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Madhava of Sangamagrama

Madhava of Sangamagrama

Indian mathematician and astronomer
Madhava of Sangamagrama
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Indian mathematician and astronomer
Was Astronomer Mathematician
From India
Type Mathematics Science
Gender male
Birth 1 January 1350, Kerala, India
Death 1 January 1425, India (aged 75 years)
Residence Sangamagrama, Thrissur district, Kerala, India
Peoplepill ID madhava-of-sangamagrama
The details (from wikipedia)


Mādhava of Sangamagrāma (c. 1340 – c. 1425), was a mathematician and astronomer from the town of Sangamagrama (believed to be present-day Aloor, Irinjalakuda in Thrissur District), Kerala, India. He is considered the founder of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics. He was the first to use infinite series approximations for a range of trigonometric functions, which has been called the "decisive step onward from the finite procedures of ancient mathematics to treat their limit-passage to infinity". One of the greatest mathematician-astronomers of the Middle Ages, Madhava made pioneering contributions to the study of infinite series, calculus, trigonometry, geometry, and algebra.

Some scholars have also suggested that Madhava's work, through the writings of the Kerala school, may have been transmitted to Europe via Jesuit missionaries and traders who were active around the ancient port of Muziris at the time. As a result, it may have had an influence on later European developments in analysis and calculus.


Madhava was born as Irińńaŗappiļļy or Iriññinavaļļi Mādhava . He had written that his house name was related to the Vihar where a plant called "bakuļam" was planted. According to Achyuta Pisharati, (who wrote a commentary on Veṇvāroha written by Madhava) bakuļam was locally known as "iraňňi". According to K. V. Sarma, the house name is either Irińńāŗappiļļy or Iriññinavaļļy'.

Irinjalakuda was once known as 'Irińńāţikuţal'. Sangamagrāmam (lit. sangamam = union, grāmam = village) is a rough translation to Sanskrit from Dravidian word 'Irińńāţikuţal', which means virinja aalkkuda(Swollen banyan tree like umbrella). Sangamagrama can be a Sankrit version of the place name Koodallur.


Although there is some evidence of mathematical work in Kerala prior to Madhava (e.g., Sadratnamala c. 1300, a set of fragmentary results), it is clear from citations that Madhava provided the creative impulse for the development of a rich mathematical tradition in medieval Kerala. However, most of Madhava's original work (except a couple of them) is lost. He is referred to in the work of subsequent Kerala mathematicians, particularly in Nilakantha Somayaji's Tantrasangraha (c. 1500), as the source for several infinite series expansions, including sinθ and arctanθ. The 16th-century text Mahajyānayana prakāra (Method of Computing Great Sines) cites Madhava as the source for several series derivations for π. In Jyeṣṭhadeva's Yuktibhāṣā (c. 1530), written in Malayalam, these series are presented with proofs in terms of the Taylor series expansions for polynomials like 1/(1+x2), with x = tanθ, etc.

Thus, what is explicitly Madhava's work is a source of some debate. The Yukti-dipika (also called the Tantrasangraha-vyakhya), possibly composed by Sankara Variyar, a student of Jyeṣṭhadeva, presents several versions of the series expansions for sinθ, cosθ, and arctanθ, as well as some products with radius and arclength, most versions of which appear in Yuktibhāṣā. For those that do not, Rajagopal and Rangachari have argued, quoting extensively from the original Sanskrit, that since some of these have been attributed by Nilakantha to Madhava, possibly some of the other forms might also be the work of Madhava.

Others have speculated that the early text Karanapaddhati (c. 1375–1475), or the Mahajyānayana prakāra might have been written by Madhava, but this is unlikely.

Karanapaddhati, along with the even earlier Keralese mathematics text Sadratnamala, as well as the Tantrasangraha and Yuktibhāṣā, were considered in an 1834 article by Charles Matthew Whish, which was the first to draw attention to their priority over Newton in discovering the Fluxion (Newton's name for differentials). In the mid-20th century, the Russian scholar Jushkevich revisited the legacy of Madhava, and a comprehensive look at the Kerala school was provided by Sarma in 1972.


Explanation of the sine rule in Yuktibhāṣā

There are several known astronomers who preceded Madhava, including Kǖţalur Kizhār (2nd century), Vararuci (4th century), and Sankaranarayana (866 AD). It is possible that other unknown figures may have preceded him. However, we have a clearer record of the tradition after Madhava. Parameshvara was a direct disciple. According to a palmleaf manuscript of a Malayalam commentary on the Surya Siddhanta, Parameswara's son Damodara (c. 1400–1500) had both Nilakantha Somayaji as his disciples. Jyeshtadevan was the disciple of Nilakanda. Achyuta Pisharati of

Trikkantiyur is mentioned as a disciple of Jyeṣṭhadeva, and the grammarian Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri as his disciple.


