Office of Public Affairs
(315) 341-2265
Jan. 31, 2001
OSWEGO -- Dr. Alok Kumar of SUNY Oswego's physics department doesn't believe people of different cultures should just try to tolerate each other. "It has never worked in the past," he says. "A much more solid foundation for a diverse society is respect and appreciation for the achievements of various cultures."
That is why he has developed a course on "The Beginnings of Science: A World View" (Physics 303).
The new course, to be offered for the first time next year, has gained support from a private philanthropist. The Infinity Foundation granted Kumar $6,300 to develop portions of the course.
"Our mission is educational reform," says Rajiv Malhotra, the president and founder of the foundation. He says his organization aims to increase multicultural offerings "to bring about a generation which is not too Eurocentric."
He points out that surveys show that "we have a very scanty image and very distorted image of non-Western civilizations."
Of Kumar, he adds, "We are very happy that his course takes a view of science and math that is more global."
Kumar's course explores the origins and diffusion of early scientific ideas. While traditional courses only look at Western civilizations' contributions to science, Kumar's curriculum considers the contributions of the Egyptians, Mayans, Babylonians and Indians, among others.
He points out that the number system now in use comes from India via the Arabs, that Egyptians used dentistry and that descriptions of plastic surgery have been found in a 2,000-year-old Hindu medical text. His examples go on and on, from the complex chemical formulas of mummification to the large number of scientific words with Arabic names.
"Most cultures have derived material benefits and intellectual satisfaction from their attempts to understand physical and biological phenomena," he says. "As a result, in the growth of sciences, influences came from all parts of the world like a thousand capillary venules joining to form the venae cavae magna."
Through the new course and continued writings, Kumar hopes to spread his favorite message about science: "All races and cultures and both genders can do science. It does not belong to one gender or one race or one culture."
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CONTACT: Dr. Alok Kumar, 312-2695

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