An ancient Hindu concept of a chemical laboratory - ACS Publications

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Tan most ancient Indian medical treatises are those of Charak and Susruta. The name of Vagbhata is considered to he the third great name in ancient Indian medical science. The work "Rasaratnasamuccaya" is usually ascribed to Vagbhata though some scholars attribute it to Acvinikumara or Nityanatha.' The probable date of this hook, according to Dr. Jolly, is 1300 A . D . ~ This work is divided into 30 chapters. Chapters I to V deal with various metallic preparations used in Ayurvedic practice of medicine. In these chapters their occurrence, mode of preparation, chemical, physical, and physiological properties are described. Chapter VI deals with the qualities of the teacher and the taught and various kinds of prayers and offerings to be performed by them. In Chapter VII is given the concept of a laboratory. Chapter VIII deals with certain definitions. The description of chemical apparatus and instruments is given in Chapters I X and X. In Chapter X I certain chemical processes are described. The rest of the Chapters XI1 to XXX deal with various diseases and prescriptions for their cure. The rest of this paper is a translation of some of the verses in Chapter VII. The laboratory should be built in a place which is free from disturbances of all kind. The surroundings should be beautiful and all varieties of drugs and chemicals should be available near-by. Near the laboratory should be situated a well or a water tank. (Verse 1) The laboratory should be encircled by a compound wall. It should consist of eight divisions or eight portions. In the east should he established the deityShankara. In the southeast should be furnaces and other arrangements for making fire. The south should have many types of pestle and mortar and other devices for crushing and powdering solid material. The metal or mineral testing section and the workshop for the construction of new apparatus should be placed in the southwest. The west portion of the laboratory should be equipped with arrangements for washmg. In the northwest should he arrangements for drying. The north portion of the laboratory should he resewed for the preparation of drugs and chemicals and the northeast should be used for storing the finished products. (Verses 2. 3. 4) 1 KEITE, A. B. ,"A History of Sanskrit Literature," Oxford, p. 512. 2 JOLLY, J., "Festschrift Windisch," p. 192.

The equipment of the laboratory should consist of: All kinds of instruments and apparatus both on the bigger scale and in portable sizes. Various types of distillation apparatus. Apparatus for extraction of oils. Several types of vessels made of metal and clay for carrying and storing water. Two bellows. Two long tubes of metal or two hollow bamboos. Small vessels (crucibles) made of gold, iron, copper, kansya (an alloy), and stone. Leather apparatus. All other kinds of instruments and apparatus used for preparing and studying drugs. Crushing instruments-stone mills, pestles, and mortars of all shapes and sizes made of stone and metals. Sieves with thousands of holes. Instruments for cutting metals. Big and small vessels of iron and their stirring rods. Etc., etc. (Verses 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) For sieving powders there are three types of sieves. The one made of bamboo sticks tied together with strong thread is used for sifting coarse powders. The second type of sieve is also made from the bamboo. The third type is four fingers (3 in.) high and one iinger spread (9 in.) wide. Its sides are constructed of goatskin and in the middle is fixed either a cloth or horsehair. It is used for sieving fine powders. (Verses 10,13) Five kinds of clay, wheat husk, cotton, wild combustible material, three types of metals, urine of animals, fundamental vegetable drugs, cow dung, sand, white sand, coal, and coke should he collected in the laboratory. (Verses 14,15,16) The laboratory should possess bottles and cups made up of glass, iron, clay, and shells. (Verse 18) Small vessels made up of shell, small conch shells, small knives, instruments for cutting, vessels for heating, and brooms for cleaning should be collected. I n short, all the things required or likely to be required for the study should be gathered and collected. (Verses 21, 22) In this laboratory should he collected physicians who have a thorough knowledge of Nighantu (Medical dictionary), are well versed in the art of preparing medicines, and are conversant with all the languages. (Verse 24)