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Gandhi As a Scientist

Pankaj S. Joshi*

Gandhi and Science

Was Gandhi anti-Science and anti-machines? That he had a `retrograde' mentality and an opposed setup of mind, rejecting `modern progress', has been one of the biggest accusation against him of the intelligentia, policy makers and planners. As a result, the Gandhian thought and the way of life he suggested and advocated have found very little place or even any mention, whenever thinkers and planners sit together to look up and make the future road-maps for the nations and the society, both at the public and Government levels.

In fact, we often hear a statement in this connection, especially within India, that, yes Gandhi was great as a Saint, he was a Mahatma who moved the masses because he had a very superb understanding of the people, but he has had very little understanding on modern Economics, and actually no interest in Science, which are the real drivers and backbone of the modern world and the rapidly progressing societies today. The world is moving and changing today at a breathtaking pace and speed, and without science and technology there is no hope of keeping up with the competition, so how could Gandhi be relevant in such an arena and scenario when he only negatively thought on modern Science and development? This is the kind of sentiment and statement we often come across, if Gandhian elements are at all raised at any official meeting of planners and policy makers.

But is it really true that Gandhi was actually anti-science? What do the records and the writings, and his deeds and statements tell us on this? I have tried to examine and investigate the subject, trying to explore it in some detail. This talk was given at the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, Ahmedabad, where I gave the first Kakasaheb Kalelkar Lecture, for the new lecture series that the Parishad initiated. Very useful discussions took place on the occasion on the subject, with noted Gandhian Shri Narayan Desai also presenting his views, comments and perspective, as available from his personal interactions with both Gandhi and Kakasaheb Kalelkar. In fact, he pointed out that Kakasaheb made Gandhi an astronomy fan, and they at times watched and observed the night sky together!

I sincerely hope, the thoughts and work presented here will be of some use to the Gandhian thinkers and workers, as well as it may be of interest to any intelligent person in general. I believe the subject to be of interest and relevance, because only after we understand Gandhi correctly in this connection, it may be at all possible to incorporate and include him in the dialogue when we think and talk of the road-map for our societies and the nation for the future ahead.

Of course, no claim to completeness is made in this small study here. While I have tried to see certain segments of the Gandhian literature with the help of his `Collected Works', I am sure much more remains to be explored in this connection. I have the fond hope that this may inspire some others to possibly take up such an important task in a greater detail.  We note that most of the quotations given here are taken from the CWMG (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi).
 

Gandhi and Science

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* Pankaj S. Joshi is a Scientist and astrophysicist working as a Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. His main fields of research are Cosmology, Astrophysics and the General Theory of Relativity. He has published more than a hundred and fifty research papers in various reputed international journals as well as conference proceedings. His work is also published in the form of research monographs, by the Oxford University Press (`Global aspects in gravitation and cosmology'), and also the Cambridge University Press ('Gravitational collapse and spacetime singularities'), in their reputed monograph series.

He has won many recognitions for his work internationally. The well-known `Scientific American' magazine included and displayed his work as their international cover story article in 2009, which was translated in more than seventeen international languages. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India, and a winner of the Gravity Research Foundation prize (USA), amongst other recognitions.