Aryabhata

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Introduction

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Aryabhata is also known as Aryabhata I to distinguish him from the later mathematician of the same name who lived about 400 years later. The year of Aryabhata's birth can be calculated since he tells us that he was twenty-three years of age when he wrote Aryabhatiya which he finished in 499. Kusumapura, a place thought to be close to Pataliputra (which was refounded as Patna in Bihar in 1541), as the place of Aryabhata's birth but this is far from certain, as is even the location of Kusumapura itself. It is known that Aryabhata wrote Aryabhatiya in Kusumapura at the time when Pataliputra was the capital of the Gupta empire and a major centre of learning, but there have been numerous other places proposed by historians as his birthplace. Some conjecture that he was born in south India, perhaps Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, while others conjecture that he was born in the north-east of India, perhaps in Bengal. Kusumapura became one of the two major mathematical centres of India, the other being Ujjain. Both are in the north but Kusumapura (assuming it to be close to Pataliputra) is on the Ganges and is the more northerly. Pataliputra, being the capital of the Gupta empire at the time of Aryabhata, was the centre of a communications network which allowed learning from other parts of the world to reach it easily, and also allowed the mathematical and astronomical advances made by Aryabhata and his school to reach across India and also eventually into the Islamic world.

Research Contribution

As to the texts written by Aryabhata only one has survived. The surviving text is Aryabhata's masterpiece the Aryabhatiya which is a small astronomical treatise written in 118 verses giving a summary of Hindu mathematics up to that time. Its mathematical section contains 33 verses giving 66 mathematical rules without proof. The Aryabhatiya contains an introduction of 10 verses, followed by a section on mathematics with, as we just mentioned, 33 verses, then a section of 25 verses on the reckoning of time and planetary models, with the final section of 50 verses being on the sphere and eclipses.

The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums of power series and a table of sines.

Aryabhata gave an accurate approximation for π. He wrote in the Aryabhatiya the following:-

Add four to one hundred, multiply by eight and then add sixty-two thousand. the result is approximately the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. By this rule the relation of the circumference to diameter is given.

This gives π = 62832/20000 = 3.1416 which is a surprisingly accurate value. In fact π = 3.14159265 correct to 8 places. If obtaining a value this accurate is surprising, it is perhaps even more surprising that Aryabhata does not use his accurate value for π but prefers to use √10 = 3.1622 in practice. Aryabhata does not explain how he found this accurate value. Aryabhata I's value of π is a very close approximation to the modern value and the most accurate among those of the ancients. There are reasons to believe that Aryabhata devised a particular method for finding this value. It is shown with sufficient grounds that Aryabhata himself used it, and several later Indian mathematicians and even the Arabs adopted it. The conjecture that Aryabhata's value of π is of Greek origin is critically examined and is found to be without foundation. Aryabhata discovered this value independently and also realised that π is an irrational number. He had the Indian background, no doubt, but excelled all his predecessors in evaluating π. Thus the credit of discovering this exact value of π may be ascribed to the celebrated mathematician, Aryabhata I.

The trigonometry was contained in Aryabhata's treatise. He gave a table of sines calculating the approximate values at intervals of 90degrees/24 = 3degrees 45'. In order to do this he used a formula for sin(n+1)x - sin nx in terms of sin nx and sin (n-1)x. He also introduced the versine (versin = 1 - cosine) into trigonometry.

Other rules given by Aryabhata include that for summing the first n integers, the squares of these integers and also their cubes. Aryabhata gives formulae for the areas of a triangle and of a circle which are correct, but the formulae for the volumes of a sphere and of a pyramid are claimed to be wrong by most historians. Some historians argues that this is not an error but rather the result of an incorrect translation.

Mathematics is contained in the Aryabhatiya but this is an astronomy text. Aryabhata gives a systematic treatment of the position of the planets in space. He gave the circumference of the earth as 4 967 yojanas and its diameter as 1 5811/24 yojanas. Since 1 yojana = 5 miles this gives the circumference as 24 835 miles, which is an excellent approximation to the currently accepted value of 24 902 miles. He believed that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the axial rotation of the Earth. Aryabhata gives the radius of the planetary orbits in terms of the radius of the Earth/Sun orbit as essentially their periods of rotation around the Sun. He believes that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight, incredibly he believes that the orbits of the planets are ellipses. He correctly explains the causes of eclipses of the Sun and the Moon. The Indian belief up to that time was that eclipses were caused by a demon called Rahu. His value for the length of the year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 30 seconds is an overestimate since the true value is less than 365 days 6 hours.

Appearance

There is no known information about his appearance; any image of his is an artist’s conception of that time.

Recognition

Government of India named its 1st satellite as Aryabhata launched in 1975.

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