Honest Histories: An Indian History of Science and Innovation7 min readReading Time: 6 minutes
Let’s get honest about history. While passing through time, cultures and countries, history tends to get modified and the facts often get mixed up. So how do you find out what the truth is? This is something Owliver’s friends at Honest History Magazine are trying to figure out and show young readers. The magazine is a quarterly, and a place for children and adults to explore the past. With the aim to bring to light true stories from across the world, the magazine, which is based out of the US but shipped across the globe, encourages children to think, research and find answers.
Here are some excerpts from their latest edition, which focuses on Indian history, called a Portrait of India.
Over 2,000 years ago, the ancient Indians wrote works on medicine and the human body. One of these works is called the Susruta Samhita. This book describes over 300 difficult surgeries, 1,120 medical conditions, and 77 medical tools. Historians believe that it was written by a man named Susruta who taught and practiced medicine. The book uses detailed pictures and scientific reasoning to explain how to perform many surgeries and procedures. It even describes 15 different ways to perform plastic surgery on the nose! It also contains information about the human body’s various systems and parts. This knowledge helped ancient doctors in India to become familiar with bones, blood vessels, muscles, and other structures of the body. Wars were common in ancient India, and Susruta Samhita showed doctors how to remove pieces of arrow, close wounds, and repair other injuries with surgery. The book also explains how to treat common illnesses that people still face in modern times, like diabetes and cataracts. Today, you can find copies of the Susruta Samhita translated into English and many other languages.
Ecology During the Mughal Empire
One of the most interesting things about the Mughal Empire was its ruler’s interest in natural history. Emperor Babur, a warrior ruler who founded the empire around 1526, was fascinated with the geography and animal life in India. He wrote down his scientific research in a book called the Babur Nama. In this book, Babur wrote about the many different kinds of plant and animal that he saw. He described the many mammals and birds, including elephants and parrots, who lived on the land and wrote about the fruits and vegetables eaten by the people.
Babur passed his interest in ecology to the rulers who followed. Under Emperor Akbar, the Mughals built beautiful public gardens and grafted plants to create new fruits like the sweet cherry. Babur’s great-grandson, Emperor Jahangir, hired artists to paint pictures of the various animals in India. In his autobiography, Jahangir Nama, he writes about how he studied the nature around him scientifically, dissecting animals like the lion and wolf to understand their biology better.
Did you know?
The Mughal emperors were some of one the first people to study India’s natural history in this way, and they left behind a huge amount of scientific knowledge.
*Ecology is a branch of science that studies how animals (including people) relate to each other and their physical environments.
India’s Groundbreaking Scientists
While there have been many extraordinary Indian scientists throughout history, two of the most important are Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858–1937) and Sir Chandrasekhara Raman (1888–1970). Both of these men were pioneers in their field of science. Anyone who has ever used wireless internet or a cell phone might have Bose to thank. He was one of the first people to experiment with wireless communications, a field that eventually led to the creation of things like the radio, wifi, and cell phones.
Bose was also the first person to show that radio communication with extremely high-frequency waves is possible. These are the waves that are used today in radio telescopes, 5G technology, and radar. Bose was not well known for his work during his lifetime. Today, however, scientists all over the world recognize Bose for his amazing achievements. There is even a crater on the far side of the moon named after him!
Like Bose, Chandrasekhara Raman was an Indian scientist who changed the world with his research. Raman was a physicist and a professor at the University of Calcutta who researched light scattering. He discovered that when light passes through a transparent material, some of the light that is deflected changes wavelength. This effect is known as the Raman Effect. In 1930, Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work, making him the first non-European person to win a Nobel Prize for science. He founded the Indian Journal of Physics and the Indian Academy of Scientists and helped to train up the generation of scientists who followed him.
The First Female Physicians of India
In 1886, Anandi Gopal Joshi (1865–1887) made history as the first female physician from India to practice Western medicine. She believed that Indian women desperately needed female physicians to care for them and knew that there was a lack of female physicians around the world. This inspired her to study medicine, and, at the age of 19, Joshi set off to attend school at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in the United States. When she graduated a few years later, she returned to India and was put in charge of the woman’s ward of Albert Edward Hospital.
Throughout her adult life, Joshi faced poor health and she died at the young age of 22. Shortly after Joshi graduated with her degree, Kadambini Ganguly (1861–1923) earned the title of the first Indian woman to earn a medical degree from a college in India when she graduated from Calcutta Medical College. This achievement made her India’s second female physician! Ganguly was an impressive doctor who went on to earn additional degrees and practice medicine in the United Kingdom. When she returned to India, she advocated for women’s rights and organized the Women’s Conference in Calcutta in 1906. Joshi and Ganguly were two extraordinary individuals who paved the way for the female physicians who followed them.
India’s Space Program
India’s space agency, known as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is accomplishing big things! The agency, founded in 1969, placed its first satellite in orbit in 1975. Since then, it has launched many rockets and satellites into space that allow scientists to make communications networks here on Earth and make scientific observations about the world and universe.
It has even launched unmanned missions to the Moon and to Mars! At the beginning of 2020, the space agency announced that it had selected four astronaut candidates for its very first human mission to space. Sending a person into space is a huge feat that only three other nations, the United States, Russia, and China, have ever accomplished. Be on the lookout for India to join this elite group of countries with the capability to launch humans into the vast expanse of space. The country plans to launch its first human mission in 2022.
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Source: Honest History Magazine
Photos: Honest History Magazine