?
Universe and Life: d) When does a star become stable?
The Beginnings

The evolutionary stages of any real star involve many factors which are not completely
known. Nature may not adhere strictly to the sequence described above. The
description of the final stages in the life of a star is purely theoretical and, therefore,
open to change. For example, in a supernova explosion it is very uncertain whether
what remains will be a neutron star, a black hole or nothing at all. Every new set of
observations makes the life cycle of a star clearer to astronomers.

Stars may be regarded as laboratories that allow scientists to study many natural
phenomena like the synthesis of heavy elements or the triggering of interstellar cloud
collapse. Such events resulted in the formation of the Solar System and life on Earth.

Stars, as you know, are themselves part of galaxies. Do galaxies evolve the same way as
the stars? Scientists think that the answer is yes, but they have yet to work out a very
convincing theory of evolution of galaxies. However, the study of galaxies has provided
one very interesting piece of information about the universe-that it is expanding.

10.3.3 The Expanding Universe

As you saw in Sec. 9.2.3, Hubble's observations had proved the existence of galaxies.
After mapping as many galaxies as could be seen by the telescopes then'available, he
turned his attention to the motion of galaxies. He was motivated to do this by a
puzzling report of V.M. Slipher, an American astronomer. He had discovered in
1912 that many of the faint nebulae were moving away from the Earth at very great
speeds. Their spectral lines exhibited large shifts towards the red end (what is called as
red shift). This seemed peculiar because stars in the Milky Way Galaxy move at
much smaller speeds, some moving away from us with others moving towards us.
Slipher had made these observations a decade before galaxies were discovered. Then it
was thought that the nebulae were objects in our own galaxy. He did not know what to
make of his observations.
But as Hubble knew that these nebulae were galaxies, he began a systematic study of
the relation between their speeds and their distances alongwith his colleague M.L.
Humason. What they found was very interesting. To put it simply, his observations
showed that;
i) all galaxies were moving away from us;
ii) the farther away a galaxy was from our Galaxy, the greater was the speed at which
it moved away.
Hubble's discovery put forth the picture of an expanding universe. But if all the
galaxies are moving away from us, are we at the centre of the Universe? No. If we were
situated in another galaxy, even then the other galaxies would seem to move away from
us. You can understand this picture of an expanding universe if you study Fig 10.7

and also perform a simple activity.
z - A -- B C D

Velocities a c, c,
seen by ,A
Velocities +a c* w
seen by B
seen by C * * c,

Fig.10.7: A str~ngof equally spaced galaxies Z, A, B, C, etc. are shown. Their speeds as measured from A
or B or C are indicated by the lengths of arrows: The directions of arrows indicate the directions in which
the galaxies would appear to move. Seen from any galaxy, any other galaxy would appear to move away
with a speed proportional to the distance between them.
Take a balloon and mark a few points on it with a pen. Inflate the balloon. What can
you say about the movement of points with respect to each other?
Did you observe that each point on the balloon moves farther away from the other as
you inflate it more and more? We can picture the movement of galaxies in a similar
fashion. However, this is a rather simplistic experiment because here you are viewing
the balloon from outside, whereas, when we observe the universe, we are within one
galaxy. This was just to give you an idea of how the universe is expanding.
Now, if the universe is expanding, then it was much more compact million of years ago Exploring the Universe
and the galaxies were much nearer to each other. Does it set you wondering what the
universe was like in the beginning? What caused it to expand like this? We will now
describe what theories cosmologists hatre given about the origin and evolution of the

10.3.4 Closing in on Creation

The most important current theory for the origin of the universe is the Big Bang The study of the universe, as
theory.According to this theory, the universe started with'a huge explosion. It was not a whole, of its large scale
an explosion like the ones with which we are familiar, which start from a definite centre
and spread out. It was an explosion which occurred everywhere in space at the same
i ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

time. It filled all space from the beginning, with every particle of matter rushing apart
from every other particle. This was not a burst of matter into space but rather an
explosion of space itself. Every particle of matter rushed away from every other
particle. It is so far impossible to 'picture' the f i ~ s moment
t of 'creation' of the universe.

One-hundredth of a second after the creation of the universe is the earliest time about
which scientists can speak with any confidence. At this instant, the temperature of the
universe was about a hundred billion degrees centigrade. This-is much hotter than in
the centre of even the hottest star. At such temperatures none of the components of
ordinary matter, atoms, molecules, or even nuclei of atoms, could have held together.
Instead, the matter rushing apart in the explosion consisted of various types of
elementary particles. The particles most abundant in the early universe were the
electrons, positrons and neutrinos. There were also some protons and neutrons. The
rest of the universe was filled with energy. It was a kind of a cosmic soup.

