# CSS colloquium: Toke Knudsen, State University of New York Oneonta

Mathematical Methods in the Rituals of Ancient India

## Info about event

### Time

### Location

Aud D3 (1531-215)

**ABSTRACT**

The earliest systematic textual presentation of mathematical knowledge in India appears within the context of ritual practices. Known as the rules of the cord—a reference to the fact that cords are used for the practical constructions—the texts give the mathematical rules necessary for measuring out and constructing the arenas and altars used in ancient Indian rituals in the period 800 to 200 BCE. A major portion of these rules is devoted to plane geometry. The rules are by no means trivial as they include fundamental elements of geometry: the Pythagorean theorem, the construction of geometrical figures, the combination of geometrical figures, and the transformation of geometrical figures, such as the quadrature of the circle and the circulature of the square. They also contain an excellent approximation to the square root of 2. In addition to results from geometry, the rules of the cord also provide directions for covering various altars with bricks according to certain rules laid down by the ritual texts. The talk will explain and demonstrate some of the mathematical rules, and will also discuss the social context of the rituals and their execution.

**BIO**

Dr. Toke Knudsen received his Ph.D. in History of Mathematics from Brown University in 2008, and previously studied at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Monash University, Australia. He teaches at State University of New York at Oneonta, where he is Professor of Mathematics, and he is also Associate Editor of Convergence, the Mathematical Association of America’s free online journal about the history of mathematics and its use in teaching. His research interests include cosmography and mathematical astronomy in ancient and medieval India, and the history of mathematics education.

*Coffee, tea, cake and fruit will be served before the colloquium @ 2 pm.*