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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘The Unknown D. D. Kosambi’, 31st July, 2014


Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi was many things to many people. Phi beta kappa scholar and Harvard graduate, mathematics professor, historian, archaeologist, epigraphist, polyglot, numismatist, sanskritist, indologist, marxist: the list of his identities and his personae is a long and varied one. The range and nature of Kosambi’s contributions to mathematics remain largely unknown to scholars in the social sciences. This is unfortunate since mathematics was the one constant and consistent preoccupation of his professional life, and, it can be argued, his major contributions in other areas such as history and numismatics were informed and moulded by his knowledge and style of mathematics. Even his translation of Bhartrhari was occasioned by his being asked to give an opinion upon points concerning ancient Indian mathematics. In this talk the speaker will discuss Kosambi’s mathematical life, his professional trajectory, his obsessions and his preoccupations, drawing upon a (hitherto unavailable) complete bibliography of his mathematics papers- which are in English, German, French, Japanese and Chinese- as well as critique of his work that appeared in contemporary reviews. In particular, the talk will describe the nature of the work that built his mathematical reputation, the papers that essentially destroyed it, and the circumstances that led to his losing his position at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay.


Prof. Ramaswamy has an M.Sc from IIT Kanpur and Ph.D. from Princeton University, USA. He is currently Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad, since June 2011, Professor at the School of Physical Sciences, and Centre for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is also Chairman, National Council of Rural Institutes, Hyderabad and Vice President and Editor of Publications, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.He has over 150 journal publications and book articles relating to chemical dynamics, classical and quantum chaos, semiclassical quantization, disordered systems and statistical physics, molecular dynamics and cluster physics, computational biology and genomics. Prof. Ramaswamy was Elected Fellow of TWAS—the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, 2008; was awarded The J C Bose Fellowship of the Department of Science and Technology, India, 2008; Elected Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi 2007; Santa Fe Institute International Fellow (2000-2001); and of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.

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