As the explosion continued, matter and energy rushed apart, the universe expanded
and the temperatures dropped, reaching 30 billion ( 3 10"')
~ degrees centigrade after
about one-tenth of a second; 10 billion degrees after about one second; and 3 billion
degrees after about fourteen seconds. At the end of the first three minutes, the universe
became cool enough (about 1 billion "C) for the protons and neutrons to begin to form
into simple nuclei. The first to be formed was the nucleus of heavy hydrogen which was
made up of one proton and one neutron. There were also helium nuclei made of two
protons and two neutrons. It was still too hot for atoms to hold together, they were
ripped apart as soon as they were created. This matter continued to rush apart,
becoming steadily cooler and less dense.

Many thousands of years later, it became cool enough for electrons to join with nuclei
to form atoms of hydrogen and helium. Soon, the resulting gas began to form clumps
under the influence of gravitation. These clumps ultimately condensed to form the
galaxies and stars of the present-day universe, almost 5 billion years after the Big Bang.

1 There is another theory about the origin of the universe known as the steady state
theory. This theory holds that the universe has always been just about the same as it is
now. As it expands, new matter is created continuously to fill up the gaps between the
galaxies. Thus, the problem of the origin and early moments of the universe is
banished: there was no early universe.

However, the Big Bang theory is the most favoured by the astronomers and
astrophysicists. Why is it so? This is due to the evidence based on observations which
lend support to the 'Big Bang' universe.
Evidence Favouring the Big Bang
I One piece of evidence comes from the expansion of the universe which we have
i already described. The expanding universe suggests that the matter was packed much
more densely in the early stages of the universe. The proof for this also comes from the
distant objects quasars. When we 'look' at quasars situated 6 to 8 billion light years
away, wc are looking at them as they existed then. If the universe were more dense in
that epoch, we should be able to sce some evidence of that density in the quasars. We
d o see such high density among thc quasars.

I Another substantial hit of evidcncc for the Big Bang theory comc9 from thc cosmic
background radiation. For many years the astronomers believed that if there was a . '

cosmic explosion long ago, radiation from that event should still exist within the
universe. This radiation may be weak, it may have lost its energy due to the expansion
and cooling of the universe, but it should exist. Radio-astronomers have, indeed,
discovered faint signals-a constantly present background radio noise that pervades all
space. Calculations done by astrophysicists show that this radiation, called the cosmic
microwave background radiation, is a relic of the ancient past when the universe was in
its first throes of creation in the Big Bang.
An additional discovery made by astronomers in the past two decades is that of the
primordial abundance of elements, i.e. the elements hydrogen and helium first created
in the aftermath of creation are found to be most abundant in the universe. By
examining the light coming from the various parts of the universe, astronomers have
found out that, out of every 100 atoms, almost 93 are hydrogen atoms and seven are
helium atoms. Elements heavier than helium are present in traces only. This suggests
that the universe started out with a Big Bang from a very hot and dense state and
quickly cooled as it expanded. The hot and dense conditions lasted long enough for
some hydrogen to fuse into helium. But they did not last long to allow other heavier
elements to form in significant amounts. These were made much later in the interior of
massive stars.
SAQ 7'
a) State one difference between the Big Bang and the steady state theory?
b) Which three among the following observations support the Big Bang theory of the
origin of the universe? Tick (4) the correct answers.
i) Stellar spectra show blue shift as well as red shift in the spectral lines.
ii) The elements hydrogen and helium are the most abundant in cosmic matter
with other heavier elements occurring in traces only.
iii) The spectra of light from galaxies shows a red shift suggesting that the universe
is expanding.
iv) There is a cosmic radiation pervading the entire space.

In conclusion, we find ourselves amidst an expand-ing universe .which throws up puzzles

with amazing regularity. With each question answered. many more questions arise. For
example, an important question today is about the future of the
universe. Will it go on expanding like this? Or, will its expansion stop some day? What
will happen then? Will the universe remain as it were then or will it start contracting?
We also find ourselves amidst an explosion of ideas and techniques being applied to
study the universe. In this unit we have tried to give you a brief glimpse of the
enigmatic nature of the universe and our undaunted efforts to understand it. Don't you
feel that this brief insight was worthwhile? We end this unit with a quote of Edwin
Hubble from his last paper:
'From our home on Earth we look out into distances and strive to imagine the sort of
world into which we are born. Today we have reached far out into space. Our
immediate neighbourhood we know rather intimately. But with increasing distance our
knowledge fades ..........until at the last dim horizon we search among ghostly errors of
observations for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue
The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and it will not be suppressed.