If we consider mathematics as a progression from finite processes of algebra to considerations of the infinite, then the first steps towards this transition typically come with infinite series expansions. It is this transition to the infinite series that is attributed to Madhava. In Europe, the first such series were developed by James Gregory in 1667. Madhava's work is notable for the series, but what is truly remarkable is his estimate of an error term (or correction term). This implies that the limit nature of the infinite series was quite well understood by him. Thus, Madhava may have invented the ideas underlying infinite series expansions of functions, power series, trigonometric series, and rational approximations of infinite series.

However, as stated above, which results are precisely Madhava's and which are those of his successors, are somewhat difficult to determine. The following presents a summary of results that have been attributed to Madhava by various scholars.

Infinite series

Among his many contributions, he discovered the infinite series for the trigonometric functions of sine, cosine, tangent and arctangent, and many methods for calculating the circumference of a circle. One of Madhava's series is known from the text Yuktibhāṣā, which contains the derivation and proof of the power series for inverse tangent, discovered by Madhava. In the text, Jyeṣṭhadeva describes the series in the following manner:

This yields:

r θ = r sin θ cos θ ( 1 / 3 ) r ( sin θ ) 3 ( cos θ ) 3 + ( 1 / 5 ) r ( sin θ ) 5 ( cos θ ) 5 ( 1 / 7 ) r ( sin θ ) 7 ( cos θ ) 7 + {\displaystyle r\theta ={\frac {r\sin \theta }{\cos \theta }}-(1/3)\,r\,{\frac {\left(\sin \theta \right)^{3}}{\left(\cos \theta \right)^{3}}}+(1/5)\,r\,{\frac {\left(\sin \theta \right)^{5}}{\left(\cos \theta \right)^{5}}}-(1/7)\,r\,{\frac {\left(\sin \theta \right)^{7}}{\left(\cos \theta \right)^{7}}}+\cdots }

or equivalently:

θ = tan θ tan 3 θ 3 + tan 5 θ 5 tan 7 θ 7 + {\displaystyle \theta =\tan \theta -{\frac {\tan ^{3}\theta }{3}}+{\frac {\tan ^{5}\theta }{5}}-{\frac {\tan ^{7}\theta }{7}}+\cdots }

This series is Gregory's series (named after James Gregory, who rediscovered it three centuries after Madhava). Even if we consider this particular series as the work of Jyeṣṭhadeva, it would pre-date Gregory by a century, and certainly other infinite series of a similar nature had been worked out by Madhava. Today, it is referred to as the Madhava-Gregory-Leibniz series.


Madhava composed an accurate table of sines. Marking a quarter circle at twenty-four equal intervals, he gave the lengths of the half-chord (sines) corresponding to each of them. It is believed that he may have computed these values based on the series expansions:

sin q = q – q3/3! + q5/5! – q7/7! +...
cos q = 1 – q2/2! + q4/4! – q6/6! +...

The value of π (pi)

Madhava's work on the value of the mathematical constant Pi is cited in the Mahajyānayana prakāra ("Methods for the great sines"). While some scholars such as Sarma feel that this book may have been composed by Madhava himself, it is more likely the work of a 16th-century successor. This text attributes most of the expansions to Madhava, and gives the following infinite series expansion of π, now known as the Madhava-Leibniz series:

π 4 = 1 1 3 + 1 5 1 7 + = n = 1 ( 1 ) n 1 2 n 1 {\displaystyle {\frac {\pi }{4}}=1-{\frac {1}{3}}+{\frac {1}{5}}-{\frac {1}{7}}+\cdots =\sum _{n=1}^{\infty }{\frac {(-1)^{n-1}}{2n-1}}}

which he obtained from the power series expansion of the arc-tangent function. However, what is most impressive is that he also gave a correction term, Rn, for the error after computing the sum up to n terms. Madhava gave three expressions for a correction term Rn, to be appended to the sum of n terms, namely

Rn = (-1)n/(4n), or
Rn = ((-1)n⋅n)/ (4n2 + 1), or
Rn = (-1)n⋅(n2 + 1) / (4n3 + 5n).

where the third correction leads to highly accurate computations of π.

