Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago
Anglophone Hindus in the 19th century both admired and resented British superiority in the realm of science. One of the responses to this ambivalence among leading Hindus, particularly in Calcutta, was to assert that ancient Indians (as early as Vedic times, c. 2000 BCE) had already made major scientific discoveries, not only in grammar and mathematics (which they had, though not as early as that) but in aeronautics (which they had not, ever). These arguments, which never died out entirely, have now resurfaced in fantastic scientific claims made by the present theocracy of Narenda Modi, claims that are causing great embarrassment to Indian scientists. Why do Indian religious leaders find it necessary to claim scientific knowledge?
Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas: Hinduism and mythology. Her work on mythology addresses themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; while her publications on Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Doniger has written 16 books, translated (primarily from Sanskrit to English) with commentary nine other volumes, has contributed to many edited texts and has written hundreds of articles in journals, magazines and newspapers. Most recently, she edited (together with Jack Miles) the Volume Hinduism for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2014).