Anuj Misra

Anuj Misra

Marie Curie Fellow

Dr Anuj Misra is a historian of mathematics who works on medieval and early modern sources in Sanskrit mathematical astronomy. He is currently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow hosted by the Institut for Tværkulturelle og Regionale Studier (University of Copenhagen) to complete his research project Early Modern Exchanges in Sanskrit Astral Sciences (EMESAS, Grant No. 836055, 2019–2021).  

Dr Misra obtained his PhD in Mathematics from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) in 2016 with his dissertation on geometrical thought in seventeenth-century Sanskrit mathematical astronomy. His doctoral dissertation won him the 2016 Young Historian of Science Award confered by the Indian National Science Academy. Since graduating, he has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Germany (2018–2019) and at the Systèmes de Référence Temps Espace (SYRTE) Laboratory of l'Observatoire de Paris in France (2017–2018). He continues to maintain an affiliation with the SYRTE Laboratory of l'Observatoire de Paris to work on the CNRS-funded Digital Information System for the History of Astral Sciences (DISHAS) project in digital humanities.

Current research

Early Modern Exchanges in Sanskrit Mathematical Astronomy (EMESAS)

In the course of its development, the pre-modern astral sciences, and in particular mathematical astronomy, provided explanations for various terrestrial and celestial phenomena. This development was nurtured in part by cross-cultural interactions during different periods of its history. A study of the mathematical practices of a culture not only offers us an opportunity to examine the history of scientific thought as new and old ideas get challenged, accommodated, and adapted, it also gives us an insight into the changing nature of what is considered as science in that society. 

Within its own tradition, Indian astral sciences (jyotiḥśāstra) has enjoyed considerable scholarly attention from very early times. However, within the broader framework of the global discipline of History of Science, the Indian contribution remains marginally represented and insufficiently studied. From the early 20th century, scholars like Otto Eduard Neugebauer and David Pingree began carefully investigating the scientific exchanges between Babylonian, Græco-Islamic and Indian astronomy. More recently, scholars like S. M. Razaullah Ansari, S. R. Sarma and Kim Plofker have highlighted the mathematical and technological developments in Indian astronomy during the late medieval period (c. 1300 to 1800 CE) of its history, whereas others like Christopher Minkowski and Audrey Truschke have written about the cultural context of the Indo-Islamic world where these developments were situated. These studies not only illustrate how Sanskrit mathematical astronomy (gaṇita jyotiṣa) synergised indigenous innovations and exogenous ideas within the broader paradigms of traditional Indian science (śāstra), but they also motivate the need to investigate further the conceptual dynamics that shaped gaṇita jyotiṣa in medieval India, particularly, in connection to the other limb of jyotiḥśāstra—natural astrology (saṃhitā). 

With the EMESAS project, I investigate the influence of medieval Islamicate ideas in Sanskrit works of mathematical astronomy composed in the Mughal courts of early modern India (c. 1500 to 1800 CE). This study examines for the very first time a selection of early 17th century Sanskrit texts from the Mughal period in order to identify and analyse various knowledge elements like computational methods, geometrical arguments, astronomical models, geographical descriptions, astrological interpretations, mythological narratives, etc. found in these texts. Understanding these knowledge elements—in the fullness of their technical complexities, literary structures, and historical context—offers an opportunity to examine the process of transmission, assimilation, reformulation, syncretisation, or rejection of Græco-Islamicate ideas in early modern Sanskrit mathematical astronomy. The ambition of the EMESAS project is to reveal how Indian mathematical thinking of the seventeenth century came to be affected by its engagement with Islamicate (Ptolemaic) science at the courts of the Mughal kings. 

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