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Making of scientific, industrial and arrogant Europe (Paper presented at the 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester 2013 July 21-28)
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Making of scientific, industrial and arrogant Europe (Paper presented at the 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester 2013 July 21-28)

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Throughout the 19th century in its encounters with the East Europe was in a learning mode. Cultural superiority and racial arrogance set in in England in the 1830s. …

Throughout the 19th century in its encounters with the East Europe was in a learning mode. Cultural superiority and racial arrogance set in in England in the 1830s.

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  • , which being the old true way of East India printing and stayning such kinds of goods”. In 1796, Sherwin however conceded before the House of Lords that his printed cloth “would not bear washing”. Thomas 1924,p.209. Thomas 1924,p.209.
  • In 1676, a fourteen-year patent was granted to one William Sherwin (1607-1687) “for the invention of a new and speedy way for printing broadcloth, which being the old true way of East India printing and stayning such kinds of goods”. In 1796, Sherwin however conceded before the House of Lords that his printed cloth “would not bear washing”. Thomas 1924,p.209. Thomas 1924,p.209.
  • .
  • Between 1815 and 1832 the value of exported Indian cotton goods fell from 1.3 million pound sterling to a mere 1,00,000. In the same period, the value of English cotton goods imported into India rose from a paltry 26,000 pound sterling to 4,00,000 pound sterling. Ashworth 1858, p. 256. Dutt 1949, Vol. 2, p. 101.
  • In the same period, the value of English cotton goods imported into India rose from a paltry 26,000 pound sterling to 4,00,000 pound sterling. Ashworth 1858, p. 256. Dutt 1949, Vol. 2, p. 101.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Making of Scientific, Industrial and Arrogant Europe Rajesh Kochhar President IAU Commission 41: History of Astronomy Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, Punjab rkochhar2000@yahoo.com 27 July 2013
    • 2. Summary Throughout the 19th century in its encounters with the East Europe was in a learning mode. Cultural superiority and racial arrogance set in in England in the 1830s.
    • 3. It is no more than a coincidence that the first British ship reached the Indian coast the same year (1608) the telescope was invented in The Netherlands. This numerology brings home the fact that modern science
    • 4. and technology grew hand in hand with maritime trade, colonial expansion and dominance over nature and fellow human beings. The key developments are these:
    • 5. (1) For combined reasons of healthcare, human curiosity and commerce, medical botany and natural history of distant lands were studied through interaction with the native population.
    • 6. (2)For the safety of navigation, scientific instrumentation and exact sciences were developed as a self- contained European exercise. (3) Machinery was developed to replace the Indian weaver. This was
    • 7. also a self-contained, British, exercise. (4)Europe at large took to development of dyeing and printing processes.
    • 8. In 1676, a 14-year patent was granted to one William Sherwin “for the invention of a new and speedy way for printing broadcloth which being the old true way of East India printing and stayning such
    • 9. kinds of goods”. In 1696, he however conceded before the House of Lords that his printed cloth “would not bear washing”. Intelligence on natural materials and their use was indeed required from India.
    • 10. i) In 1742, on instructions from his superiors, the South India based Jesuit Gaston Laurent Coeurdoux (1691-1779) collected information from dyers whom he had converted and sent the account to Europe,
    • 11. where it was widely read and where it remained relevant for a long time. It is a measure of the priorities of the time that Coeurdoux’s fundamental work as a pioneering researcher in philology went unnoticed.
    • 12. ii)The special process of Turkish red used the Indian Chaya root and Kasha leaves. Introduced into France by an Armenian, it baffled chemists for a long time until it was cleared up, in 1902, by a calico-printer at
    • 13. Leyden, Felix Dreissen, who got the secret from a native dyer in Madurai (south India).’2 In their 18th century encounters with India and the East in general, the trading nation of British displayed
    • 14. genuine interest in, respect for, and desire to benefit and profit from traditional empirical technologies. In the industrial Britain of the early 19th century, this admiration was replaced by openly expressed
    • 15. disdain. This is understandable. You cannot lord over people you respect. There is a persistent pattern in Britain’s scientific and industrial discoveries of the early 19th century. Once a milestone was reached in
    • 16. Western science, details of the steps leading to it were obliterated, and modern science and technology was presented as a stand-alone, without any pre-history.
