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'Cell Theory has roots in ancient Indian texts'

Last updated: 21 October, 2011
Chethan Kumar, Bangalore, Oct 21, DHNS: 0:56 IST

Vrukshayurveda

Robert Hooke is said to have discovered the plant cell in 1665 after a series of examinations under a coarse, compound microscope.

However, an ancient Indian text had revealed the fact much before Hooke.
Indian botanists claim that there are references of a similar concept in ancient Indian manuscripts and that a Rigvedic Maharishi, Parashara, had given a detailed description of this.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Dr S Sundara Rajan, botanist and Sanskrit scholar, quoting Parashara’s Vrukshayurveda, said: “In the leaf, there are innumerable components. It has a boundary, a colouring matter, a sap inside and they are not visible to the naked eye.”

Rajan, who has been conducting a research on this from 1966, said he had presented the findings before the International Botanical Congress in Sydney in 1981 and had convinced botanists from several countries that the discovery was made by Parashara long before the Western world.

A botanist from New Zealand, he said, had questioned: “Do you mean Indians discovered microscope?” In his reply, he had said: “I have no proof to claim that. But the fact that Parashara, in his description has used the expression ‘not visible to naked eye’, suggests that he had used some magnifying technique to discover matter in the leaves.”

Rajan, who had procured several manuscripts, including some from the Oxford libraries, said that there was no clear evidence that Robert Hooke, who gave the world the Cell Theory, used any references from Parashara’s work, but there was enough evidence to prove that the latter knew about the matter before Hooke.

Rajan said contrary to popular belief, biological taxonomy of plants - classification based on reproductive systems - might not have been, in toto, a Western find.

Taxonomy-Amarakosha

Ancient Indian manuscripts, scientists point out, have in-depth references to the same. “While the world credits Carl Linnaeus for biological taxonomy, Parashara’s Amarakosha clearly classifies plants based on their sexual systems,” Rajan said.

Also, ancient Indian botanists had laid great importance on giving plants dual names, one for common identification and one describing their chemical compositions, which the modern world did only a few decades ago.

Rajan complained that lack of Sanskrit knowledge and lack of scientific interest among those with knowledge of the language had hampered more development in the field.

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