Andrew Leonard: Who invented calculus





The Partition of India occurred at midnight, Aug. 15, 1947. Pakistan, however, celebrates Independence Day on Aug. 14, while India's Independence Day is Aug. 15.

For eloquent meditations on the 60th anniversary of independence for both countries, I recommend British historian William Dalrymple, author of the fabulous"The Last Mughal," writing in The Guardian on the topic of Pakistan, and Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, writing on India for Forbes.

But neither man, unfortunately, takes this opportunity to ponder whether South Asians discovered calculus 250 years before Isaac Newton and then transmitted their knowledge to the West by way of Jesuit missionaries. The Indian blogosphere has been quite chuffed at the news, announced by researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Exeter, that a group of Malayali scholars known as the"Kerala School""identified the 'infinite series' -- one of the basic components of calculus -- in about 1350."

Some are less enthused. At least one blogger, who styles himself as"Angry in the Great White North," pooh-poohed the announcement, declaring that"the real issue, of course, is slapping down the evils of Western cultural imperialism!"

Hey, it's India's Independence Day, marking the anniversary of that happy day when the ancient civilization finally emerged from under the boot of Western imperialism. Cut 'em some slack. I say, Hurrah for the Kerala School, whether or not Newton stood on their shoulders, or anyone else's....



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