This dissertation seeks to critically review the birth and progress of mineral processing to modem chemistry during the three momentous centuries (lGthto 181h) in medieval Europe. It has been necessary to record as a prelude, the progress on minerals, metals and chemistry in the ancient and medieval India, and to review the thirteenth century mineral processing text Rasa-Ratna-Samuccaya. since the 13 century marked the transition in the medieval world: decline of the Indian and Arab sciences, the Mongol invasion and the gradual ascent of the West.
Georgius Agricola’ s (1494-1555) monumental work De Re Metallica signified not only a turning point in the annals of mineral processing, but also the first ever questioning of alchemy. What was the nature of scientific renaissance of Europe which permitted the early development of modem astronomy, but not of modem chemistry for two centuries, till Lavoisier showed us the way? The author has examined this question in detail, and also another in a thread bare fashion: why scientific renaissance did not occur in India when it took place in Europe.
This monograph contains numerous illustrations for which we are deeply indebted to various pioneers such as the M.I.T. Archives, the Dover Publication, New York etc. The present author has designed the JACKET of the book displaying three illustrations : (1) the first ever 16th century German stamp mill for mineral comminution driven by natural water power, (2) the 13 century Indian vmtãka müsi, brm;al-shaped retort, used for reduction of zinc ore and downward distillation of the metal (scientifically investigated by the present author at the IIT, Kanpur during the 1980’s), and (3) Lavoisier’s apparatus (1789) demonstrating absorption of the ‘oxygen’ part in air in heated mercury, and calcinations of the resultant mercuric oxide to produce the identical quantity of the first ever christened modem element.
Prof. Dr. Arjun Kumar Biswas (1934-) has specialized in several areas professionally Applied Chemistry Mineral Engineering Metallurgy History of Science and Civilization and Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Literature.
A student at the Calcutta University and the Massachusetts Institute of technology USA the author has been a Prof. at the Indian Institute of technology Kanpur (1963-1995) the Mahendralal Sircar Research Prof. in History of Science at the Asiatic Society Kolkata (1995-2001) Visiting Prof. at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla (2002) the Emeritus AICTE fellow at the Jadavpur University (2001-2004) and the INSA history of Science Research fellow (2004-10).
Author of over 100 technical papers and 20 monographs some edited multiauthored volumes Prof. Biswas has built his international reputation on the frontline research publications in mineral engineering Ramakrishna Vivekananda Literature trilogy publications on the science Pioneers in India Mahendralal and Lafont INSA papers on history of science and the DK Print world publications on Minerals and metals in Ancient and Medieval India Science in Archaeology and Archaeomaterials. Now this latest monograph related to the emergence of mineral engineering and modern chemistry in the pre modern world is being published by the Asiatic Society.
The Present volume Mineral Processing to Elemental Science in the Medieval world India and Europe by Arun Kumar Biswas is the outcome of a research project funded by the Indian National Science Academy New Delhi. The Asiatic Society has provided the infrastructural facilities for the project. The book describes the birth stories of mineral processing to modern chemistry in medieval Europe. The story started with mentioning the extensive studies of Georgius Agricola in his monumental work De Re Metallica Published in 1556 which in the opinion of the author heralded the turning point in the annals of not only the subject of mineral processing but also of scientific renaissance in the world. In later chapter Prof. Biswas has shown how the rising West during the period was impressed with the Indian Traditions in this field. Finally he has raised two important questions on the link between the study of history of Science to planning of Science to the society unless it works in tandem with other positive approaches and values such as spirituality secularism and socialism.
I hope the students of history of science and the scholars will be immensely benefited by the Book.
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