The evolution of science and technology in India has followed a long and distinguished tradition spread over more than thousand years starting with Indus Valley Civilization around 25000 B.C. The India subcontinent also has been a place for major historical and philosophical development and the vision of science and technology was integral to the ancient Indian tradition.
The Indus Valley Civilization was socially and technically well developed. Recent excavations at Kalibangan in Rajasthan and Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat have brought to light the varied achievements of this period, particularly in the field of town planning and building of houses using standardized burnt bricks, interlinked drainage system. They were also using wheel carts and used copper and bronze in several products.
The Vedic Age initiated a new era of intellectual inquiry and technological endeavor. Here religion also played an important role in the field of scientific achievements. Ancient mathematical works such as the Sulva-Sutras utilized geometry for designing and constructing altars.
Mathematics was an important field of knowledge and the ancient Indians made valuable contribution to it. Mathematicians like Aryabhata and Bhaskara I, Brahmagupta developed mast of the mathematical formal that we know today.
Astronomy, essentially related to religion was another field of inquiry which achieved remarkable heights in the ancient times.
Aryabhata propounded that, the earth rotated about its own axis with fair accuracy. Many later scientific works owe their origins to the panchasiddhanta of which the Surya Siddhartha greatly influenced astronomical research in India.
In medieval period with the advent of Islamic influence, instruments such as quadrants and armilary spares came to be used in astronomical research. Raja Sawai Jai Sing II of Jaipur built five observatories at Ujjan, Varansi, Mathura, Jaipur and Delhi, of which the last two are intact to the present.
Medicine was another field of research in which ancient Indians made notable contribution and the Atharvaveda is the important repository of India’s medical knowledge. Study was also made on symptoms and causes of diseases and curative means were evolved.
Herbs, fruits, flowers and minerals were studied and experimented upon to evolve medical cures. Surgical instruments such as scalpels, syringes and forceps etc, were developed by the early surgeon and surgical knowledge spread from India to Arabs, Greeks and Egyptians. Persian influence gave rise to Unani medicine in India in the 13th -14th century.
Allied to the medical field, was the development of chemistry and chemical knowledge was used in the technological processes of dyeing, production of paper, sugar, perfume etc. From the sixth century B.C onwards, Indian technical skills were perfected in iron metallurgy and steel, copper, bronze work, ceramic and cosmetics.
It was war that led to the development of Industrial technology in the 16th and 17th century and cannons and guns of considerable mechanical sophistication began to be made. Navigation too underwent changes and Indian sailors used a magnetic needle floating on water in the 13th century.
The foundation of the Asiatic Society of India inl784 by Sir William Jones set the beginning of public interest in scientific research. The Society helped the founding of the Indian museum at Kolkata in 1866. The society also published papers in physics, chemistry, geology and medical sciences and played an important role in the advancement of sciences in India. Another association which helped an important role in advancement of science was the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science established 1876 by Dr, Mahendra Lai Sarcar, provided laboratory facilities and became a prominent research center in the country for scientific work.
In 1851, the Geological Survey of India was organised and a series of discoveries of Siwalik fossils and research on these were made. The Botanical Gardens was established in 1788 and Dr. William Roxbury was the first to start research on Indian plants.
The high incidence of diseases unknown to the west, the cost of their treatment and their impact on army and administration led to research relating to diseases like cholera, plague, malaria, Kalazar etc. In 1892, the Bacteriological Laboratory at Agra was established with Mr. P.H. Hankin as its head and in 1899, Haffkine developed a plague vaccine and established a laboratory called Plague Research Laboratory in Bombay.
Another evolution in scientific research was Agricultural Research which began with the establishment of the Agricultural research station and experimental farm at Pusa, Bihar with the help of a donation made by an American Philanthropist, Mr. Henry Phipps.
A few more institutes were established by scientists or policemen and most of them being Indians such as India Institute of Science Bangalore, Bose Institute Kolkata (1917), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay (1945), ISRO etc. These institutes played a notable role as center of research at a time when India possessed few research facilities.
Now advancement of science and technology has reached to such an extent that many philosophic and scientific aspects, which the occidental are less aware of have, reached a peak here. Examples of these can be seen in computer software development field, missile, space technology and many more.