Social Scientist. v 11, no. 126 (Nov 1983) p. 60.


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BOOK REVIEW

STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE IN INDIA (in 2

volumes), edited by Debt Prasad Chattopadhyaya, Editorial Enterprises, New Delhi, pp 883, Rs 300.

PHILOSOPHICAL COGNITION of reality is inextricably linked with its natural-scientific cognition. It is, therefore, not surprising that his studies in the history of philosophy of ancient India should have led D P Chattopadhyaya to undertake studies in the history of science of the same period. Having conducted some remarkable studies from a Marxist point of view in the history of philosophical thought in such works as Lokayata, What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy? and Indian Philosophy, Chattopadhyaya followed these with a work on Science and Society in Ancient India. The two-volume collection of essays under review, though not an analytical work, is a continuation of the task that began with the publication of Science and Society. The volumes go a long way in providing source material, not easily accessible to the students of Indian history in general and students of history of science in particular. It is necessary to emphasise their status as source material because the volumes should not be confused with a history of science proper as some reviews of these volumes have tended to suggest.

One of the most significant contributions in the direction of a rational reconstruction of the evolution of scientific ideas in Indian antiquity has been made by D P Ghattopadhyaya himself. His is, in fact, a pioneering work in this field. His article in these volumes, "Case for a Critical Analysis of the Caraka-samhita", contains the essential ideas put forth in Science and Society. It would, therefore, not be out of place to discuss Chattopadhyaya's theoretical approach in some detail.

In discussing the source-books of Indian medicine, mainly Caraka-samhita, D P Chattopadhyaya repeatedly asserts that "what concerns him (the physician in ancient India) is medicine and medicine alone" (pp 216, 222, 223, 224, 226) and that the medical views of this period are remarkably free from supernaturalism (p 228). For the strange amalgam found in the texts of natural science and regimented religion, he offers the following explanation:

"My point is that, inspite of all that is strange in the medical compilations in their extant versions, it is possible to identify the hard core of natural science in these on which were imposedó evidently later and presumably for the purpose of evading the censorship of the



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