science: Scientific Progress in China and India

Scientific Progress in China and India

In the East some accomplishments in science had been made paralleling the early developments in the West. However, although many societies were quick to adopt the fruits of technology, they tended to discourage the development of science on the classical model, which is based on the unbiased interaction of theory and experiment.

In China scientific theories were largely subservient to the main schools of philosophy and theology, particularly those of Confucianism, Taoism, and, later, Buddhism. The agricultural society, which endured until modern times, encouraged the separation of theory and experiment, the former falling to the educated, scholar classes and the latter to the lower, craftsman classes. Astronomy and mathematics were used for practical purposes, such as calendar determination, and there was little interest in theory in these fields. Theories of metallurgy, alchemy, and medicine were all tied to the prevailing religious and philosophical doctrines. Nevertheless, many important practical discoveries were made. Paper was invented in the 2d cent. a.d.; block printing was known in the 7th cent. a.d., with movable clay type by the 11th cent. and cast-metal type in Korea by the beginning of the 15th cent.; gunpowder was invented in the 3d cent. a.d. and firearms were in use by the 13th cent.; and the magnetic compass came into use during the 11th and 12th cent.

In India an alphabetic script was developed, as well as a numeral system based on place value and including a zero; this latter Hindu contribution was adopted by the Arabs and combined with their numeral system. Important Hindu scientists flourished in the 6th and 7th cent. a.d. and also in the 12th cent., making contributions to astronomy and mathematics. Many of these early Indian works showed the influence of Greek science, as in the geocentric systems of astronomy, or of Babylonian science, as in their development of algebraic methods for solving many problems.

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