Acharya Kanad

The Indian Sage who developed Atomic Theory 2,600 years ago

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John Dalton (1766 – 1844), an English chemist and physicist, is the man credited today with the development of atomic theory.  However, a theory of atoms was actually formulated2,500 years before Dalton by an Indian sage and philosopher, known as Acharya Kanad.

Acharya Kanad was born in 600 BC in Prabhas Kshetra (near Dwaraka) in Gujarat, India. His real name was Kashyap.

Kashyap was on a pilgrimage to Prayag when he saw thousands of pilgrims litter the streets with flowers and rice grains, which they offered at the temple. Kashyap, fascinated by small particles, began collecting the grains of rice. A crowd gathered around to see the strange man collecting grains from the street. Kashyap was asked why he was collecting the grains that even a beggar wouldn’t touch. He told them that individual grains in themselves may seem worthless, but a collection of some hundred grains make up a person's meal, the collection many meals would feed an entire family and ultimately the entire mankind was made of many families, thus even a single grain of rice was as important as all the valuable riches in this world. Since then, people began calling him ‘Kanad’, as ‘Kan’ in Sanskrit means ‘the smallest particle’. 

Kanad pursued his fascination with the unseen world and with conceptualising the idea of the smallest particle. He began writing down his ideas and teaching them to others.  Thus, people began calling him ‘Acharya’ (‘the teacher’), hence the name Acharya Kanad (‘the teacher of small particles’)

Kanad’s conception of Anu (the atom)

Kanad was walking with food in his hand, breaking it into small pieces when he realised that he was unable to divide the food into any further parts, it was too small. From this moment, Kanad conceptualised the idea of a particle that could not be divided any further. He called that indivisible matter Parmanu, or anu (atom).

Acharya Kanad proposed that this indivisible matter could not be sensed through any human organ or seen by the naked eye, and that an inherent urge made one Parmanu combine with another.  When two Parmanu belonging to one class of substance combined, a dwinuka (binary molecule) was the result. This dwinuka had properties similar to the two parent Parmanu.

Kanad suggested that it was the different combinations of Parmanu which produced different types of substances. He also put forward the idea that atoms could be combined in various ways to produce chemical changes in presence of other factors such as heat. He gave blackening of earthen pot and ripening of fruit as examples of this phenomenon.

Acharya Kanad founded the Vaisheshika school of philosophy where he taught his ideas about the atom and the nature of the universe. He wrote a book on his research “Vaisheshik Darshan” and became known as “The Father of Atomic theory.”

In the West, atomism emerged in the 5th century BC with the ancient Greeks Leucippus and Democritus. Whether Indian culture influenced Greek or vice versa or whether both evolved independently is a matter of dispute.

Kanad is reporting to have said: ”Every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.”  His theory of the atom was abstract and enmeshed in philosophy as they were based on logic and not on personal experience or experimentation. But in the words of A.L. Basham, the veteran Australian Indologist, "they were brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world, and in a large measure, agreed with the discoveries of modern physics."

By April Holloway

References:

The Father of Atomic Theory: Acharya Kanad – Sanskaar Varg

Ancient India’s Contribution to Physics – United India

Comments

As Ammulya has stated, India was ruled by others for many centuries and looted continuously.Still India remained the richest till 16th century.Koh-i-noor diamond, Pea cock throne , 2000 years old artefacts from southern India, which were abducted are available all over the world They underwent unprecedented barbaric attacks, which took them aback. They were victims of number of reasons, mainly betrayals.
In British rule, Indian intelligence was totally subdued and their skills in areas of agriculture and muslin weaving etc including salt farming were forcibly blocked, India almost was comprising 54 major states even before a millennium, hence became easy target for invaders. They adopted divide and rule policy which really kept Indians fighting among themselves which benefited rulers. Entire knowledge and their labour were robbed. In spite of so many causes, Indians fared so well in fields of science. Let it be earlier part of history in BCE or after 15th century, Hypocrites is credited as the father of medicine, where as Susrutha, Jivaka and Charaka were his forerunners who mastered surgery and medicine.Panini was the first known grammarian, Chanakya wrote Arthasastra which is the known treatise on economics and all of them were students and teachers in the first known university at Takshashila, which existed much before 6th century BCE.. Considering period after 15th century, refer to Einstein's admiration to India and Nicola Tesla's admiration and involvements with Vivekananda, Jagadish Chandrabose's radio transmission before Marconi, etc. The rich literary gifts like Thirukkural in Tamil, considered to be 2200 years old preaching us life sciences without mixing any religion standing tall loftily valid fully even today and will remain so in days to come.
In spite of so many odds, India has developed a culture of uniting after many centuries of split rule, which has never occurred in any part of the world. There is a sort of oneness among all, they have adequate knowledge for explorations, They have become pioneers in IT sectors because of their instincts from their forefathers and definitely will emerge in fields of Science and further evolution for serving mankind.

We Indians earnestly would like to submit to the world community that we don't want to waste our time in disputing and winning any right of the past. Most of the world know how countries are harping on robbing of our precious knowledge and rights for millennia in areas like, Turmeric, Neem and verieties of cereals.

Unfortunately all the glory, wisdom and intelligence of india ended up in to almost centauries of slavery under Mughals, British , politicians and beaurocrats. Its contribution to build a present world as per technology, democratically and socially is very minimum compared to the west . Whenever there in social inequality , injustice is happening to any nation of the world west took front seat to built and bring back of the victims to normal life whether its 1st world war,2nd world war or recent Syrian civil war. With help of technology, military and socio-economic reforms they make point to invovlve whole world to bring a solution by taking initiation to resolve the issue. No matter how legendry may be once civilization if that country is not involving ,sharing, providing the fellow sufferer any kind of support or strength both economically, socially and in terms of technology..No body is interested nor wants to hear their boosting of culture, civilization and traditions which lack in performing the fundamental duties.. and responsibilities

I wish to notify of the meanings of these two sanskrit terms:

Anu means molecule.

Paramanu means atom.

India is the one and only heaven in earth where the human civilization started and now degrading towards the era of destruction in terrific way....

seers know that one anu is made of sixty paramanu

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