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Mathematics in India Hardcover – January 18, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0691120676 ISBN-10: 0691120676

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691120676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691120676
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,608,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is a much needed and splendidly executed book, a history of mathematics in the Indian subcontinent that embraces the full breadth of its rich subject. . . . For anyone acquainted with the scholarly literature on these disputes, it is refreshing to read a discussion of them that keeps to the evidence, is frank about the evidence's limitations, and eschews charges of personal incompetence or bias."--Alexander Jones, Journal for the History of Astronomy

"This carefully researched chronicle of the principal contributions made by a great civilization covers the earliest days of Indian history through to the beginning of the modern period. . . . Kim Plofker's book fulfils an important need in a world where mathematical historiography has been shaped by the dominance of the Greco-Christian view and the Enlightenment period."--Pervez Hoodbhoy, Nature

"[T]he author does a remarkable job presenting the mathematics of India. Anyone delving into this book, general reader or historian, will find straightforward explanations of the mathematics involved, learn of the culture that surrounded the subject, and come away with a clearer understanding of the Indian civilization and its mathematics."--Jim Tattersall, MAA Reviews

"[T]his book is reliable, authentic and helps to rectify the wrong notions on either side, regarding Indian mathematics. It is a great contribution to the history of mathematics in general."--T. Thrivikraman, Mathematical Reviews

"The book is well written and easy to read. There is a good balance of commentary and technical detail. . . . Plofker's book finally offers us, at least in outline, an up-to-date and coherent narrative for the history of mathematics in India."--John Hannah, Aestimatio

"[M]eticulously researched and engagingly written. . . . Plofker's attempt to situate Indian mathematics in the proper context [leads] to a very detailed treatment of mathematical astronomy (at times far more detailed than mathematics itself), but that is no drawback, for the book serves as an excellent introduction to mathematical astronomy as well."--S. R. Sarma, Journal of the American Oriental Society

From the Back Cover

"Mathematics in India presents an accessible, readable, and well-informed treatment of the history of India's mathematical traditions. It includes topics discussed little to date: the social setting of the mathematicians, the textual practices learned in Sanskrit, and the realm of observational and timekeeping practices. The survey of the Kerala school and the later life of Indian mathematics are detailed, unique, and valuable."--Christopher Minkowski, University of Oxford

"No reliable book of this kind has been available, and Plofker's work makes an underdeveloped area accessible to all who are interested."--Johannes Bronkhorst, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 34 people found the following review helpful By N. Murthy on July 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was about to purchase this book but was fortunately able to look at a copy before doing so. The author, with almost no professional comprehension of the intricacies of Sanskrit grammar and linquistic theory, attempts to comment rather erratically on the connection between the abstract, symbolic nature of Paniniyan grammatical nomenclature and Indian mathematical categories.

What is truly puzzling is that this is supposed to be a text wholly devoted to Indian mathematics--but she herself, in one chapter, claims there is not enough "space" to expatiate on a rather important topic.

Her arguments and assertions never really evolve--nor does she bother to back up her assertions with any relevant cross-references. I am fully prepared to accept that the decimal system of Indian place value notation originated in China--but the author herself admits there is no real evidence for such a claim, yet feels comfortable proposing it as serious enough to devote a torpid half-page to. Worse, she makes no effort to comprehend any argument as to why such a system would be indigenous to Indian mathematical development (despite evidence to the contrary).

Reading, one gets the constant feeling that she stumbled upon the idea of writing this book rather haphazardly and then decided it wasn't such a a good idea after all.
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14 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Mayuresh Kelkar on April 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is yet another western attempt to portray Vedic astronomy and mathematics as vague, ahistorical , unscientific, and borrowed. All AIT opponents are summarily dismissed as "Hindu Nationalist (p. 2)." The author's complete ignorance of archaeological facts is evidenced by the statement "...Indus cultural sites do not contain remains of characteristic Indo-European goods such as horses or chariots (p. 7.)." The reader is assured (p. 5) that Vedic Sanskrit has "unmistakably descended" from the reconstructed Proto Indo-European, never mind that reconstructed languages are not historical facts, but merely a tool of linguistic research. The author admits that "there is no known evidence, textual or otherwise, that indisputably proves any of these dates (like 3000 BCE) to be impossible for the composition of Vedic works, (p. 35, paranthesis added)," but they must be rejected as they do not fit in with the imperialist and Eurocentric reconstructions of what Vedic history should be. A very scientific approach for someone who claims to be a mathematician and claims to have written a book about it. Here is another comical argument (p. 42)--"The suggestion of a Mesopotamian origin thus furnishes a coherent and plausible explanation for at least some of the features of Indian mathematical astronomy at the close of the Vedic period. On the other hand, there is nothing in these similarities that necessarily has to be accounted for by transmission, and there are no indisputable traces such as Akkadian loan-word technical terms in Sanskrit texts." Duh?!.
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6 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Manoel De Campos Almeida on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This a a scholar book on the field, by a master on the topic. Isn`t a book for naive readers, but everyone that is seriously interested in
math`s history will apreciate it.
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Mathematics in India
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