Monday December 18, 2017
Home Uncategorized Srinivasa Ram...

Srinivasa Ramanujan : The Man Who Knew Infinity

A mathematical genius

Srinivasa Ramanujan. Wikimedia Commons

By Pashchiema Bhatia

Srinivasa Ramanujan died when he was just 32 but he left behind is astonishing and remarkable. During his short life, he held a record of assimilation of around 3,500 mathematical results. Not belonging to a well-to-do family, his life is an inspiring story.

Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who was brought up in Erode, Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu). He spent his childhood in Kumbakonam and the house where he lived is now known as Srinivasa Ramanujan International Monument which is maintained by a private deemed university. At the age of 13, he mastered a book on advanced trigonometry by S.L. Loney and later he studied a book called ‘A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics’ by G.S. Carr with a collection of 5000 theorems. He used to complete his mathematical exams in half the allotted time. He was a promising student who won several academic awards throughout his school life but he was so immersed in maths that he failed in other subjects of his college exams. As a college dropout and with a responsibility to support his family he had to struggle for years. Eventually, he secured a job as a clerk in Madras Port Trust and published his work on Bernoulli numbers.

His life took a turn when his array of letters to GH Hardy, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Cayley Lecturer in Mathematics at Cambridge, got a response. He had written a letter packed with 120 theorems and after getting his letter and confirming that he is not a crank, Hardy enthusiastically wrote back to Ramanujan inviting him to Cambridge and in March 1914, he moved to England.

Related: Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

The journey of the collaboration of Hardy-Ramanujan began. Ramanujan was a man of mysterious intuitions and Hardy was intrigued by his uncanny ways of handling infinite series. In England, Ramanujan got the recognition as a mathematician that he was hoping for. In 1916, he was granted a Bachelor of Science degree “by research” and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918. But their partnership did not last for long as Ramanujan fell ill and returned to India in 1918. He died in 1919. After his death, his brother discovered his scribbled papers and several notebooks with loads of theorems which were later studied and used by many mathematicians.

Matthew Brown’s movie “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (released on Friday, April 29, 2016) is a movie based on the biography written by Robert Kanigel in 1991. The movie features the life of Ramanujan in Cambridge and the productive collaboration and friendship of Hardy and Ramanujan.


Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5


Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

  • Akanksha Sharma

    In India, 22nd December – Ramanujan’s birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Mathematics day

  • Ashwati Menon

    Srinivasan Ramanujan in his short life was successful in leaving a mark in the history of India as well as world!

  • Akanksha Sharma

    In India, 22nd December – Ramanujan’s birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Mathematics day

  • Ashwati Menon

    Srinivasan Ramanujan in his short life was successful in leaving a mark in the history of India as well as world!

Next Story

Oldest recorded solar eclipse occurred 3,200 years ago

Solar eclipse

Cambridge University researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible, and could help historians to date Egyptian pharaohs.

“Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world,” said Professor Colin Humphreys from University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

Using a combination of the biblical text and an ancient Egyptian text, the researchers were able to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, in particular, the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical text in question comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.

It records that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan, a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” Humphreys said.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the Sun and Moon stopped moving,” Humphreys said.

“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the Sun and Moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the Moon passes between the earth and the Sun, and the Sun appears to stop shining,” Humphreys said.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses, he added.

Independent evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC can be found in the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian text dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Great, the study said.

The large granite block, held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.

Earlier historians had used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but were not successful as they were only looking at total eclipses, in which the disc of the Sun appears to be completely covered by the moon as the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

What the earlier historians failed to consider was that it was instead an annular eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, the researchers said.

In the ancient world, the same word was used for both total and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a new eclipse code, which takes into account variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.

From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.

If their arguments are accepted, it would not only be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded, it would also enable researchers to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.

Using these new calculations, the researchers determined that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year.(IANS)

Next Story

Maryam Mirzakhani : The First Woman to Win Fields Medal in Mathematics Equivalent of Nobel Prize Dies

Maryam Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40

Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, in 2014. Source: (VOA)
  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the only woman to win mathematics equivalent of Nobel Prize
  • She died on Saturday as she was battling breast cancer
  • She was born in Iran and joined Stanford University in 2008 as a mathematics professor

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died Saturday, the university announced. It did not indicate where she died.

In 2014, Mirzakhani was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, which is presented every four years and is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was named for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

Also read: A Look Back In History: Contribution of Indian Mathematicians in the field of Mathematics

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford press announcement. “Mastering these approaches allowed Mirzakhani to pursue her fascination for describing the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces — spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas — in as great detail as possible.”

The work had implications in fields ranging from cryptography to “the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” the university said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied there and at Harvard University. She joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

‘Heart-rending’ loss

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement Saturday praising Mirzakhani. “The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heart-rending,” Rouhani said in a message that was reported by the Tehran Times.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Iranians, the Tehran Times reported.

“The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani’s passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists,” Zarif posted in Farsi on his Instagram account. “I do offer my heartfelt condolences upon the passing of this lady scientist to all Iranians worldwide, her grieving family and the scientific community.”

Mirzakhani originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to mathematics.

When she was working, Mirzakhani would doodle on sheets of paper and scribble formulas on the edges of her drawings, leading her daughter to describe the work as painting, according to the Stanford statement.

Mirzakhani once described her work as “like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck, you might find a way out.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and daughter, Anahita. (VOA)

Next Story

Stanford University Student Attempts to Reconstruct History of Geometry Diagrams

Lee traced the changes in diagrams over the course of human history

Geometry Diagrams
Various Geometry Solids. Pixabay
  • New approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University
  • Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations
  • His professor considered his project as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics

June 26, 2017: Geometry diagrams and patterns have been with us for a very long time. Whether we liked it or not, we all had to make diagrams and read geometry books when we were in school. Now, researchers are trying to understand the geometric patterns through examinations of texts and writing which is also known as philology.

There is a new approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University by tracing the changes and variations in diagrams over the course of human history.

Lee examined the changes in diagrams used in a collection of 13 books on mathematical and geometry concepts called Elements, written by Euclid, an ancient Greek mathematician.

Lee first got to know about Elements during his mathematics undergraduate degree at Seoul National University. He said, “I was fascinated by its simple logic and structure.”

Reviel Netz, professor of classics said, “Until recently, no one has really examined the visual side of ancient science, you would try to recover the words that people said but you didn’t try to recover the visual impact, the images.”

Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations. This became the basis of Lee’s project, which his professor considered as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics.

Netz Said, “We’ve come to realise just how central images are to scientific thinking. You do one kind of science when you assume that diagrams are precise pictures, and you do a different kind of science when diagrams are assumed to be just rough sketches.”

Prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi