Acharya Kanad – Conceptualized the Idea of Atomic Theory 2,500 Years Ago

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We all know that the Atomic Theory was developed by an English chemist and physicist John Dalton. The Atomic Theory is a scientific theory of the nature of matter, which states that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms. However, a theory of atoms was actually formulated 2,500 years before Dalton by an Indian sage and philosopher, known as Acharya Kanad.

Acharya Kanad was one of the earliest Indian philosophers (about 600 BCE) and the founder of the Vaisesika School. He was born in Prabhas Kshetra in Gujarat, India. His real name was Kashyap. He was famously known as “Kanad”, as ‘Kan’ in Sanskrit means ‘the smallest particle ‘because of his great advice to the peoples that “a single grain of rice was as important as all the valuable riches in this world”.

Kanad pursued his fascination with the unseen world and with conceptualizing the idea of the smallest particle. He began writing down his ideas and teaching them to others. Thus, people began calling him ‘Acharya’ (the teacher), hence the name Acharya Kanad.

Acharya Kanad Invention of Anu (Atom):

He was the first person in the world to discuss atoms and molecules. Kanad was walking with food in his hand, breaking it into small pieces when he realized that he was unable to divide the food into any further parts, it was too small. From this moment, Kanad conceptualized the idea of a particle that could not be divided any further. He called that indivisible matter Parmanu, or anu (atom).

He told to the people that no matter how small the object could be, it is still a part of the universe. Individual grain might seem useless but the collection could serve as someone’s meal. He said that “every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.” He found out that the universe is made up of “kana” means atoms. He studied atomic theory and found the way atoms move and react with each other.

Acharya Kanad proposed that this indivisible matter could not be sensed through any human organ or seen by the naked eye and that an inherent urge made one Parmanu combine with another. When two Parmanu belonging to one class of substance combined, a dwinuka (binary molecule) was the result. This dwinuka had properties similar to the two parents Parmanu.

Kanad suggested that it was the different combinations of Parmanu which produced different types of substances. He also put forward the idea that atoms could be combined in various ways to produce chemical changes in presence of other factors such as heat. He gave blackening of earthen pot and ripening of fruit as examples of this phenomenon.

Acharya Kanad founded the Vaisheshika School of philosophy where he taught his ideas about the atom and the nature of the universe. He wrote a book on his research “Vaisheshik Darshan” and became known as “The Father of Atomic theory.” Kanad is reporting to have said:”Every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.”

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