    • 17. I would like to illustrate this with the help of 3 examples: zinc, steel, and vaccination. India devised zinc metallurgy, before Alexander’s time, to be able to prepare high-zinc content gold-like brass for making Buddha idols.
    • 18. As late as 1735, the Swedish chemist Georg Brandt (1694-1768), who identified cobalt as an element, believed that ‘zinc could not be reduced to metal except in the presence of copper’.6
    • 19. But, the commercial interests knew better. In 1738, William Champion (1709-1789) obtained a patent for the extraction of pure zinc through inverse distillation, and set up his works in 1743.7
    • 20. The Swedish professor Torbern Bergman wrote in 1779 that several years previously ‘A certain Englishman’ went to China ‘for the purpose of learning the art, returned safely home, indeed, and appears to
    • 21. have been sufficiently instructed in the secret, but he carefully concealed it’. A little later, in 1797, the German professor Johann Bergman asserted that the Englishman went not to China but India for the purpose. 9
    • 22. Seen from Europe it did not quite matter whether the original home of metallic zinc was India or China. Not surprisingly, there is no English account of any sort.
    • 23. A 100 years previously, in 1608, the Dutch optician Hans Lipperhey was denied a patent on the telescope, ‘on the ground that it is evident that several others have knowledge of the invention’.
    • 24. Metallic zinc may have been common knowledge in far off places, but in a Euro-centric world if a thing was new for Europe it did not exist before.
    • 25. Indian steel Since pre-Alexandrian times, India had been producing high quality steel by melting pure iron in the presence of carbonaceous material. Europe already knew about its
    • 26. cutting-edge properties because the Damascus swords made out of it were used against the Christian Crusaders. Specimens and some details about the making of Indian steel reached Europe when the direct
    • 27. trade began. In 1675 Robert Hooke noted in his diary: ‘bringing soe as to melt made the best steel after it had been wrought over again’. This was significant because Europe had earlier associated the properties
    • 28. of steel not with the process but with the quality of the ore. Benjamin Huntsman (1704-1776) has been invariably described as ‘English inventor of crucible steelmaking’.
    • 29. Was he inspired by the Indian method? No contemporaneous account would even admit the question, leave aside discuss it. James Moore Swank, US expert on iron and steel, wrote in his 1892
    • 30. History of the Manufacture of Iron in All Ages that the details of manufacture of Indian steel ‘in our day’ ‘plainly suggest the crucible process perfected by Huntsman’. This came not from Britain but from
    • 31. USA and that too when the 19th century was coming to an end. While discussing its own inventions and discoveries, Europe did not consider the Eastern antecedents to be relevant. But when it came to the
    • 32. But when it came to the Indian scientific tradition, the roots, real or imagined, were considered more important than the fruits. Some examples>>
    • 33. Astronomy Indian mathematical astronomical tradition built over a millennium 6th century CE onwards was dismissed out of hand as imitative and its Greek origins emphasized. There
    • 34. was of course no mention of the post- Alexandrian Egypt and Iraq inputs that had gone into making of the Greek science. Far greater ingenuity was exercised in the case of chemistry.
    • 35. Chemistry When a 14th century chemistry text (Rasaratnasamuchchaya) named 41 previous authors, it was declared with a straight face that the names were mostly apocryphal .10
    • 36. Similarly, when the author of another Sanskrit text Rasasara explicitly acknowledged his debt to ‘the traditions and opinions of the Baudhas [ the Buddhists]’,
    • 37. it was said that ‘ by Baudhas, the author probably meant the Muhammadans’.11 Surely Arabs would have liked to hear that. But it was not considered necessary to inform them. They in
    • 38. their place were told that their role in the world history of science had been no more than as librarians and archivists for preserving Greek science till Europe was in a position to take its heritage back.
