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.
Blessings to my mother-in-law for treating us to an amazing trip to Jaipur!
The place that I can’t keep thinking about is the Jantar Mantar — the name translates to English as ‘calculating instrument — an astronomical observatory there constructed in the early 1700’s by the Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh.
It’s more like an astronomer’s playground! To behold the scale of the sundials and other celestial instruments is just — well you need to take a pause
The Samrat Yantra (the largest gnomon sundial above ) is capable of determining the time based on the sun position to within an accuracy of two seconds.
The smaller of the sundials (the Laghu Samrat Yantra) is shown above, it was accurate down to the second when we checked. You can see a time lapse video here
The Jai Prakesh Yantra is capable of tracking Zodiac/Constellation positions measuring altitudes, azimuths, hour angles and declinations.
There is such a rich history of Indian astronomy, so much so that Jai Singh constructed several observatories of similar scale throughout India with no need for the works of Kepler and Galileo.
Cuba has left us with a lot to think about. Still coming to terms with its lessons on race, identity, the bounty of being out of one’s place of comfort, and most importantly those on human dignity and kindness.
While I make sense of those lessions, I’ll share some photos from Vedado, Trinidad, and points in between that testify to the whimsical, surprising beauty of this country and its people.
Early modern historian. Loves gender, women's, social & royal histories. Ventures elswhere when interest is piqued. Blog may cover above themes or something a little more random. Find me on Twitter @ruthrblair