ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Science, Education, and Research in India

The state of science, education, and research in India is not satisfactory on either of two counts: the benefi ts that have accrued to society at large have not been commensurate with the scale of investments and comparisons with other countries can be very unfavourable.

One of the few scientists in modern India who was quite happy to wear his political beliefs on his sleeve was the mathematician and historian, D D Kosambi (see Ramaswamy 2012). Polymath and polyglot, Kosambi was a towering intellect and a lifelong iconoclast who was often at loggerheads with all sorts of establishments (including the Communist Party of India!). During his working life which was from 1930 to mid-1966 he held positions at the Banaras Hindu University, the Aligarh Muslim University, Fergusson College in Pune, the newly-founded Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, and finally an emeritus professorship at the Maharashtra Vidnyanvardhini in Pune. He thus had a view of various aspects of Indian academics from the inside, and this often resulted in an uneasy relationship with his colleagues at many of the institutions he worked in.

Among his unpublished essays is one that is titled “A Chapter in the History of Indian Science” which is a fairly strongly-worded critique of the Indian scientific establishment (Kosambi unpublished). Although not dated, it was probably written in the late 1950s , and it begins:

Development of philosophy, mysticism, or linguistics could easily have been expected in India, seeing the history and structure of the country. Nevertheless, in the rapid changes that mark both the intellectual and the economic progress of India, it will be seen that these subjects are very poorly developed and often studied abroad by the Indians themselves. Even the remarkable political philosophy and method of ahimsa (non-violence) may be traced back from Mahatma Gandhi to Tolstoy and to Silvio Pellico’s Le mieprigioni. On the other hand, Indian scientists have already made substantial contributions to the world’s culture. The science is not specifically Indian except in its exponents. In the study of its developments it may be seen that at least two factors have each acted first as a stimulant and then with a growth of quantity as hindrances. The first of these is the foreign type and language [English] of instruction, the second is the change from an economy of colonial exploitation to one dominated by a new indigenous bourgeoisie. For the illustration of these two trends it is necessary to give examples which do not always make pleasant reading.

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