    • 39. Wootz In the closing years of the 18th century, samples of Indian steel wootz were received in Britain , first by chance and then on request. They were investigated thoroughly
    • 40. under the auspices of the Royal Society. How significant the introduction of wootz was can be seen from the following: About 1796, a wootz penknife was presented to King George III.
    • 41. •Sir Thomas Frankland sealed his letters to Mushet ‘with the Sanscrit characters denoting wootz, in full and prominent display’. • One of the trade cards of John Stodart FRS, dated about 1820, carried the inscription:
    • 42. J. Stodart, at 401, Strand, London, Surgeon’s Instruments, Razors and other Cutlery made from Wootz, a steel from India, preferred by Mr Stodart to the best steel in Europe.
    • 43. • Examination of wootz samples (in UK) yielded two patents ( Mushet 1800, Mackintosh 1825) while another ( Heath 1839) resulted from an observation of steelmaking in South India. •Heath in turn was at the receiving end half a century later.
    • 44. • Heath wrote, referring to the patents of Mushet and Mackintosh that ‘the Indian process combines the principles of both the above described methods’. •Half a century later, Heath himself was at the receiving end :
    • 45. Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) wrote in his autobiography that Heath conceived the idea of his ‘invention’ from ‘noticing in the native Wootz steel-making of India the marvellous effect of manganese’
    • 46. •In 1819, Stodart entrusted Michael Faraday with the task of analysis of wootz samples. As Faraday wrote in his diary, he ‘was desirous , among other researches, to make an experiment, with a view to imitating Wootz’. Indeed one of the earliest successes reported in the
    • 47. paper presented to the Royal Institution in 1820 was the preparation of a specimen which had ‘all the appreciable characteristics of the best Bombay Wootz’. Faraday wrongly concluded that the strength of the wootz came from aluminum. It however was a
    • 48. ‘fruitful error’ because it gave birth to the new discipline of alloy steels. .
    • 49. •Faraday (1819) erroneously believed that the strength of wootz came not from the process but from the presence of other materials. This was a fruitful error, because it opened the new field of alloy steels.
    • 50. The influential British metallurgist John Percy in 1864 called wootz making the Hindoo process of steelmaking and its furnace the Hindoo furnace. The nomenclature is significant. .
    • 51. If it was a Hindu process, it called for suitable Europeanization without acknowledgement. ( Note that in India itself historians used terms like Hindu chemistry, Hindu mathematics, Hindu sine.)
    • 52. Smallpox Variolation (inoculation with human pox) was introduced in England in 1721, and vaccination (using cowpox) in 1799. 20
    • 53. Variolation continued to be practised at the smallpox hospital in London until 1822. It was altogether stopped by an Act of Parliament in 1840. In their time both variolation and vaccination met with great hostility.
    • 54. A smallpox hospital was opened in London in 1746. ‘For a long time, however, the prejudices against the hospital were so great, that the patients on leaving it were abused and insulted in the street;
    • 55. wherefore they were not suffered to depart until the darkness of the night enabled them to do it unobserved by the populace’ .21
    • 56. In the 1810s, Norwich city embarked on a plan of persuading the poor to get themselves vaccinated by paying them a cash incentive of half a crown. The plan in itself was quite a success, but smallpox was not
    • 57. extinguished. Report of the Pauper Vaccination in Norwich city for 1812–1813 pointed out that the disease was ‘kept in existence by unscrupulous practitioners from London
    • 58. who travelled to different places to inoculate people with smallpox. The only remedy lay, the Report asserted, ‘in passing a law, imposing a severe penalty on any one, directly or indirectly concerned in the act of
    • 59. variolous inoculation’. --- Variolation had been practised in the eastern parts of India since great antiquity. Vaccination was officially introduced in India in 1803.
