Aryabhata was one of the first Indian mathematicians and astronomers belonging to the classical age. He was born in 476 BC in Tarenaga, a town in Bihar, India. His major work, Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a table of sines. It is however definite that he travelled to Kusumapara for studies and even resided there for some time. It is mentioned in a few places that Aryabhata was the head of the educational institute in Kusumapara. The University of Nalanda had an observatory in its premises so it is hypothesized that Aryabhata was the principal of the university as well. On the other hand some other commentaries mention that he belonged to Kerala.
Aryabhata wrote many mathematical and astronomical treatises. His major work, Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a table of sines. His chief work was the ‘Aryabhatiya’ which was a compilation of mathematics and astronomy. The name of this treatise was not given to it by Aryabhata but by later commentators. A disciple by him called the ‘Bhaskara’ names it ‘Ashmakatanra’ meaning ‘treatise from the Ashmaka’. This treatise is also referred to as ‘Arya-shatas-ashta’ which translates to ‘Aryabhata’s 108’. This is a very literal name because the treatise did in fact consist of 108 verses.
Aryabhata worked on the place value system using letters to signify numbers and stating qualities. He also came up with an approximation of pi and area of a triangle. He introduced the concept of sine in his work called ‘Ardha-jya’ which is translated as ‘half-chord’.
Aryabhata also did a considerable amount of work in astronomy. He knew that the Earth is rotating on an axis around the sun and the moon rotated around it. He also discovered the position of nine planets and stated that these also revolved around the sun. He pointed out the eclipses, both lunar and solar. Aryabhata stated the correct number of days in a year that is 365 days. He was the first person to mention that the earth was not flat but in fact a spherical shape. He also gave the circumference and diameter of the earth and the radius of the orbits of 9 planets.
More about Aryabhata
Aryabhata was a very intelligent man. The theories that he came up with at that time present a wonder to the scientific world today. His works were used by the Greeks and the Arabs to develop further. A commentary by Bhaskara I, a century later on Aryabhatiya says:
‘Aryabhata is the master who, after reaching the furthest shores and plumbing the inmost depths of the sea of ultimate knowledge of mathematics, kinematics and spherics, handed over the three sciences to the learned world.’
Aryabhata was an immense influence to mathematics and astronomy. Many of his works inspired Arabs more particularly. His astronomical calculations helped form the ‘Jalali calendar’. He has been honored in many ways. The first Indian satellite is named after him as ‘Aryabhata’, so is the lunar crater. An Indian research center is called ‘Aryabhata Research Institute of Observational Sciences’.