Scientia Potentia Est

Science has been an integral part of society, for as long as we can fathom. From the invention of the wheel in the stone age, to the artificial intelligence technology being introduced today, there is science all around us. It has helped in the progression of society in several ways — contributing to history, to important social movements and ultimately, changed the course of humanity along with societal aspects. When looking at Indian scientists, we have had several prominent personalities whose contributions have impacted our history in many important ways. Dr. C.V Raman, Homi J. Bhabha, S. Chandrasekhar, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and G. Ramachandran are some of them. Their groundbreaking discoveries have made them well-known across the globe and brought national pride. Raman won the Nobel Prize in Physics, at a time when our identity was subdued by British colonisation. These individuals served as role models to society, and instilled in us the confidence to have the independence of thought and the ability to dream big for the future. These visionaries did not let their ideas be limited in any way. Today, India which was considered a third-world country, has become a part of the space race against affluent and developed nations like the United States and China. For this, we have the architect of our space programme, Dr. Satish Dhawan to thank. Homi J. Bhabha revolutionised science in India with his research on nuclear physics and the establishment of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. The findings of Ramanujan and Ramachandran now form the basics of mathematical and biological research.

India has a very strong and old relationship with science, with its ancient discoveries about the number system, astrophysics, and medicine, to name a few. Science plays a vital role in various sectors of our society, such as — new mining techniques like Strip Mining, Mountaintop Removal, Dredging, enabled us to extract natural resources. Agriculture has always been a lifeline for India. Even as the manufacturing and service sector has seen a growth spurt, agriculture remains one of the key drivers of the economy with about 50% of the population employed in agriculture. Science has made India an agricultural powerhouse. India’s success in agriculture can be attributed to the Green Revolution, the golden period in the agriculture sector, which facilitated increasing crop yields by manifolds. Improved technology, better crop varieties, new irrigation methods, and chemicals have allowed the country to become self-sufficient and avoid mass famine and starvation.

This entire service sector has been a function of the development of science and technology. The IT sector is the most sought-after sector among the working population and it renders various services like service provision, product maintenance, and consultancy. The Indian IT sector today evaluates at about US$45 billion employing over 4 million people. Healthcare is a pure derivative of science. Faster diagnostic techniques, better equipment, new medication, and vaccinology have helped curb disease and increase life expectancy. The health sector has sustained our population in these COVID times.

Science is a separate and significant type of service. Science helps us understand ourselves, our connections with others, and our interactions with the rest of the world. Every day, the insights we give alter people’s lives. For example, a wide range of public and commercial sector organizations are leveraging our insights to tackle a wide range of extremely large challenges. These issues include global poverty, national security, child development, and local safety. Around the world, scientific findings are assisting businesses, first responders, and many others in providing important services with increased precision and efficiency.

Today, the sciences supply information in a wide range of fields. Multiple generations of fundamental and applied social scientists are collaborating to provide students and practitioners with new abilities to better handle our time’s problems and explore new possibilities. Scientists play an important role not only in avoiding inappropriate and dangerous decisions, but also in advising policymakers and other stakeholders on the best and wisest steps to take toward a human-centered society, thereby fostering scientific knowledge and enhancing cross-cultural connections and collaborative research. Science and humanities are not separate, but rather intertwined means of learning about the world. Both have a sense of reality that transcends time and space, which explains their shared interest in a fixed ‘human nature.’ This is linked to a contemplative manner of thinking and a sense of knowing.

Homi J Bhabha, Architect of India’s nuclear programme (left) and Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi, first Indian woman physician (right)

Apart from the aforementioned social aspects, science has also noticeably contributed towards women empowerment in several ways. Inventions have had an interesting part to play in this — in times when women were constrained by mobility, bicycles offered them an accessible form of transportation that could be used for any purpose, whether work or leisure. It gave many women access to the public sphere and subsequently, assisted their struggle to exist in it without a male escort. Birth control pills were another revolutionary discovery that had a strong social impact. They allowed women the freedom of reproductive choice, encouraged family planning and postponed the age of marriage and childbearing, and encouraged women to devote time to studies and career development. This further contributed to the breakdown of the traditional family hierarchy, in which men’s careers were given far more importance than the women’s.

Women have been assisted by technology in household chores, as well as in business. Women who run independent businesses or home-based stores have also found a way to use mobile operated financial services in the absence of banking facilities, and have been able to develop a valuable revenue stream for themselves, asserting their financial independence.

Over the years, there has been a considerable gender disparity at all levels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields around the world. Despite significant progress in boosting women’s involvement in higher education, they remain under-represented in these disciplines. Women are pioneering groundbreaking research all throughout the world. Despite their outstanding findings, women continue to account for only 33.3% of global researchers, and their work is rarely recognised.

Marie Curie, a Polish physicist, studied at the Sorbonne, where she became the head of the physics lab in the early 1900s, a time when women were not allowed to teach science at European institutions and pioneered research in radioactivity. For her discoveries, she won the Nobel twice. Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi was the first Indian woman physician and the first woman in the United States to graduate with a two-year degree in Western Medicine. Janaki Ammal, Anna Mani are two other famous names who paved the way for Indian women in science. Women were at the forefront of India’s successful Mars Orbiter Mission.

Science is playing an important role in our society, and greatly contributing towards social causes and movements. By its assistance in several sectors, social causes, and women empowerment, we can see the way it is changing the world around us, and inspiring everyone to develop and ideate about new ways they can help their communities. Overall, it is necessary to realize how significant science has been as a catalyst for development, and continue to let it inspire us to progress further.

Written by Aditi Jain, Sarthak Mathur, Ishita Sarkar and Chriswin Harris.

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