Category: astronomers

A great Indian mathematician-astronomer – Aryabhatta

Aryabhatta is the first of the great astronomers of the classical age of India. He was born in Kerala, South India in 476 AD but later lived in Kusumapura, which his commentator Bhaskara I (629 AD) identifies with pataliputra (modern Patna) in Bihar. His first name “Arya” is hardly a south Indian name while “Bhatt” (or Bhatta) is a typical north Indian name even found today specially among the trader community. Aryabhata was an acclaimed mathematician-astronomer. He was born in Kusumapura (present day Patna) in Bihar, India. His contribution to mathematics, science and astronomy is immense, and yet he has not been accorded the recognition in the world history of science. At the age of 24, he wrote his famed “Aryabhatiya”. He was aware of the concept of zero, as well as the use of large numbers up to 1018. He was the first to calculate the value for ‘pi’ accurately to the fourth decimal point. He devised the formula for calculating areas of triangles and circles. He calculated the circumference of the earth as 62,832 miles, which is an excellent approximation, and suggested that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the axial rotation of the earth on its axis. He was the first known astronomer to devise a continuous counting of solar days, designating each day with a number. He asserted that the planets shine due to the reflection of sunlight, and that the eclipses occur due to the shadows of moon and earth. His observations discount the “flat earth” concept, and lay the foundation for the belief that earth and other planets orbit the sun.

He correctly explains the causes of eclipses of the Sun and the Moon. His value for the length of the year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 30 seconds is remarkably close to the true value which is about 365 days 6 hours. In this book, the day was reckoned from one sunrise to the next, whereas in his Aryabhata-siddhanta he took the day from one midnight to another. There was also difference in some astronomical parameters.

Aryabhatta was the first to explain how the Lunar Eclipse and the Solar Eclipse happened. Aryabhatta also gave close approximation for Pi. In the Aryabhatiya, he wrote-“Add 4 to 100, multiply by 8, then add 62000 and then divided by 20000.

Aryabhatiya was translated into Latin in the 13th century. Through this translation, European mathematician got to know methods for calculating the areas of triangles, volumes of spheres as well as square and cube root.

Aryabhatta is the first of the great astronomers of the classical age of India. He was born in Kerala, South India in 476 AD but later lived in Kusumapura, which his commentator Bhaskara I (629 AD) identifies with pataliputra (modern Patna) in Bihar. His first name “Arya” is hardly a south Indian name while “Bhatt” (or Bhatta) is a typical north Indian name even found today specially among the trader community.


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