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Domesticating Modern Science

A Social History of Science and Culture in Colonial India

Dhruv Raina, S. Irfan Habib

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The essays brought together in this volume examine the cultural reception of modern science in late colonial India. They show how the first generation of Indian scientists responded to and creatively worked the theories and practices of modern science into their cultural idiom. The process of cultural legitimation of modern science is revealed through the debates surrounding these theories.

The essays in the first section deal with the encounter between the rationality of modern science and so-called traditional ways of knowing. How did the nineteenth-century Delhi intelligentsia respond to the new ideas disseminated through the Vernacular Translation Society, and what role did they play in the development of science textbooks and popular science writing? What was the nature of the interaction between traditional mathematics and modern discipline like calculus?

The second section shifts the focus of attention to Calcutta, which virtually functioned as India’s scientific capital to examine the reception of theories of science such as biological evolution and the Social Darwinism. The essays here also show how a new set of concerns – scientific and technical education, scientific and technological research systems – acquired importance by the end of the nineteenth century, and dovetailed with the thinking of the emerging nationalist movement. They indicate the manner in which the scientific community enlisted the political elite into its vision, and how these elites drew upon the nascent scientific community in the project of decolonization.

Dhruv Raina

Dhruv Raina teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of Images and Contexts: The Historiography of Science and Modernity in India (2003). He has published research papers in journals on social studies of science, social and political history, history of science, scientometrics, social history and social epistemology, and contributed articles to several edited volumes.

S. Irfan Habib

S. Irfan Habib is historian of science and modern political history based in New Delhi. He was a scientist at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi. He is the co-editor, with Dhruv Raina, of Situating the History of Science: Dialogues with Joseph Needham (1999). He has published research papers in journals on social and political history, history of science, social studies of science and sociology, and contributed articles to several edited volumes.