    • 60. Forgetting the resistance first the introduction of variolation and then of vaccination had met with in Britain, the colonial government wanted the Indians to overnight become appreciative of the English
    • 61. ‘spirit of benevolence’ and express gratitude for being conveyed ‘the fruits of the happy discovery [vaccination]’.23
    • 62. In Calcutta, there were traditional inoculators who variolated a small fraction of the population creating an epidemic. The situation was so similar to the one that Norwich had previously faced that paragraphs
    • 63. from the Norwich Report were plagiarized in the1831 Calcutta Report written by Dr William Cameron, Superintendent-General of Vaccination, . This Report in turn was enthusiastically cited in 1850
    • 64. by the Smallpox Commissioners, who added some remarks of their own:
    • 65. ‘in a country where practices such as Suttee and Infanticide were, until lately, deemed justifiable on the score of Religious usage, neither will there be wanting bigots to mislead the ignorant Hindoos, and to
    • 66. prejudice their credulous and simple minds, against whatever may be falsely represented to them as an innovation, or an interference with their religious privileges’ .24
    • 67. Note that when variolation is practised in London even after vaccination has been introduced, smallpox inoculators are merely called immoral and mischievous, and sought to be dealt with by a strict
    • 68. law. But when the same phenomenon is observed in Calcutta, memories of suttee and infanticide are revived and the blame placed at the door of Hindu bigotry, prejudice and superstition.
    • 69. Incidentally, if the British in India had followed the Norwich model and offered cash incentive to those opting for vaccination, it is very likely that prejudices against it would have disappeared or at least
    • 70. diminished. England came a long way in the period from the start of variolation in 1721 to its abolition in 1840. An industrialized England was far more confidant and arrogant than a trading
    • 71. England had been. The period around the 1830s was important for a number of convergent reasons. In history of technology, grant of a patent constitutes a landmark; for growth of industry its expiry.
    • 72. Cartwright’s patent on power-driven loom expired in 1801 opening the field wide open. By this time navigation had become scientific and safe, and the deadly scurvy been controlled.
    • 73. Merchants- turned -rulers in India could now forcibly extinguish the age - old manufacture of fine textiles. Britain’s industrial progress can be gauged from the figures of consumption of cotton.
    • 74. In 1764 the import was 3.8 million lb. In 1785 it shot up to 18 million lb. In 1830 the figure was 265 million lb, and climbing up and up . Between 1815 and 1832 the value of cotton goods exported from India
    • 75. fell from 1.3 million pound sterling to a mere 1,00,000. In the same period, the value of English cotton goods imported into India rose from a paltry 26,000 pound sterling to 4,00,000.
    • 76. In 1835, the colonial government brought its transition from the Mughal administration to an end by introducing a new education policy: i)Persian was banished from office. ii)Generous and uncritical support to
    • 77. Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian learning was discontinued. iii)English was made the official language ( Bentinck-Macaulay). Significantly, the new Government policy was facilitated by the
    • 78. successful change in the missionary position that had just taken place. The missionaries moved to Calcutta from the mofussil; targeted elitist sections of the society rather the marginal; and focused on English rather than the vernacular.
    • 79. To sum up, racial arrogance set in when Britain’s transition from a trading nation to an industrial power was completed, that is when British machines finally made the fine Indian weaver entirely redundant.
    • 80. In 1837, a Bengal cavalry officer, after an exploratory tour of Egypt and Arabia in connection with steam navigation, declared in his report: ‘It seems to be a law of nature that the civilized nations should conquer and
    • 81. possess the countries in a state of barbarianism and by such means, however unjustifiable it may appear at first, extend the blessings of knowledge, industry and commerce among people hitherto sunk in the
    • 82. most gloomy depths of superstitious ignorance. ’26 Interestingly, the 1977 Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 5 (p. 495) quotes this passage, but wrongly says ‘ It seems to me’ rather than
    • 83. ‘It seems to be’, making the observation personal rather than universal. The 1837 use of the phrase ‘law of nature’ in the context of human affairs is significant.
