On this day:
900 – The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (the earliest known written document found in what is now the Philippines): the Commander-in-Chief of the Kingdom of Tondo, as represented by the Honourable Jayadewa, Lord Minister of Pailah, pardons from all debt the Honourable Namwaran and his relations.
The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (Filipino: Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna, Malay: Prasasti keping tembaga Laguna) is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines. The plate was found in 1989 by a labourer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Barangay Wawa, Lumban, Laguna. The inscription on the plate, made in 900 CE, was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist Antoon Postma.
The discovery of the plate is cited as evidence of cultural links between the Classical Kingdom of Tondo and the various contemporary Asian civilizations, most notably the Javanese Medang Kingdom, the Srivijaya Empire, and the Middle kingdoms of India.
The inscription is on a thin copper plate measuring less than 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 inches) in size with words directly embossed onto the plate. It differs in manufacture from Javanese scrolls of the period, which had the words inscribed onto a heated, softened scroll of metal.
Inscribed on it is year 822 of the Saka Era, the month of Waisaka, and the fourth day of the waning moon, which corresponds to Monday, April 21, 900 CE in the Proleptic Gregorian calendar. The writing system used is the Kawi Script, while the language is a variety of Old Malay, and contains numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin may be Old Javanese. Some contend it is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese. The document states that it releases its bearers, the children of Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams).
Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó’o script expert Antoon Postma has concluded that the document also mentions the places of Tondo (Tundun); Paila (Pailah), now an enclave of Barangay San Lorenzo, Norzagaray; Binuangan (Binwangan), now part of Obando; and Pulilan (Puliran); and Mdaŋ (the Javanese Kingdom of Medang), in present-day Indonesia. The exact locations of Pailah and Puliran are debatable as these could refer to the present-day town of Pila and the southeastern part of Laguna de Bay (a large freshwater lake southeast of Metro Manila) that was previously known as Puliran—both close to where the plate was found.
The Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found in 1989 near the mouth of the Lumbang River near Laguna de Bay, by a man who was dredging sand to turn into concrete. Suspecting that the artifact might have some value, the man sold it to an antique dealer who, having found no buyers, eventually sold it to the National Museum of the Philippines, where it was assigned to Alfredo E. Evangelista, head of its Anthropology Department.
A year later, Antoon Postma noted that the inscription was similar to the ancient Indonesian script of Kawi. Postma translated the script and found the document dated itself to the Saka year 822, an old Hindu calendar date which corresponds to 900 CE. This meant that the document pre-dated the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and is from about the same time as the mention of Philippines in the official Chinese Song dynasty History of Song for the year 972.
The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, among other recent finds such as the Golden Tara of Butuan and 14th century pottery and gold jewellery in Cebu, is highly important in revising the ancient Philippine history, which was until then considered by some Western historians to be culturally isolated from the rest of Asia, as no evident pre-Hispanic written records were found at the time. Philippine historian William Henry Scott debunked these theories in 1968 with his Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History which was subsequently published in 1984.
The inscription is a document demonstrative of pre-Hispanic literacy and culture, and is considered to be a national treasure. It is currently deposited at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila.
See also: Hinduism in the Philippines, Religion in pre-colonial Philippines, Indosphere, and Indianisation
The transliteration of the inscription shows heavy Sanskrit, Old Javanese and Malay linguistic influences. Among the observations made by Antonio Pigafetta in the 16th century Boxer Codex was that Old Malay had currency amongst classical period Filipinos as a lingua franca.
The use of Hindu references in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription could also suggest that the author or authors of the inscription were adherents of Hinduism. The Golden Tara statue, an ancient artefact discovered in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, dates from the same period and strongly suggests the presence of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs prior to the introduction (and subsequent subscription) to Roman Catholicism and Islam amongst Filipinos.
Long Live! In the Year of Saka 822, month of Waisakha, according to the astronomer.
The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her relative whose name is Bukah, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander-in-Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa.
This means that, through the Honourable Scribe, the Honourable Namwaran is totally cleared of his salary-related debts of 1 Katî and 8 Suwarna, before the Honorable Lord Minister of Puliran Kasumuran; by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah, represented by Ganashakti.
The Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwagan, represented by Bisruta. And, with his whole family, upon ordered of the Lord Minister of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang, because of his loyalty as a subject of the Commander-in-Chief
Therefore, the living descendants of the Honorable Namwaran are cleared of all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Lord Minister of Dewata.
