Notice Board

Precolonial Science and Technology in India

Small pox inoculation


A letter dated February 10, 1731 from one Ro Coult to Dr Oliver Coult that suggesting that the practice of ‘tikah’ had been in place about 150 years at the time of writing. It was introduced in the UK in 1720 where it proved to be relatively successful though ‘vehemently opposed by large sections of the medical profession and the theologians of Oxford’
Ro Coult ‘OPERATION OF INOCULATION OF THE SMALLPOX AS PERFORMED IN BENGALL’, Page 149, -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

Between Vimanas and Natives!

Two opposing views about science and technology in India suggest a) that the British brought progress and development to the natives in India and b) that we had indigenous knowledge and technology of everything from nuclear missiles to space flight.

The following examples show simple, yet effective methods and techniques that were documented by the early British who tried to learn and appreciate local knowledge; things that possibly contributed to ‘western’ science and technology. The outcome of one such effort was the formation of the Asiatic Society in Kolkata in 1784.

Most of these are excerpts from the work of Dharampal in the 1960’s, a pioneer who studied the archives of the British East India Co and the records of the British Government, so may be considered ‘unbiased’ – at least in terms of glorifying indigenous s & t. According to Claude Alvares, in the Preface to the book, Dharampal’s work led to the ‘unmaking of the English-generated history of Indian society’.

Manufacture of iron or “wootz”


It was manufactured using the simplest of tools (page 227). It was cheaper by far in cost than its European counterparts some of which ‘cannot be surpassed by the best Swedish iron’, Britain imported most of its steel from Sweden till well into the nineteenth century.
Major James Franklin, Bengal Army, F.R.S., M.R.A.S. 1829, ‘THE MODE OF MANUFACTURING IRON IN CENTRAL INDIA’, Pages 213-241, -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

Making of Ice in Allahabad


In Allahabad, where the temperature Never drops to freezing!

Sir Robert Barker. F.R.S. , First published 1775, ‘THE PROCESS OF MAKING ICE IN THE EAST INDIES’, pages 213-241 -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

There are many other examples and texts; these appeared more interesting and unusual!

IBM and the Third Reich


One of the little known stories in IT circles is the role of IBM in the holocaust.

Its critical role in collecting and collating US census data is well known, what is not so well known is the story of how IBM and its subsidiaries aided the Third Reich in identifying, cataloging, and keeping track of Jews across Europe.
This fascinating and horrific story seems to be an affirmation of the politics of information and the power that comes with it.

The question comes to mind is "If these technologies reflect certain values and politics, what was the role of the engineers and designers? Why did they continue to take an active role in it?"

Click IBM and the Holocaust to read the complete story.

War and Killing

How do people kill each other in a calculated way? It is one thing to do so in the heat of the moment or while in the grip of of some fervour, quite another to do so in a 'natural', human way.

Here is a heartening link that seems to agree.
Apparently only 15-20% of soldiers even in direct confrontation actually use their weapons. No wonder it takes intensive training and/or brainwashing to get humans to kill each other!

Read more here: Soldiers are reluctant to kill