A history of the Scientific Society

By Afzal Usmani,

The Aligarh Movement was not an instant phenomenon. It took its shape in many many years and was started even before Sir Syed moved to his final home Aligarh. Among the first step towards establishing M.A.O. College and Aligarh Movement was establishment of Scientific Society at Ghazipur in 1864. This was a new beginning of Cooperation between Indians and British and among Indian intellectuals living in British India. Here is a brief history of Scientific Society and establishment of Aligarh Institute.

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In 1860, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was transferred from Muradabad to Ghazipur. The stay of Sir Syed in Ghazipur is a milestone in his life. This was the place where Sir Syed took additional responsibility other than creative writings. He established a personal printing press in 1962 for his publications, an English medium school in 1963 and established Scientific Society in 1964. The Scientific Society established at Ghazipur on 9th January, 1864 and later shifted to Aligarh when Sir Syed was transferred to Aligarh. This became a focal point of his dream project which later shaped up as The Aligarh Movement.

Sir Syed House (Office of Scientific Society)

On 9th January, 1864 Scientific Society was founded at the residence of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in Ghazipur. The key element of his dream movement, social collaboration was intact and a large number of his Indians and British friends were present on the occasion. The welcome address was delivered by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the requested Mr. G.F.I. Graham, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Ghazipur to make introductory remarks. In his introductory remarks Mr. Graham emphasized the need of the society and passionately appealed everyone to support the newly formed Scientific Society. He proposed the name of Mr. B. Spate, District Collector of Ghazipur to preside over the meeting. In the meeting, Sir Syed presented the by-laws of the society which was unanimously approved by the attendees. Sir Syed announced the name of 109 people who had accepted the membership of the newly formed society. It’s worth mentioning here that the concept of Society was accepted by everyone irrespective of religion and color and creed. Out of 109, 28 members were British, 34 Hindus and 47 were Muslims. Elections were held for Directing Council, Executive Council and other office bearers. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Mr. G.F.I. Graham were elected as Secretaries of the newly established Scientific Society. Mr.B. Spate delivered the presidential address and the meeting was ended with vote of thanks.

Aims & Objective of Scientific Society:

1. The name of the society will be Scientific Society.
2. Translation of educational & technical literature from English and European language to Indian languages.
3. Publication of rarely available books by Indian writers
4. Society will not have any business with religious books.

Head Office: The permanent office of The Scientific Society will be at Allahabad (UP).

The society had three types of Membership:
1. Assistant Members
2. Associate Members ( Maximum 5 members)
3. Honorary Members ( Maximum 10 members)

Society will consist of Directing Council / Advisory Council and Executive Council.

Executive Council will comprise of President, Vice-Presidents, Secretaries and Treasurers. There will be a total of 11 members from Honorary & Assistant members in the Executive Council.

Founding President: Mr. B. Spate (District Collector of Ghazipur)

Vice-President: Mr. M. Bradhost & Mr. Rai Baldev Bakhsh

Secretaries: Lieutenant Colonel George Farquhar Irving Graham & Saiyad Ahmad, Khan Bahadur

Sir Syed believed that the best education is the one which is imparted to the students in their native language or mother tongue. In 1867, he submitted a memorandum to the Viceroy on behalf of the British Indian Association for the establishment of a University, which will impart the knowledge of western sciences and other disciplines through the medium of Urdu language. The scientific society was therefore entrusted with the task of arranging Urdu translation of standard works.

Foundation Stone of Scientific Society

In the first meeting of Scientific Society, a list of books to be translated and published by society was prepared and circulated among the members for the feedback and comment. On 12th March 1864, second meeting of Scientific Society was held and the comments, feedback and concerns were presented before the members. Sir Syed clarified all the concerns raised by members and well wishers. Comprehensive lists of 28 books and journals were short listed for the translation and publication by Scientific Society.

The prominent books and journals were;

1. History of India : Elphinstone
2. Steam Mills : W.J. M. Corn Reen Kyne
3. History of Modern India : T. Morrison
4. Encyclopedia of Geography
5. History of Civilization : Adam Smith
6. Journal of European Agricultural Equipments
7. History of China : (Translated by ) Mohammad Zaman alias Khirangi Khan
8. Catalogue of books of oriental studies
9. Journal of Geology : John Philips
10. History of Iran : Sir John Malcolm
11. History of Bhopal : Sir John Malcolm
12. History of Spain (Andulus) during muslim rein : Shaikhullah Al-Sabah Al-Mitri
13. Journal of Agricultural Science
14. History of Alexander the great
15. Court of Jehangeer, The Mughal Ruler of India
16. Journal of Physics : J.J. Griffin
17. Durre-Baab – Ilm-e-Sanskirit : Max Miller
18. Speeches of Alexander : Aristotle
19. Political Economy
20. Discovery reports of Bihar and Gorakhpur : General Cunningham
21. Logic : Dailey
22. Techniques of Nature : Mr. Will
23. Testimony of the Rocks : Millers
24. Techniques of Conclusion : Boucle
25. Journal of Disaster : Boucle
26. ——-
27. ——-
28. ——-

Foundation Stone of Aligarh Institute

The Scieintific Society appointed Babu Ganga Parsad and Maulvi Fayyazul Hasan for the translation and Munshi Mohammad Yaar Khan for the management of the work on full time basis. By 1867, the following books were published by Scientific Society;