In this unit we have briefly described the various tools and methods of modern
astronomy used to gather information about the universe and some theories and
concepts about stellar evolution, the origin and evolution of the universe. Let us now
sum up what we have discussed in this unit.

Information about the universe can be gathered in many ways through optical
astronomy, radio astronomy, space observatories, space probes etc.
The information is analysed and interpreted to understand various phenomena
occurring in the universe and construct theories or models to explain them. One Exploring the Universe
such theory is about stellar evolution.
By observing the red shift in the spectral Lines of starlight from millions of galaxies,
it has been established t t the universe is expanding.
The most important th ry of the origin of universe is the Big Bang theory;
According to this theory the universe was created in a gigantic explosion which
occurred everywhere in space at the same time.
Another theory about the origin of the universe known as the steady state theory
holds that the universe was always the same as it is now and will remain the same.
There was no early universe.
The evidences such asthe expansion of the universe, cosmic background radiation,
primordial abundance of elements support the Big Bang theory.


1) M?tch the various methods of astronomy listed in column 1 with their descriptions
listed in column 2. Draw an arrow between the corresponding items.

a) Optical Astronomy i) Spacecraft carrying instruments are sent to

neighbouring worlds.
b) Radio Astronomy ii) Instruments are stationed in satellites going
around the Earth, on the Moon or any
other planet:
c) Space Observatories iii) Meteorites, cosmic rays etc. coming from
space also carry a lot of information about
the universe.
d) Space probes iv) Light from the planets, stars and galaxies is
collected and analysed.
e) Visitors from the Space v) The radiowaves emitted by various objects
in the universe ate collected and analysed.

2) List the methods that enable astronomers to analyse the IR, UV, X-rays, gamma
rays coming from space.
3) a) How is each of the stars of masses 25 M,,10 Mo.Q.8 M,, likely to evolve

'after the red giant stage?


b) state the difference between a 'nova' and a 'supernova'.

4) Describe in one or two lines the state of the universe against each instant of time
given below, as suggested in the Big Bang theory.
i) The first moment of creation ................................................................................
ii) 1/ 100.sec. after Big Bang .....................................................................................
iii) 3 minutes after Big Bang ......................................................................................
iv) 10,000 years after Big Bang .................................................................................
v) 5 billion years after Big Bang ...............................................................................
Universe and Life:
The Beginnings 10.6 ANSWERS

Self Assessment Questions

1) a) 375 metres, 800 kilohertz; radiowaves region
b) 3x108m/s
c) 530 kilohertz (KHz) to 1605 (KHz) in only the medium wave band; 530
kilohertz to 220 megahertz (MHz) in the medium wave to shortwave bands.
d) gamma rays.
e) A few kilom'etres.
2) a) 4 x lo-' metres to 8X lo-' metres; 7.5X 1014Hz, 3.8X 10'4 Hz
b) blue
c) Wavelengths in the visible and the radiowave regions. You can write their
3) a) i) Radio telescopes collect and analyse radiowaves giving a view of the
invisible universe; (ii) they can probe cosmic objects situated at much larger
distances; (iii) radiowaves can penetrate dust clouds unlike light waves;
(iv) radio telescopes are made for only specific wavelengths but optical telescopes
collect all optical wavelengths at the same time.
b) Pulsar~radiogalaxies,organic molecules in interstellar space.
4) a) The Einstein Observatory is an artificial satellite which revolves around the
Earth. Pioneer-10 is a spacecraft that has moved out of the Earth's
gravitational pull travelling across the Solar System.
b) Through instruments stationed in rockets, high flying balloons and aircrafts.
5) Composit~on,temperature, brightness and motion of stars.
6) a) Gas cloud, protostar, stable star.
b) As a gas cloud contracts, the temperature of its core increases.
c) When the hydrogen nuclei in the core of a star fuse together to form helium
nuclei, a lot of energy is released.
d) A star becomes stable when its inward gravitational pull is balanced by the
outward force of radiation energy.
7) a) The Big Bang theory says that the universe had a beginning in a huge
explosion. According to the steady state theory there was no early universe. It
has always been the same as it is now.
b) (ii), (iii), (iv)

Terminal Questions
1) a), iv); b), v); c), ii); d), i); e), iii).
2) Through space observatories, rockets, balloons, space probes.
3) a) Black hole, neutron star or pulsar, white dwarf.
b) A nova takes place when a white dwarf flashes millions of times more
brilliantly; the explosion of a star with :we mass between 3 M, and 15 M& is
called a supernova.
4) i) the space explodes all at once in a Big Bang, matter starts rushing apart.
ii) elementary particles such as electrons, positron, neutrinos, protons and neutrons
iii) heavy hydrogen and helium nuclei form.
iv) atoms of hydrogen and helium form.
v) stars and galaxies form.