Last weekend we spent a beautiful afternoon with cousins at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi.
There was a lecture going on about the divine inspiration of Calculus — a meditation on how both Newton and Leibniz came to discoveries of infinite series and limits that led to the starting point for advanced maths.
As I pondered the spirit of The Mother, my mind went back to the visit we’d taken to the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur — an astronomical observatory built around the time of Newton’s discovery. Surely, a society that had the capacity to develop highly accurate astronomical predictions had the sophistication to develop the machinery for dealing with infinitesimal rates of change.
Newton — or more likely Leibniz — was indeed late to the game by at least 200 years!
Keralan mathematician Nilakantha Somayaji in the 1400s seems to have worked out machinery for dealing with infinitesimal velocity and converging series.
This was in service of improving the accuracy of astronomical calculations. I’m not even sure if Somayaji’s work was used in the Jantar Mantar observatories, but there is now speculation that the Kerala school might well have been known to Leibniz.
Chalk another wonder up to globalization, I’ll give props to The Mother for the inspirations.