1. History of Greek (Taareekh-e-Unan) by Rollen – 3 volumes
2. History of Egypt (Taareekh-e-Misr) by Rollen – 3 volumes
3. Agricultural practice of England by Scott Burn
4. Political Economy by Mr. Mills Senior
5. History of China
6. History of India : Elphinstone

By 1875 the Society had translated and published 27 standard works on different subjects from English into Urdu which included Elphinstone’s History of India, Malcolm’s History of Persia, Max Muller’s work on Sanskrit, Mills Political Economy, Liezbig’s Agricultural Chemistry, Millers’s Testimony of the Rocks. In his book “The life and work of Syed Ahmad Khan”, Lieutenant Colonel George Farquhar Irving Graham had mentioned a list of 25 books which was published by Scientific Society. Sir Saiyad also published 17 books of Munshi Zakaullah with the help of Scientific Society Bihar.

Aligarh Institute

In April 1864, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was transferred to Aligarh and so the office of Scientific Society was also moved to Aigarh. Scientific Society membership grew up with time and in January 1865; it reached 238 and in 1869 membership reached to 375. Very soon Sir Syed realized that the translation and printing of books is not a very effective tool for mobilization to modern education. This lead Sir Syed to start Audio/Visual programs like Illustrated Lectures, Demonstrations, establishment of Museums and Laboratories. In the society meeting which was held on 15th September, 1864 in Aligarh, Sir Syed proposed the idea of a building for Society named as “Institute”, which will also have a Reading Room, Library, Laboratory, Museum and Lecture Hall. A piece of land was bought in Aligarh between his residence and Criminal Court of Aligarh. The foundation stone was laid down on 20th November, 1864 by Hon’ble E. Drummond, Lieutenant. Governor of North West Province (N.W.P.) The Institute building was completed by 1866 and was inaugurated by Mr. F. Williams, Commissioner of Meerut on 14th February, 1866. Sir Syed’s youngest son Syed Mahmood gave an impressive speech in English and expressed the opinion of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The newly established “Institute” had demonstration Lab and Museum. Big size different types of maps of India were decorated on the wall. Different types of instruments, scientific apparatus, old coins and currencies were placed their for exhibition.

Aligarh Institute Gazette was a joint mouthpiece of Scientific Society and “Institute” but was started after the establishment of “Institute” so was always considered as integral part of the “Institute”. The Aligarh Institute Gazette or Scientific Society Journal came into circulation from 30th march, 1866. This gazette was published in Urdu as well as in English. The Gazette team was comprised on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as Honorary Editor, Munshi Mohammad Yaar Khan as Editor, Munshi Chaukhan Lal as translator, Babu Durga Prashad as translator and Shaikh Fida Ali as Librarian and distribution incharge. Aligarh Institute Gazette played a key role to mobilize the people and convey the message of Society.

In August 1867, he was transferred to Banaras, but he did not wanted to relocate the office of Scientific Society and so the Scientific Society elected Raja Jaikishan Das as its Secretary in on 15th August, 1867. Raja Jaikishan Das took care of the society with full sincerity and played a key role in its growth and progress. On 21st February 1874, Raja Jaikishan Das got transferred to Allahabad and on 21st February, 1874 he submitted his resignation from the Secretaryship of the Society. In the farewell function, Sir Syed praised his efforts and sincerity for The Scientific Society and The Society elected Raja Jai Kishan Das as Co-President of The Society for life. In the same meeting Maulvi Samiullah Khan was elected as Secretary of the Scientific Society.

After the establishment of Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College (M.A.O. College), the efforts were redirected in other directions and the membership of the Scientific Society started declining and by 1887, this Society became a defunct Society.

Office Bearers:

Founding President: Mr. B. Spate (District Collector of Ghazipur)

Founding Vice-Presidents: Mr. M. Bradhost & Mr. Rai Baldev Bakhsh

Founding Secretaries: Lt. Col. George Farquhar Irving Graham & Saiyad Ahmad, Khan Bahadur

Life Secretary : Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan Bahadur (January 9, 1864 to March 27, 1898)

Secretary : Lieutenant Colonel George Farquhar Irving Graham (January 9, 1864 )

Secretary : Raja Jai Kishan Das (August 15, 1867 to February 21, 1874)

Secretary : Maulvi Samiullah Khan ( February 21, 1874 )

Sir Syed aur Scientific Society – Ek Bazyaaft

After more than a century, Prof. Iftikhar Alma Khan, the then Director of Sir Syed Academy wrote a complete book titled, “Sir Syed Aur Scientific Society – Ek Baazyaaft” The book was published by Maktaba e Jamia, Jamia Nager, New Delhi and was released by the then Vice-Chancellor Prof. M. Hamid Ansari on 17th October 2000 at AMU Aligarh. While commenting on the book Prof. Masood Husain Khan, former Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and Jamia Urdu Aligarh said “I am confident that this Book, on the subject of Scientific Society, would become a source of reference for times to come”. Urdu and a Sir Syed scholar and former Chairman of Department of Urdu and former Director, Sir Syed Academy at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh, Prof. Ateeq Ahmad Siddiqui said about the book “The writer has rediscovered the scientific Society with most authentic details”.

Mr. M. Hamid Ansari releasing the book with Prof. Iftikhar Alam Khan