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But the bitter truth is that the British rulers were not interested in science as such, but in using scientific knowl- edge for gaining better understanding of the climate, flora and fauna of the colony to administer it and exploit its natural resources in a more efficient manner. They had no commitment to the promotion of scientific disciplines or scientific societies and their goal was limited to the accomplishment of their assigned tasks. Native Indian scientists were treated as inferior and highly dis- criminated against in the colonial sci- entific enterprise. This article intends to highlight the stories of some bright Indian scientists who excelled in their field and contributed to the rise of na- tionalism through science in the colonial period despite strong discrimination at the hands of the rulers.
Though Indians got introduced to western science upon being assigned the role of surveyors and data collectors in field studies or as laboratory assistants, they soon graduated to responding to science on their own. However, no mat- ter the importance of their contribution to the sciences, credit went to their mas- ters for improving the natives. Indians, by and large, remained nameless and faceless attendants in the European club of science.
Examples abound of such unsung scien- tific geniuses of India. Radhanath Sik- dar, for instance, was a brilliant math- ematician who specialised in spherical trigonometry, and worked as a ‘comput- or’ in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (GTSI). He was the first person to calculate the height of the highest mountain of the world called Peak XV until then. It was Sir Andrew Waugh who proposed the name Mount Ever- est for this peak after his predecessor Surveyor-General George Everest with- out sharing the credit with Sikdar. It is interesting to note that though Sikdar’s contribution to the preparation of the Manual of Surveying for India (Edited
by Capt. H. L. Thullier and Capt. F. Smyth) was duly acknowledged in the preface of the first and second editions, after his death when the third edition of the manual was brought out, the colo- nial rulers inadvertently or advertently removed the name of the able and dis- tinguished head of the computing de- partment of GTSI from the publication. They knew that the dead man could not protest. But this incident did not go un- noticed. In 1876, the paper Friend of India called it, ‘robbery of the dead’. Sik- dar exhibited exemplary moral cour-
It is ironical that a narrative had been built over the years that India did not have any noteworthy sciences prior to colonisation, and science was introduced in India under British rule
Pramatha Nath Bose, an accomplished geologist with a degree from the Royal School of Mines, London, was superseded by T. Holland, 10 years his junior, for the post of the Director of Geological Survey
of India
age to protest the behaviour of a British magistrate who used derogatory re- marks for survey department workers as ‘Paharee coolies’. Although the co- lonial administration fined him Rs 200 for his “criminal” action he was hailed as a hero by his countrymen.
During the colonial period, British scholars had to take support of Indian talents to achieve success but denied them their due credit. Sir Ronald Ross was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1902 for the discovery of the ma- laria parasite, whose entire research he had carried out in India. But neither in his Nobel lecture nor in his paper, he mentioned the scientific contributions of his young bright research assistant, Kishori Mohan Bandyopadhyay, a tal- ented science graduate from Presidency College, Calcutta who worked tire- lessly in the laboratory and convinced villagers to provide blood samples for research. After Ross received the No- bel Prize, to honour the contribution of Kishori Mohan, Upendranath Brahm- achari, Acharya Jagadis Chandra Bose
        Image Courtesy: Internet

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