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New Research in The History of Indian Mathematics

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New Research in The History of Indian Mathematics

60th Birth Anniversary Dedication to a Scholar


Usually Mathematics is considered to be a tasteless and arduous subject which keeps students very much scared of it. The technique through which mathematics is routinely taught makes it more dull, drab and frightening to them. They are made so much afraid of mathematics that its very name creates panic for them, and they want to get rid of it as soon possible.
The credit goes to R.C. Gupta (a double gold medallist from the Lucknow University) to make his classroom teaching interesting. For this he studied History of Mathematics and made its use in imparting instruction in Mathematics. In fact, educationally the history of mathematics is enlightening and makes mathematics clearer and joyful.
More than 30 years ago, a learned reviewer made some unfavourable remarks about the famous book History of Hindu Mathematics which is still considered to be a standard work on the subject. This motivated R.C. Gupta to take history of Indian Mathematics as a subject of research. In 1971 the Ranchi University awarded him the degree of Ph.D. for his research work in that field.
A doctorate degree was not the end but a beginning for Dr. Gupta who made the study of history of mathematics his life long mission. He found it vast yet fascinating. However, it is still a neglected subject on India. The tragedy is that a postgraduate degree in the subject entitles one to be called ``master’’ of the subject without knowing how it originated, grew and developed. Gupta studied not only the history of mathematics but also the related fields.
A great turning point came when the the chairman (K. O. Mayo of Canada) invited Dr. Gupta to join the newly formed international commission on History of Mathematics to represent this part of the globe. Thus in 1972, Dr. Gupta became the first Indian member of that world body on the field, and has been making active contribution.
The above position also gave Dr. Gupta an opportunity to have contact with the world historians of mathematics. Soon he established ties with the international community in the field and became quite familiar with the current researches and publication. Thus Dr. Gupta was able to provide international perspective to his work. The world recognised him as an expert on Indian mathematics. In 1977 he visited U.K. to address the British Society fo History of Mathematics in Cambridge and to preside over a session on the XVth I.C.H.S. in Edinburg.
The recognition, encouragement, and cooperation which Dr. Gupta got led him to invest more and more time to the study of the history of mathematics in its various aspects. In fact, soon be decided to devote himself whole heartedly tan-man-dhan to the studies and other activites in the field. He became life member of the leading scientific organisations on India, travelled widely, and delivered lectures. He built his own libray (which now the best in the field in India). He collected all sorts of information related to the field. The material records, information, and the thousands of bibliographical cards which he made, enabled him to gain encyclopedia knowledge and expertise which have been admired.
The than newly founded Indian Society for History of Mathematics entrusted Dr. Gupta to start a journal in the field. In this way be became the funder-editor of Ganita Bhārati (ISSN 0970-0307) in 1979. It soon caught the attention of the historians of mathematics through out the world. By now 16 volumes have been published and the Ganita Bhārati has become not only a reputed journal but a prestigious publication in the field.
Gupta’s own institution (B.I.T. Ranchi) appointed him full Professor of Mathematics and also Professor-incharge of the research centre for history of science. His various activities in the field (including research and journalism) made him a well established scholar on the area. In fact his work has brought credentials to India and Indian achievements in the field or Mathematics. His impact on the larger community of historians of mathematics is undeniable.
By now Prof. Gupta’s teaching and research experiences cover a span of about four decades. He has already published about 400 papers, articles, notes, reports and reviews on the various aspects of history of mathematics including biographics and bibliographics. He has been popularising and promoting the cause of ancient Indian mathematics, and has brought the cause of ancient Indian mathematics, and has brought out several new results in the area. Now findings in the field of history of Indian (including Jaina School) mathematics has brought credit to his to his work and laurels to the nation.
In January, 1980, Dr. Gupta was called on for delivering lecture at the Oberwoffach Research Institute, Germany, and the Dentsches Museum, Munich. In may of the same year, he was a visiting scientist at the University of Calgary, Canada where he gave talk on the Montreal meeting of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics (June, 1980). In 1985, he visited U.S.A. to participate in several meetings (including the 17th I.C.H.S. at Berkeley). In 1986, he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate in Historical Science by the World University (U.S.A.).
In 1991, Prof. Gupta was elected FELLOW of the National Academy of Science, India. The Kundakunda Jnanapttha (Indore) awarded him the Arhat Vacana FIRST PRIZE in 1992. This year (1995) he has been elected a member of the international Academy of the History of Science, Paris. He has been elected President of the Association of Mathematics Teachers of India (1994-95). He has been nominated as a member of Editorial Board of Quarterly Research Journal of Jainalogy Arhat Vacana. His biographical sketches has been published in a number of reference books (both Indian & foreign). These include Men of Achievement (Cambridge, 1983) : Dictonary of International Biohraphy (Vol. 18, 1983) The Internationl Book of Honour (Raleigh U.S.A. 1984) : Mathematics Who’s who (Delhi, 1984) : International Register of Profiles (8th edition, 1985) : The First Five Hundred (Cambridge, 1985) : Asia’s who’s of Men and Women of Achievement (New Delhi, 1986); Reference Asia (Vol. III, 1988) : Biography International (Delhi, 1990-91) : Learned Asia, Vol I (Delhi, 1992) : Reference India, Vol. I (Delhi, 1992 : Internationa Directory of Distinguished Leadership (4th ed. 1993) : Indo-American who’s (1994).
He has a deep penetration into Jaina Mathematics and published several articles on Jaina Mathematics in different journals of far and abroad. A list of his publication on Jaina Mathematics has been already published in Arhat Vacana, Vol. 7 (3), 1995, PP. 7-79




G. S. Jha

Reader, Department of Mathematics, D.S. College, Katihar (Bihar)