It has long been speculated how Madhava might have found these correction terms. They are the first three convergents of a finite continued fraction which, when combined with the original Madhava's series evaluated to n terms, yields about 3n/2 correct digits:

π 4 1 1 3 + 1 5 1 7 + + ( 1 ) n 1 2 n 1 + ( 1 ) n 4 n + 1 2 n + 2 2 4 n + 3 2 n + 4 2 . . . + . . . . . . + n 2 n [ 4 3 ( n mod 2 ) ] {\displaystyle {\frac {\pi }{4}}\approx 1-{\frac {1}{3}}+{\frac {1}{5}}-{\frac {1}{7}}+\cdots +{\frac {\left(-1\right)^{n-1}}{2n-1}}+{\frac {\left(-1\right)^{n}}{4n+{\frac {1^{2}}{n+{\frac {2^{2}}{4n+{\frac {3^{2}}{n+{\frac {4^{2}}{...+{\frac {...}{...+{\frac {n^{2}}{n\left[4-3\left(n{\bmod {2}}\right)\right]}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

The absolute value of the correction term in next higher order is

|Rn| = (4n3 + 13n) / (16n4 + 56n2 + 9).

He also gave a more rapidly converging series by transforming the original infinite series of π, obtaining the infinite series

π = 12 ( 1 1 3 3 + 1 5 3 2 1 7 3 3 + ) {\displaystyle \pi ={\sqrt {12}}\left(1-{1 \over 3\cdot 3}+{1 \over 5\cdot 3^{2}}-{1 \over 7\cdot 3^{3}}+\cdots \right)}

By using the first 21 terms to compute an approximation of π, he obtains a value correct to 11 decimal places (3.14159265359). The value of 3.1415926535898, correct to 13 decimals, is sometimes attributed to Madhava, but may be due to one of his followers. These were the most accurate approximations of π given since the 5th century (see History of numerical approximations of π).

The text Sadratnamala, usually considered as prior to Madhava, appears to give the astonishingly accurate value of π =3.14159265358979324 (correct to 17 decimal places). Based on this, R. Gupta has argued that this text may also have been composed by Madhava.


Madhava also carried out investigations into other series for arc lengths and the associated approximations to rational fractions of π, found methods of polynomial expansion, discovered tests of convergence of infinite series, and the analysis of infinite continued fractions. He also discovered the solutions of transcendental equations by iteration, and found the approximation of transcendental numbers by continued fractions.


Madhava laid the foundations for the development of calculus, which were further developed by his successors at the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics. (It should be noted that certain ideas of calculus were known to earlier mathematicians.) Madhava also extended some results found in earlier works, including those of Bhāskara II. It is uncertain however whether any of these ideas were transmitted to the west. The calculus was discovered completely independently by Isaac Newton and Leibniz ( independently of each other too! ).

Madhava's works

K.V. Sarma has identified Madhava as the author of the following works:

  1. Golavada
  2. Madhyamanayanaprakara
  3. Mahajyanayanaprakara (Method of Computing Great Sines)
  4. Lagnaprakarana (लग्नप्रकरण)
  5. Venvaroha (वेण्वारोह)
  6. Sphutacandrapti (स्फुटचन्द्राप्ति)
  7. Aganita-grahacara (अगणित-ग्रहचार)
  8. Chandravakyani (चन्द्रवाक्यानि) (Table of Moon-mnemonics)

Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics

The Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics flourished for at least two centuries beyond Madhava. In Jyeṣṭhadeva we find the notion of integration, termed sankalitam, (lit. collection), as in the statement:

ekadyekothara pada sankalitam samam padavargathinte pakuti,

which translates as the integration a variable (pada) equals half that variable squared (varga); i.e. The integral of x dx is equal to x2 / 2. This is clearly a start to the process of integral calculus. A related result states that the area under a curve is its integral. Most of these results pre-date similar results in Europe by several centuries. In many senses, Jyeshthadeva's Yuktibhāṣā may be considered the world's first calculus text.

The group also did much other work in astronomy; indeed many more pages are developed to astronomical computations than are for discussing analysis related results.

The Kerala school also contributed much to linguistics (the relation between language and mathematics is an ancient Indian tradition, see Katyayana). The ayurvedic and poetic traditions of Kerala can also be traced back to this school. The famous poem, Narayaneeyam, was composed by Narayana Bhattathiri.


Madhava has been called "the greatest mathematician-astronomer of medieval India", or as "the founder of mathematical analysis; some of his discoveries in this field show him to have possessed extraordinary intuition." O'Connor and Robertson state that a fair assessment of Madhava is that he took the decisive step towards modern classical analysis.

Possible propagation to Europe

The Kerala school was well known in the 15th and 16th centuries, in the period of the first contact with European navigators in the Malabar Coast. At the time, the port of Muziris, near Sangamagrama, was a major center for maritime trade, and a number of Jesuit missionaries and traders were active in this region. Given the fame of the Kerala school, and the interest shown by some of the Jesuit groups during this period in local scholarship, some scholars, including G. Joseph of the U. Manchester have suggested that the writings of the Kerala school may have also been transmitted to Europe around this time, which was still about a century before Newton.

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