Indian MathematicsMacTutor Index

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1: Abstract

Mathematics has long been considered an invention of European scholars, as a result of which the contributions of non-European countries have been severely neglected in histories of mathematics. Worse still, many key mathematical developments have been wrongly attributed to scholars of European origin. This has led to so-called Eurocentrism. The neglect of non-European mathematics is no more apparent than when studying the contributions of India. Contrary to Euroscentric belief, scholars from India, over a period of some 4500 years, contributed to some of the greatest mathematical achievements in the history of the subject. From the earliest numerate civilisation of the Indus valley, through the scholars of the 5th to 12th centuries who were conversant in arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, geometry combinatorics and latterly differential calculus, Indian scholars led the world in the field of mathematics. The peak coming between the 14th and 16th centuries in the far South, where scholars were the first to derive infinite series expansions of trigonometric functions.
In addition to mighty contributions to all the principal areas of mathematics, Indian scholars were responsible for the creation, and refinement of the current decimal place value system of numeration, including the number zero, without which higher mathematics would not be possible. The purpose of my project is to highlight the major mathematical contributions of Indian scholars and further to emphasise where neglect has occurred and hence elucidate why the Eurocentric ideal is an injustice and in some cases complete fabrication.



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Ian Pearce May 2002