Indian Scientific Facts


Ancient Indian chemists were conducting their experiments in well-equipped chemical laboratories. They employed more than 32 pieces of apparatus for chemical and pharmaceutical investigations. They called them as “Yantra”. 

Rasaratna Samuchchaya gives the working, usage and construction of such yantras. “Tiriyak Patana Yantra” is one of those, used for purpose of the distillation. Nagarjuna first introduced this particular device for the extraction of essence of cinnabar.

The distillation of scents, perfumes and fragrant liquids and ointments was one area where the knowledge of chemistry was applied in India, since ancient times. At those times, perfumes and fragrant ointments were of two types namely, Teertha (liquids) and Gandha (slurries or ointments).


An interesting procedure, that gives proof for the usage and preparation of the battery cell is recorded in Agastya Samhita. The following lines from Agastya Samhita illustrate the electrical cell.

“Place copper plates in an earthern pot, cover it with copper sulphate and moistened saw dust.  Spread zinc powder and cover it with mercury.  Due to the chemical reaction, +ve and –ve electricity is produced.  This water is decomposed in to Oxygen and Hydrogen.”

Interestingly the battery, in the procedure as explained, in the previous text is prepared and the same was tested and proved practical.  When a cell was prepared according to Agastya Samhita and measured, it gives open circuit voltage of 1.138 volts, and short circuit current as 23mA (Milliampere, SI unit of electric current).


Everyone on the earth feels that he is at the top of the earth.  But this is not true.  Earth is not flat instead it is spherical in shape. This was discussed in the ancient astronomical text, Surya Siddhanta. 

“As the earth is round every person considers himself at the top of the earth where he or she is standing. So downward direction is towards the center of the earth for everyone”

Aryabhatta was the first to deduce that the earth is round.  It must be mentioned that western science accepted that earth is spherical only in the 14th century.

“The globe of earth stands suspended in space at the centre of a circular frame that is at the centre of the Bhagola surrounded by the orbits of the planets; it is made of water, soil, fire and air and is circular on all sides that are spherical” – Aryabhatiya.

Also, Aryabhatta was the first to postulate that it is the earth that rotates and the stars are stationery.  This was about a 1000 years before Copernicus.


Period of one sidereal day:  The period of one sidereal rotation (that is with reference to fixed stars in the sky) of the earth, as given by Aryabhatta in 476 A.D, works out to be 23 Hour 56 Minute 4 second 01 fractions.  The corresponding modern value is 23 Hour 56 Minute 4 Second 0.091 fractions.  The accuracy of the value given by Aryabhatta is truly remarkable!


The fourteenth century scholar Saayana (1315-1387 AD) mentions about the speed of the light in his commentary on Rig Veda.  Saayana was a minister in the court of King Bukka I of the Vijayanagar Empire in South India; he was also a great Vedic scholar who wrote extensive commentaries on several ancient texts.

One yojana is equal to 9 miles, 110 yards = 0.06625 miles and according to Mahaabharata, Shanti Parva – 231, half nimisha equals 8/75 seconds.  Using these values the velocity of light comes to 186,413.22 miles per second.

This is astounding because it is in concurrence with our current knowledge about the speed of light!

The well accepted popular scientific figure is 186,300 miles per second.


It is remarkable indeed to find that Indians had already pictured that atoms are invisible because of the small size.  They could also estimate the size of atoms in term of units known and familiar to them.

This works out to be roughly 10-8cm.  It is amazing to find that this agrees well with the present day estimate for the size of the atom in terms of the Angstrom unit (that is 10-8cm = 1A0).

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