This, in any case, whosoever, sometime in the future, who shall state that the debt is not yet cleared of the Honourable…
Born on this day:
1774 – Jean-Baptiste Biot, French physicist, astronomer, and mathematician (d. 1862)
Jean-Baptiste Biot (French: [bjo]; 21 April 1774 – 3 February 1862) was a French physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who established the reality of meteorites, made an early balloon flight, and studied the polarization of light. The mineral biotite was named in his honor.
Jean-Baptiste Biot was born in Paris on 21 April 1774 the son of Joseph Biot, a treasury official.
He was educated at Lyceum Louis-le-Grand and École Polytechnique in 1794. Biot served in the artillery before he was appointed professor of mathematics at Beauvais in 1797. He later went on to become a professor of physics at the Collège de France around 1800, and three years later was elected as a member of the French Academy of Sciences. In 1804 Biot was on board for the first scientific hot-air balloon ride with Gay-Lussac (NNDB 2009, O’Connor and Robertson 1997). They reached a height of 7016 metres (23,000 feet), quite dangerous without supplementary oxygen.
Biot was also a member of the Legion of Honor; he was elected chevalier in 1814 and commander in 1849. In 1815, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, in 1816 a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and 1822 a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition, Biot received the Rumford Medal in 1840, awarded by the Royal Society in the field of thermal or optical properties of matter. (O’Connor and Robertson 1997). In 1850 Jean-Baptiste Biot published in the Journal des savants a 7-page memoir from his recollections of the period of the late 1790s and early 1800s concerning his encounters with Laplace.
Jean-Baptiste Biot had a single son, Édouard Constant Biot, an engineer and Sinologist, born in 1803. Edouard died in 1850 and it was only thanks to the extraordinary efforts of his father that the second half of Edouard’s last book, the Chinese classic Tcheou-li, was readied for publication. It had been left in manuscript, unfinished. To publish it in correct form, Jean-Baptiste Biot wrote, he had to consult Stanislas Julien, the famous Sinologist, but also, especially for the translation of the most difficult part, the Kaogongji, he himself had to visit many workshops and questioned artisans and craftsmen about their methods and vocabulary in order to verify his son’s work. To this day, Biot’s translation remains the only translation into a Western language of this book.
He died in Paris on 3 February 1862.
Jean-Baptiste Biot made many contributions to the scientific community in his lifetime – most notably in optics, magnetism, and astronomy. The Biot–Savart law in magnetism is named after Biot and his colleague Félix Savart for their work in 1820. In their experiment they showed a connection between electricity and magnetism by “starting with a long vertical wire and a magnetic needle some horizontal distance apart [and showing] that running a current through the wire caused the needle to move” (Parsley).
In 1803 Biot was sent by the Académie française to report back on 3000 meteorites that fell on L’Aigle, France (see L’Aigle (meteorite)). He found that the meteorites, called “stones” at the time, were from outer space. With his report, Biot helped support Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni’s argument that meteorites were debris from space, which he had published in 1794.
Prior to Biot’s thorough investigation of the meteorites that fell near l’Aigle, France in 1803, very few truly believed that rocks found on Earth could have extraterrestrial origins. There were anecdotal tales of unusual rocks found on the ground after fireballs had been seen in the sky, but such stories were often dismissed as fantasy. Serious debate concerning the unusual rocks began in 1794 when German physicist Chladni published a book claiming that rocks had an extraterrestrial origin (Westrum). Only after Biot was able to analyze the rocks at l’Aigle was it commonly accepted that the fireballs seen in the sky were meteors falling through the atmosphere. Since Biot’s time, analysis of meteorites has resulted in accurate measurements of the chemical composition of the solar system. The composition and position of meteors in the solar system have also given astronomers clues as to how the solar system formed.
In 1812, Biot turned his attention to the study of optics, particularly the polarization of light. Prior to the 19th century, light was believed to consist of discrete packets called corpuscles. During the early 19th century, many scientists began to disregard the corpuscular theory in favor of the wave theory of light. Biot began his work on polarization to show that the results he was obtaining could appear only if light were made of corpuscles.
In 1815 he demonstrated that “polarized light, when passing through an organic substance, could be rotated clockwise or counterclockwise, dependent upon the optical axis of the material.” His work in chromatic polarization and rotary polarization greatly advanced the field of optics, although it was later shown that his findings could also be obtained using the wave theory of light (Frankel 2009).
Biot’s work on the polarization of light has led to many breakthroughs in the field of optics. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs), such as television and computer screens, use light that is polarized by a filter as it enters the liquid crystal, to allow the liquid crystal to modulate the intensity of the transmitted light. This happens as the liquid crystal’s polarisation varies in response to an electric control signal applied across it. Polarizing filters are used extensively in photography to cut out unwanted reflections or to enhance reflection.