Kim Plofker

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed May 31 16:43:35 UTC 2000

On Fri, 26 May 2000, Dinesh Maheshwari wrote (about Plofker):

> She was a student of Professor David Pingree  and does subscribe to
> Dr Pingree's school of thought  regarding history of Indian Mathematics.

I don't think Prof. Pingree would consider himself as having a "school of
thought".  He has done more than anyone else to research the prosopography
and content of the jyotisa tradition, and as is perfectly natural he holds
various views on various topics.  But his work doesn't amount to founding
a school in any normal sense of the word.

> Perhaps you already know that Dr Pingree's work is a large compilation
> of history of Indian mathematics and astronomy but is unfortunately not
> thorough with regards to early Indian mathematics/astronomy and is
> in contradiction with the deeper analysis by mathematicians and historians
> like  A. Siedenberg etc.

Again, I think this is misleadingly expressed (at least).  Pingree's opus
to date is far more substantial than the word "compilation" suggests.  He
has edited and translated many texts, written umpteen interpretative
articles, scores of books, and catalogued many thousands of manuscripts.
His monumental CESS could be called a compilation, I suppose, but it
contains a huge amount of original scholarship.

Pingree's work is indeed thorough.  If you wanted to choose one adjective
to use to disparage his work, this is a particularly unfortunate one,
since nobody has published work of the level of thoroughness and
comprehensiveness of Pingree's CESS, Sanskrit Astral Literature, and other
works.  His recent analysis of the jyotisa traditions in Bikaner and
elsewhere based on the Anup Sanskrit Library catalogue (in "From Babylon
to Bikaner") is a staggeringly thorough tour-de-force, to take a single

To call Seidenberg's (note spelling) work "deeper" is to do no more than
express an emotional preference for the work.  That is fine, but it is not
scholarship.  Seidenberg's work is different, not deeper.  He comes to
different conclusions.  That's not deep, particularly.

A small number of Pingree's arguments are unpopular amongst people who
want to valorize the history of Indian science as a priority.  But the
establishing of truth in this area is a matter for very detailed and
careful scholarship, carried out by experts.  In his many critical
editions of foundation texts, including the Yavanajataka and the
Pancasiddhantika, as well as in CESS and other survey works, Pingree has
himself provided much of the basic foundational evidence that future
scholars need to take up these questions.

It just won't do to try to denigrate Pingree's scholarship with vague,
general characterizations.  If you like the heat, get into the kitchen!

Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list.

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