Sarah Qidwai (Regensburg)

Translating Scientific Knowledge in 19th Century British India


Ort: Historicum K 327

Zeit: 16-18 Uhr

In 1844, Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), founder of Aligarh Muslim University, published a translation titled Tashil fi Jar-e Saqil (Principles of Machines) in India. This publication, an Urdu translation of a Persian text, was an extract of an Arabic risala (a short treatise) from Yemeni scholar. In Tashil, Sayyid Ahmad translated the use of various machines that could lift heavy objects, cut hard material, and squeeze intractable matter. This text was his first attempt to popularize scientific texts into a local vernacular language; Urdu in this instance. From the 1860s onwards, he moved away from Persian sources and started focusing on English texts. In 1864, he established a society in Ghazipur called The Scientific Society. The society's stated purpose was to translate historical and scientific texts from English to Urdu.

In this paper, using Sayyid Ahmad as a case study, I will highlight the complexities that arise when we examine the reconfiguration of scientific knowledge in a multilingual colonial context with pre-existing knowledge communities and longstanding intellectual traditions. In this case, Sayyid Ahmad's translations moved away from Persian sources to English ones, but the translations were always in Urdu. By outlining Sayyid Ahmad's intellectual and linguistic shifts, we can begin understanding scientific translations in British India through a new lens, one that focuses on the local context.

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars "Perspektiven der Wissenschaftsgeschichte".