United Kingdom, August 17, 2007: A little-known school of scholars in southwest India discovered one of the founding principles of modern mathematics hundreds of years before Newton according to new research. Dr. George Gheverghese Joseph from the University of Manchester says the Kerala School identified the infinite series--one of the basic components of calculus--in about 1350. The discovery is currently--and wrongly--attributed in books to Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz at the end of the seventeenth centuries. The team from the Universities of Manchester and Exeter reveal the Kerala School also discovered what amounted to the pi series and used it to calculate pi correct to 9, 10 and later 17 decimal places. And there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Indians passed on their discoveries to mathematically knowledgeable Jesuit missionaries who visited India during the fifteenth century. That knowledge, they argue, may have eventually been passed on to Newton himself.
Dr. Joseph made the revelations while trawling through obscure Indian papers for a yet to be published third edition of his book "The Crest of the Peacock: the Non- European Roots of Mathematics" by Princeton University Press. He said: "The beginnings of modern maths is usually seen as a European achievement but the discoveries in medieval India between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries have been ignored or forgotten. "The brilliance of Newton's work at the end of the seventeenth century stands undiminished--especially when it came to the algorithms of calculus. "But other names from the Kerala School, notably Madhava and Nilakantha, should stand shoulder to shoulder with him as they discovered the other great component of calculus--infinite series."
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