    • 84. It is as if the authorship of the powerful knowledge system of modern science bestowed such cultural and racial superiority on the Europeans as to give them a divine right to rule over others.
    • 85. THANK YOU
    • 86. 1 Thomas 1924, p. 207. 2 Thomas 1924, p. 211. 3 Hegde 1991, p. 58. 4 Beckmann 1797, p. 75. 5 Beckmann 1814, pp.72-73. 6 Mellor 1957, p.403. 7 Kochhar 1994. 8 Bergman 1788, p.317. 9 Beckmann 1814, p.91. 10 Ray 1918, p. 101. 11 Ray 1918, p. 91. 12 Mushet 1840, pp. 662-663
    • 87. 13 Mushet 1840, p.670. 14 Hadfield 1932, pp.225-226. 15 ‘Give me the fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own correction. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself’- Vilfredo Pareto 1848- 1923. 16 Hadfield 1932, p.225. 17 Heath however was unable to draw any financial benefit from his patent, because of its imperfect wording; see , e.g., Charles Dickens’ Household Worlds, 1853, Vol. 6, pp. 230-232 18 Van Nostrand’s Eclectic Engineering Magazine, 1870, Vol. 3, No. 21, p. 280.
    • 88. 19 Percy 1864, p. 774. 20 Shoolbred 1805, p. 1. 21 Woodville 1796, p. 238. 22 Shoolbred 1805, p. 9). 23 Brimnes 2004, p. 221. 24 Report of the Smallpox Commissioners, p 54, (Calcutta: Military Orphan Press). 25 Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal 1814, Vol. 10. p. 124. 26 Mackenzie 1837, p. 490.
    • 89. References Bergman, Torbern (1784) Physical and Chemical Essays, Vol. 2, p. 314 (London: J. Murray). Brimnes, N. ( 2004) Variolation, vaccination and popular resistance in early colonial South India. Med. History, Vol. 48, pp. 199–228. Bronson, Bennet (1986) The making and selling of wootz, a crucible steel of India. Archaeomaterials, Vol.1, pp. 13-51. Hadfield, Robert (1933) A research on Faraday’s ‘Steel and Alloys’. Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Vol. 230, pp. 221-292
    • 90. Hegde, K.T.M.(1991) An Introduction to Ancient Indian Metallurgy (Bangalore: Geological Society of India). Beckmann, Johann (1797) A History of Inventions and Discoveries, Vol. 3, pp. 71-99 (London: J. Bell). James, C. (1810) Vaccination. In: A New and Enlarged Military Dictionary, Vol. 2 (London: T Eggerton) Kochhar, Rajesh (1994) Smelting of ideas [zinc metallurgy]. Economic Times, 20 Aug. Kochhar, Rajesh (2006) Smallpox in the modern scientific and colonial contexts 1721–1840. Journal of Biosciences, Vol. 36, pp. 1–8.
    • 91. Mackenzie, James (1837) ‘Egypt and Arabia’, The Literary Gazette; and Journal of Belle Lettre, Arts, Sciences & co., No.1072, 5 Aug., pp. 489-492. Mellor, J. W. (1957) A Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry, Vol. 4 ( London: Longman, Green and Co.). Mushet, David (1840) Papers on Iron and Steel ( London: John Weale). Ray, Prafulla Chandra (1918) Essays and Discourses (Madras: G.A. Natesan)
    • 92. Shoolbred, J. ( 1805) Report on the Progress of Vaccine Inoculation in Bengal (London: Blacks and Perry). Woodville W 1796 The History of Inoculation of the Small- pox, in Great Britain Vol. 1 (London: James Philips).

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