Sunday, 23 July 2017

C K Raju responds to Amir Aczel's claims

I recently came across a book by mathematician Late Amir Aczel "Finding Zero". In a book promotion talk he started by mocking that Indians claim the number system comes from India and Zero came from India. In particular he attacks Indian Physicist and Mathematician Mr C K Raju. Mr Raju has authored several book in the history and philosophy of Maths. Including Cultural Foundations MathematicsEuclid and Jesus and more.

I wrote to Mr Raju if he would like to respond to Amir Aczel's claims. Here is the conversation with his response:

Mr Raju,

I have followed some of your work on de-colonization of Maths. In many of your talks you have mention that, most of the time western academia has chosen to ignore you.
I recently came across a work by mathematician Late Amir Aczel "Finding Zero". 

He seems to have met you personally twice. In this talk regarding his book he starts by mentioning those encounters and mostly dismissing your arguments as lacking facts. 

He quite literally slanders you with his 'audience wanted to throw eggs at you' remark.
He seems to be suggesting in his work that the Indian numerals and zero seems to come from east of India, based on his finding of a 7th century temple inscription in Cambodia.
Of course it is easy to see that he is confusing glyps with numbers themselves & does not address the origin of the Saka calendar, nor the origin of the script of inscription in Combodia.

But since he has directly slandered you, could you please respond with your side of the story.

He says, Raju claims "every thing comes from India, Einstein did not invent relativity it came from India, the theorems of Euclid and the Pythagorean theorem, all these theorems come from India, audience was about to throw eggs at him. He pretty much smashed western civilization, he said everything came from India."

He also mentions meeting you in Delhi for an hour where he says you made all sorts of claims without showing any evidence.

Since this is a direct attack on your credibility, would you like to respond. I would also like to carry your response on my Blog with your permission.

Mr C K Raju responds:

Response 1:

The West hasn't exactly ignored me: after all, as you perhaps know, Michael Atiyah the top Western mathematician repeatedly plagiarised my critique of Einstein!  Likewise two goons from Manchester and Exeter serially plagiarised my work on the transmission of calculus. 

Amir Aczel gave me a copy of the book a couple of years ago in Harvard Square, Boston. It has a big photo of me and a couple of pages, some of it clearly false, some of it intended to show that he was informed about zeroism. (Thanks for the video link but I haven't had time to see it, since I am excessively busy right now.) Shortly after that he died.

May respond in due course, but not right now. Western historians have been telling absurd lies for the last 1700 years, glorifying themselves and denigrating others, and there are more important lies to be destroyed.

Response 2:

Saw the video. I didn't know he was such a hopeless liar. This is irresponsible even as a joke. 

It is very clearly on record (in my books Time: Towards a Consistent Theory and Eleven Pictures of Time, that I said that Poincare invented the special theory of relativity, and gave the idea of general relativity, the equations for which Hilbert wrote down. Most recently, I stated this in my TGA acceptance speech posted on my blog, and in the article on Einstein on my website

As someone who has written a book on Einstein, Amir Aczel should have been familiar not only with my claims but their validity.

Since the facts are so clearly on record, and so easily accessible this is an example of how thoroughly dishonest and untrustworthy Western historians are, even when they seem to be saying something in favour of the non-West. They feel that to establish their credibility they must say something bad against the non-West, even if they have to invent it ("C. K. Raju said relativity came from India"). If this is how freely they distort easily accessible facts, you can imagine what all nonsense they say when the facts are in the remote past and not easily accessible. 

BTW when I met him in Delhi, I also met his wife who works in MIT. This naturally led me to mention Noam Chomsky who he and his wife promptly attacked calling him a "self-hating Jew", and anti-Semite. (Both husband and wife were dual citizens of US and Israel.) It is true I was late for the meeting,  but that was because I came from Malaysia the same day and the flight was late.  At that time he set up the meeting since he badly wanted me to take him to Gwalior and get the gates of the temple opened for him to be able to see the Gwalior inscription on zero.

Sad that he mixed up some trivial truths (about my being late) so freely with such grave falsehood (about Einstein), even given his ethnic sympathy for Einstein. 



PS. The audience did not throw eggs, during my lecture in UNSW, Australia, at the pendulum conference, the only one he attended. That invited lecture was published in the conference proceedings and also as follows. 

C. K. Raju, “Time: what is it that it can be measured?” Science and Education15(6) (2006) 537–551.

In my second lecture (see abstract at I did make the point that the continuum was not needed for the calculus, as it developed in India, and I very much stick to that today. It is an important argument for decolonisation of math. He deliberately overlooked the philosophical argument,  in order to caricature the related historical claim as chauvinistic. But the philosophical argument stands, irrespective of the history. I don't think he was such a dud that he just failed to understand it. 

PPS. He wanted to visit me in Malaysia, when he was in Cambodia, and when his book was attacked, and people pointed out that the Maya too used something like zero, he asked for my help.



  1. Calculus owes its development to the idea of Infinitesimals is well attested. Including the earlier war waged by the Jesuits on supporters of Infinitesimals because it was not seen as theologically correct.

    Amir Alexander covers this topic in his book "infinitesimal".

    His interesting interview is here on how Jesuit opposition destroyed the early shoots of science in Italy in 17th century Europe.

    So the Jesuits waged a war of letters, threats and intimidation against the supporters of the infinitesimal, a group that included some of Italy's greatest thinkers — Galileo, Gerolamo Cardano, Federico Commandino and others. In Italy, the Jesuits' victory was complete.

    "Italy was — before the 17th century and into the 17th century — it was really the mathematical capital of Europe. It had the greatest mathematicians, the greatest mathematical tradition," Alexander says. "And by the time the Jesuits were done, that was gone. All of it. By the 1670s, Italy was a complete backwater in mathematics and the sciences."

  2. This is not right. Calculus today is taught using (formal) "real" numbers which do not admit infinitesimals. See any high school or university text.

    Newton used fluxions (not infinitesimals) as described in my book Cultural Foundations of Math.

    The Jesuits stole the calculus because of the precise trigonometric values to which it led. Those precise values were of immense practical value to solve the European navigational problem, then the biggest scientific challenge in Europe. Thus, the top Jesuit Clavius published an interpolated version of the accurate Indian sine values (precise to 10 decimal places) in his name in 1607. Obviously this had the highest level of theological sanction, as did the Gregorian reform also authored by Clavius.

    Galileo abandoned the calculus and left it to his student Cavalieri because he had difficulties similar to those of Descartes: ("how is it possible to sum an infinite series exactly").

    BTW, Brahmagupta did use infinitesimals, as in non-Archimedean arithmetic, as explained in my Springer articles. For a slightly more technical account see my USM lectures of 2010 or the more recent corrected version